The city’s Natural History Museum is a place of dinosaur bones, fascinating facts, and the soft musical murmur of people wandering through its hallways into the past. In galleries lined with the glassy stares of animals, stuffed before filling an endangered creature full of sawdust was frowned upon, you can find worlds you never even suspected were right under your nose.
I can often be found losing myself in the NHM’s mosaic-floored hallways; shuffling along galleries of ancient undersea skeletons; saluting the termites protecting the queen in the insect room; or feeling the familiar waltz beneath the soles of my feet as the earthquake room starts shaking. Ask anyone who knows me about my relationship with this place, and they’ll tell you it’s my one true love. From the carved pterosaur wingtips that perch on its gutters, to the bejarred tips of the tentacles in its Spirit Collection, this place has my whole heart.
But there is one room in these hallowed creature-crammed halls that stops that heart and turns my blood to icy seawater. The Whale Room.
The whale is displeased
In the heart of the whale room lies the blue whale. Gut-squeezingly glorious in his baleen hugeness there will never be a creature, in all of museumdom, whose tiny-eyed gaze fills me with more terror. I know he’s not going anywhere. He’s not going to squeeze from his chamber and swish through the streets of London, flinging his fearsome echo-cry into the city in the hopes of finding me sleeping, to swallow me into his deep-sea innards. But, scornful reader, are you sure…?
Today though was not a day for running. It was a day to face my fear. I returned to the whale room, and I took my courage with me. Standing before this giant of the sea, ever fidgety with that familiar what-if fear, I felt different, fearless, slightly stupid with it in fact. Something in me was starting to stir, awoken by words, and wool, and being back in the world after almost losing my place in it. As I stood and faced the massive monster, that had swum out of the shadows of my nightmares so many times, something changed. That other-world hum began in my ears, and my fingers itched for sticks, string, and the start of a story.
My eyes fluttered open on the frowning whale. His glare wasn’t on me. My gaze travelled guiltily to a humble museum warning sign above the whale’s great head. My first public knitblast outside the comfort of my home. Well this is new…
Suddenly a part of the Whale Room is mine. The ceaseless singing of this cetacean colossus in my head may be silenced for a just a little while. And it looks like I have a new way to tell stories.