Grinagog (noun, obsolete). One who grins like a tomfool. The state of beaming from ear to ear. A person who has stepped into the House on the Hill Museum near Stansted.
A life-size Marilyn Monroe grips her skirt as a squadron of X-wings prepare to take off. Next door, the ligneous cast of Camberwick Green eye up General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard. Daleks and Beatles unite. Barbie is surrounded by Gremlins. Welcome to the demented world of the House on the Hill Museum.
This utter delight of an attraction has some 70,000 toys on display, from ancient Roman playthings to the electronic toys of our own childhoods. It's a place that will appeal to everybody. Except this guy:
The museum is the life's work of one man, Alan Goldsmith. He's been collecting toys since childhood and has amassed one of the world's great collections. The museum, which opened in 1991, is just 41 minutes by train from Liverpool Street. You'll find it right next to Stansted Mountfitchet (pronounced, with no Frenchness, as mount-fitch-et) station.
It sits in the grounds of the wider Mountfitchet Castle, a recreation of a medieval fortress that's a bundle of fun for the kids. Ironically, though, it's the toy museum that'll appeal most to the grown-ups.
It's not just the sheer number of toys on show, it's the way they've been arranged. Each display case is crammed to doll jam. Superclusters of action figures collide with platoons of tin soldiers and droves of soft bears.
The observant visitor will enjoy the creative placement of toys from different fictional universes. Imagine, for example, Hordak serving as a soldier of fortune, and joining the A-Team.
And if anyone wants to write the screenplay for this Batman+Trumpton+Duke's of Hazzard+Hi-de-Hi mashup, then we'd love to see it.
And then there are the wax dummies. Many are leftovers from Madame Tussauds. Consequently, they're actually pretty good. Here we see Bob Monkhouse pretending to be James Bond.
No article can do justice to the eccentric offerings of this unique museum. It is infinitely weird. You're greeted with a model of Del Boy and Rodney on your way in, and assaulted by venomous dinosaurs on your way out. It's bonkers, brilliant and very, very British — right down to the incongruous room full of war memorabilia.
We haven't even mentioned the tacky 'haunted mansion', the vintage coin-op machines, the hall of mirrors, or the velophilic shrine to Diana, Princess of Wales.
Admission to the House on the Hill Museum is included in the entry price for Mountfitchet Castle (itself a fun, family-friendly day out). It's a short walk from Stansted Mountfitchet station, or use the somewhat confusing pay-and-display car park.