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At The Museum of Baked Beans

Hunter Davies

The Vintage Wireless Museum, Dulwich

Just the guy's house - gradually taken over every room, passageway and cupboard - unmarried and always lived alone in house he was born in 1929.
Absolutely fixated with radio and electricity - during war used to go round all bombed house and steal all their electrical equip.
He then moved on to stealing from houses which still occupied - neighbours had a big Ferranti radio so he pinched it and told parents they'd given it to him.
Then he stole their Marconi radio, and when the neighbours came round complaing about the burglary, parents gave them the Ferranti which I'd stolen earlier.
They'd reported that to the police, so the house was searched and all stuff he'd pinched was found, and he ended up being sent to juvenile jail.
Then, when about 14, he was riding bike past Archie Root's radio shop. Grabbed a radio off the counter and took off on his bike.But they had a little Austin 7 van, and one of the apprentices jumped in and caught up with him.
So up in court again. While he was on bail he found an empty church and started taking all the stuff, one trip ata time. On last trip, they caught him.
This time he got 3 years at borstal. But there he met a master who was just as obsessed with radio as he was, and he had a great time being taught everything. Didn't want to leave.
Tried an apprenticeship but found he could make more money repairing radios, working out of an old shed in garden.
Saved enough to buy Archie Root's Austin 7 van, the one that had caught him years before. First trip was to go back to the borstal to meet his old master.
(When the head of the borstal died he left a bequest to the museum.)
Started collecting old radios but money always a problem.
Then he repaired a historic radiogram that a Getty had bought. Getty paid the bill, then next xmas sent a Harrods food hamper and a cheque for £1000 toward the museum.
Then one of Getty's accountants came to check that there really was a museum. She got really interested in all the paraphenalia and his plans to expand, and next thing a cheque for another £8000 appeared, which allowed him to buy some of neighbour's land to put up a big display shed.
Getty also donated 2 historic pieces - the first radiogram and the first TV radiogram, dating back to 1937.
The TV needed a huge vacuum tube about 5 feet long, and the only way the designers could get it in was to mount the TV upside down. To compensate, you opened the top which was a big mirror which reflected the picture right way up, and enlarged.
Guy tells a story of being madly in love with a girl at about 14. One day she brought a bike lamp for him to fix, and it transpired that she was going to a party to which he hadn't been invited. In a fit of rage he took a hammer and smashed the bike lamp. She picked up the pieces and walked out of his life forever.. That was 5 Jan 1946. And every Jan 5 since then he's held a little party for himself to cheer himself up.

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Only the British get really mad about their lawns - about half see it as hard work, but other half take pride in making careful stripes
First one patented 1830 by Edwin Budding (who also patented the first adjustable spanner)
He'd noticed revolving blades being used in cloth making machines to 'mow' the rough bits of nap
Transferred idea to machine on wheels where wheels turned the blade cylinder. Same basic idea unchanged.
Before that lawns only for the rich, who could afford a team of men scything grass (with another team of women and boys picking up the grass)
Smallest lawnmower a 6 inch one from 1030's which used for graveyards.
Owner reckoned the museum had cost him £10, bc people gave him their old mowers rather than scrapping
There is a British Lawn Mower Racing Assoc, which holds races twice a month - the cheapest form of motor sport you can find (they have to be capable of cutting grass, and you can't put in a bigger engine)
Admission charges not enough, but what keeps museum afloat are old manuals - he's collected hundreds of old ones from long gone manufacturers, and sells copies for £10 each.
Cars of the Stars, Keswick

Guy was a dentist, tracking down and buying cars that had appeared in movies or TV series.
Started when he was driving an old MGTF when he was stopped by a TV crew who needed one right there and then. Paid him £100 a day for 10 days - way more than the car was worth.
Bought the Reliant Robin from Only Fools and Horses - a cop won it in a charity raffle - gave him £995 he wanted. Then BBC decided to do another series, and wanted to lease car back, so he charged them £995. After filming they gave him back the car, plus a static car mostly complete, used for internal shots. (He later sold that for £2000).
Then one of 5 Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs came up for sale - at £200,000. But had to persuade wife that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance - even tho they'd have to sell their house to buy it!
Has a Batmobile, a Flintstones' car and Lady Penelope's pink RR, and Harry Potter's Anglia
Bought 5 cars from The Fast and the Furious for £10,000 before film came out. When film became a big hit, the cars went for £:100,000.
Has cars from 21 of 22 James Bond films, all complete with their gadgets
But an obsessive - collections took over his life, and marriage collapsed.

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The Money Museum, Edinburgh

First thing you see is a glass case holding a million pounds in £20 notes. All genuine Bank of Scotland notes (overprinted with CANCELLED) but still cost £4000 to be printed.

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The Secret Nuclear Bunker, Essex

Place where British Govt was to relocate if Cold War got hot.
Then 1992 got tired of paying several million pounds each year just to maintain all empty bunkers, so sold them off. The land had to be offered back to original farm owners, but that didn't include the underground structures.
Farmer bought it as well, but dismayed to find govt had cleared out most of the equipment and sold it off as scrap. But there were other bunkers for sale, and they mostly went to firms who wanted storage and were happy to give away the contents to take away.
One clever thing they did was ask veterans who'd been at the bunker to come for a commemorative dinner, and got them to each write a memoir of their experiences.
His farm, which is 2500 acres, makes a lot more money each year, but the bunker provides a daily cashflow.
Guy sees it as analogous to an ancient castle - both a similar purpose - so an historical monument.
Amuses himself sometimes by imagining who he would invite in event of terrorist threat.
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