Alexi Duggins is at your mercy. Decide where he should go next on his tour of London’s quirkiest experiences. This week: A cockroach tour of the Science Museum.
In the Science Museum cafeteria, a large red-faced human is eating pizza with his kids. Clearly, he is not happy. It’s not the fault of the pizza, which is a veritable work of art (although admittedly a work of art entitled ‘teenage acne outbreak’). Nor is it his kids’ fault, who are enthusiastically lapping up cheese grease from cardboard plates. Why then the displeasure? It may have something to do with the audience of 25 giant cockroaches.
‘I think the dominant male here is getting twitchy!’ shouts our tour guide. Pizza Man harrumphs and nudges his kids to eat faster. ‘Ooh, look. He’s getting protective!’ The kids finish their pizza. ‘Look at him!’ shouts our guide, as Pizza Man lumbers towards the bin. ‘He’s going to throw the cardboard away. Look how wasteful he is!’
For the next hour, we are not humans. We are cockroaches. Our tour guide around the Science Museum is none other than Professor John Cockroach, Professor of Humanology at Cockroach College (even if he does look suspiciously like a jobbing actor in a fibreglass exoskeleton), and we are studying human behaviour. Well, that and taking the piss.
‘They’re so repelled by those big fat human faces they had to cover them up!’ yells the prof, as he points at a spacesuit helmet in an Apollo 10 exhibit. He gestures at an early prototype telephone: ‘We suspect humans are so hideous that they don’t want to see each other.’ And then it’s time to move. ‘Come on,’ says the prof. ‘Keep the infestation going!’
‘Look out, the cockroaches are coming!’ chortles a mother, scooping up her toddler as 25 giggling adults scurry past. We pause for a brief lecture on how humans ‘love to burn things’, which is illustrated by displays of the atom bomb and the internal combustion engine. Or, in the prof’s words, ‘The ancient human ritual called “Stuck on the M25”.’
Then things get a tad more pointed. As we’re standing in front of a climate exhibit, we’re asked: ‘Who remembers the dinosaurs?’ and suddenly the mood turns sombre as environmental change is discussed and the earlier material about burning is used to point out that humans may not have long left on the planet. Antennae droop and contemplative silence prevails.
Until the prof says: ‘So let’s say goodbye to the humans!’ And with that, we lean over the edge of a balcony, yell farewell and startle a small girl into staring at us like we’ve just stamped on her Barbie. Oops. Looks like I may have been a bit of a pest… Alexi Duggins