Monday, 27 July 2009

Last Stop London

So much has happened in the last few weeks and inevitably this blog has suffered.

Having left my position at the National Botanic Garden of Wales before Christmas, I was then swept off on my adventure to Washington for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival that I'm sure everyone is sick of hearing about.

Well that feels like a lifetime ago now. The day after my return to Heathrow from America, I boarded yet another airplane for an oh so quick 10 day visit with family in northern Sweden.

Barely a moment was spent in the tranquility of our Swedish home before I found myself returning, not to Wales, but to London to begin a whole new life.

I'm on approximately week 5 or 6 of living out of a backpack. I had my first brief visit in what seems like months to my home in Wales this weekend. But today it's finally official, my partner Cameron and I are moving to London for a fresh start and a new job for me (and hopefully Cameron too eventually).

The job, as it turns out, is a surprisingly exciting one though I doubt it would seem so to anyone without a passion for plants and a somewhat autistic approach to filing systems.

I am now working at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for a small herbarium team which is currently dedicated to finding and recording for the internet every Latin American "type" specimen in Kews vast (6 million specimens apparently) collection. I might go so far as to explain what that means in a future post, but for the time being you can visit this example specimen on Aluka to see the African equivalent of the kind of database records I should be producing in time.

I've been working here for a week now and the job is certainly an interesting one and includes a very steep learning curve. Living arrangements are a little less inspiring and my access to the internet is utterly sporadic at present.

It is for this reason that I add no photos since achieving a quantity of text seems achievement enough without rigging up my camera and starting to upload photos in the corner of this wi-fi pub in Kew.

I do hope I can find a space of my own and get back on track soon!

Friday, 10 July 2009

What Next?

Thanks to everyone who showed interest in what was going on at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, as well as for all the encouraging comments. My posts felt somewhat chaotic because I didn't know where to begin with describing everything. I hope they weren't too sporadic or repetitive.

I am now in north Sweden visiting family and staying in our beautiful little cottage by the sea. It's pouring with rain and the waves are crashing on the beach so that, unusually, we are all huddled indoors enjoying the warmth of a mostly little-used wood burning stove.

So what should I write about next? I have trawled through a huge pile of photos, most of which struggle to give a sense of either the size or the detail of the festival. But I'm keen to upload some more and just don't know where I should start or stop.

Are there any requests? I have photos of leeches, piles of dyed wool still to be prettyfied and pictured, and endless images of our little show-garden. I also have the odd image of other things happening at the festival though tragically I had almost no opportunity to visit much of it and rely on the experiences of others to get a sense of what was going on.

I'm open to suggestions. If anyone would like to hear more on any part of the festival, I shall endeavour to expand upon it and add what images I have. Please let me know by leaving a comment or e-mailing me.

I will also be adding bits here and there to fill in where visitors to our tent made specific requests.

And eventually, when the sun begins to shine again, I must go out and explore the Swedish verges with my new medicinal flora - it looks so green and lovely, I just can't wait.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Well, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2009 is finally over.

I've had an absolutely wonderful two weeks. The atmosphere has been brilliant, the level of interest and engagement from visitors truly astounding.

But there's so much more to tell and I'm looking forward to sharing many of the details I haven't had the time or energy to describe so far. I've also promised a goodly number of people that I would upload more information here about what I was doing at the festival. The number of visitors who asked if they could buy my photo album was a real surprise and, since I had to disappoint them, I hope to provide at least something on the blog to make up for my lack of handouts or marketplace wares.

It will take a little time however. Tonight we fly back to London and won't arrive until tomorrow. The next day I head off to North Sweden to visit family and hopefully spin some of the wool I've been dyeing. If I can, I'll let you know how it goes. And with a bit more free time and an opportunity to reflect, maybe I can share some more highlights from my time in Washington.

Back soon...