Alexi Duggins is at your mercy: send him to a new weird London experience every week and he’ll do it. This week: Dino-Snores at the Natural History Museum…
This is going to be easy. Sleeping at the Natural History Museum without freaking out? Given that Dino Snores for Grown Ups is an evolution of an event for tots, this should literally be child’s play. Admittedly, kiddiwinks’ playtime probably doesn’t often involve a graphic talk on shagging insects, a life drawing class full of swinging todger, a three-course meal or bars open until 2am. Poor sods.
So is it scary that I have to lay my foam mat and sleeping bag directly under the main hall’s giant diplodocus skeleton due to early arrivers cleverly bagging the quieter alcove kipping spots? Nope. Do I bat an eyelid at the prospect of a 1am wander through an exhibition of hacked-up animals? Nuh-uh. And do I start at the shock of being told that you have to pay for booze on top of the £175 ticket price? Erm, maybe a tad. But just to reiterate: ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE QUID!!
Still, I manage to survive an explicit talk on the sex lives of insects. Along with the wincing crowd, I’m treated to charming lines such as, ‘The female’s got no hole, so he just shoves it in where he can. Imagine someone doing that to you in a bar…’
Suitably traumatised, we move on to a ‘midnight feast’ of dead creepy crawlies, which, at their best, are like fragments of rice cake and at their worst are like twiglets coated in dehydrated sick. I’m used to it, though: I regularly eat at Elephant and Castle takeaways.
But by 2.30am, my composure begins to crumble. I’m sitting in a dimly lit cafeteria while our host, Olly, explains that, as a scientist, he’s a paranormal sceptic. And then launches into a tale of a disembodied hand seen crawling along one of the corridors. For a follow-up, he tells of the Grey Lady: a ghost who forces people to leap off the main hall’s balcony. ‘It happened to me once!’ pipes up a staff member. ‘I slept up there during Dino Snores and stayed up till morning gripping the walls so I didn’t go over.’ Suddenly, the lights go out, everyone jumps and the group disperses.
As I lie down, I realise that not only is my foam mat right next to the diplodocus, but it’s also directly underneath the Grey Lady’s balcony. Handily, it’s illuminated, so that as it glows ominously above me I have plenty of time to appreciate that I am definitely within splatting distance. If someone jumps, they will find themselves atop a Duggins-shaped pancake. I lie sleepless for a while, trying not to think about the mess that I’d make. But eventually I drift off.
And then I awake with a squeal. Someone’s fired a shotgun just over my head. It’s followed up by a gelignite explosion so powerful it rattles my fillings. I whimper and crawl under my sleeping bag. And then I realise it’s the guy next to me snoring. I toss and turn until 7am, when the roaring of the diplodocus acts as an alarm, and we’re herded off to breakfast. So, did I freak out? Well, yes. But how was I to know I’d be subjected to such pyrotechnic heavy breathing? Oh, wait. Thinking about it, maybe the clue’s in the name…
Suggest next week’s task at @alexiduggins.