Today we're delighted to welcome to the blog Carys Bray, author of A Song For Issy Bradley, to talk about her new novel the Museum of You, and one of her favourite museums (you can find more of them by checking out the other stops of the tour).
My Favourite Museums
In my new novel The Museum of You, twelve year old Clover Quinn sorts through her mother’s belongings and curates an exhibition in the second bedroom of the house she shares with her Dad, Darren.
As part of The Museum of You blog tour, I’m writing about some of my favourite museums. In recent months it has been frustrating to read of the museum closures which appear to be disproportionately affecting the north of England. Museums are a great place to learn about our heritage; they’re often a testament to the efforts and dedication of working people, the men and women who built and made many of the things we take for granted today.
The British Lawnmower Museum
This museum is in my hometown of Southport. The museum doesn’t receive any funding so there is a charge for entry: £3 for adults and £1 for children. An audio guide is piped out of speakers that are positioned around the museum so you can listen as you explore. It’s pretty niche – the only lawnmower museum in the world. Instead of carpet there’s artificial turf on the floor and there is something wonderfully eccentric about the whole enterprise.
The staff are friendly and will accompany you and fill you in on some of the stories behind the lawnmowers. For example, the lawnmower in the picture below was used in this advert:
It’s the stories that really make this museum. I learned that James May of Top Gear once reassembled a particular lawnmower without any instructions, another lawnmower was pulled by a horse that wore leather shoes so as not to spoil the lawn, and some people like to participate in lawnmower races (12 hour lawnmower races, in fact).
My favourite machines were the ‘lawnmowers of the rich and famous.’ Below you can see Paul O’Grady’s lawnmower.
And Eric Morecambe’s Dad’s lawnmower, an object which provoked some serious giggling.
My son and I visited this museum wondering why on earth anyone would keep and care for lawnmowers. We left feeling that at the heart of this unique museum lies the determined optimism of people who really love something and want to share it. And even if you’re not a lawnmower aficionado, there’s something contagious about that.
Who would imagine a museum of lawn-mowers to be so fascinating? It sounds well worth a visit though.
Read on now for an excerpt from The Museum of You which Maryom describes as "tender and compassionate, will make you laugh, maybe bring you to tears, and will have you rooting for Clover and Darren, hoping they can both find happiness and sense of completeness. In short, an absolute joy to read."
The Museum of You – Excerpt
"When she got home from the museum Dad was kneeling in the hall. He’d unscrewed the radiator and his thumb was pressed over an unfastened pipe as water gushed around it. The books and clothes and newspapers that used to line the hall had been arranged in small piles on the stairs. Beside him, on the damp carpet, was a metal scraper he’d been using to scuff the paper off the wall.
‘Just in time!’ he said. ‘Fetch a bowl. A small one, so it’ll fit.’
She fetched two and spent the next fifteen minutes running back and forth to the kitchen emptying one bowl as the other filled, Dad calling, ‘Faster! Faster! Keep it up, Speedy Gonzalez!’ His trousers were soaked and his knuckles grazed, but he wasn’t bothered. ‘Occupational hazard,’ he said, as if it wasn’t his day off and plumbing and stripping walls was his actual job.
Once the pipe had emptied he stood up and hopped about for a bit while the feeling came back into his feet. ‘I helped Colin out with something this morning,’ he said. ‘The people whose house we were at had this dado rail thing – it sounds posh, but it’s just a bit of wood, really – right about here.’ He brushed his hand against the wall beside his hip. ‘Underneath it they had stripy wallpaper, but above it they had a different, plain kind. It was dead nice and I thought, we could do that.’
Dad found a scraper for her. The paint came off in flakes, followed by tufts of the thick, textured wallpaper. Underneath, was a layer of soft, brown, backing-paper which Dad sprayed with water from a squirty bottle. When the water had soaked in, they made long scrapes down the wall, top to bottom, leaving the backing paper flopped over the skirting boards like ribbons of skin. It felt like they were undressing the house.
The bare walls weren’t smooth. They were gritty, crumbly in places. As they worked, a dusty smell wafted out of them. It took more than an hour to get from the front door to the wall beside the bottom stair. That’s where Dad uncovered the heart. It was about as big as Clover’s hand, etched on the wall in black, permanent marker, in Dad’s handwriting: Darren + Becky 4ever.
‘I’d forgotten,’ he murmured. And then he pulled his everything face. The face he pulls when Uncle Jim is drunk. The face he pulls when they go shopping in March and the person at the till tries to be helpful by reminding them about Mother’s Day. The face which reminds her that a lot of the time his expression is like a plate of leftovers.
She didn’t say anything, and although she wanted to, she didn’t trace the heart with her fingertips. Instead, she went up to the bathroom and sat on the boxed, pre-lit Christmas tree dad bought in the January sales. When you grow up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story you’re forever skating on the thin ice of their memories. That’s not to say it’s always sad – there are happy things, too. When she was a baby Dad had a tattoo of her name drawn on his arm in curly, blue writing, and underneath he had a green, four-leaf clover. She has such a brilliant name, chosen by her mother because it has the word LOVE in the middle. That’s not the sort of thing you go around telling people, but it is something you can remember if you need a little boost; an instant access, happiness top-up card – it even works when Luke Barton calls her Margey-rine. Clover thought of her name and counted to 300.
When she went downstairs Dad had recovered his empty face and she couldn’t help asking a question, just a small one.
‘Is there any more writing under the paper?’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘She didn’t do a heart as well?’
‘Help me with this, will you?’
They pulled the soggy ribbons of paper away from the skirting and put them in a bin bag. The house smelled different afterwards. As if some old sadness had leaked out of the walls. "
Thank you Carys for dropping by and I hope that's tempted people to read the novel!
Check out our full review here and the rest of the blog tour