Pewsey so far…

Sunday I moved from Glastonbury to Pewsey, and I think I was a bit spoiled in Glastonbury, now that I’m here at the Willowbank Lodges much more in the middle of no where. In Glastonbury I was able to literally walk around the corner and be in the High Street, with everything I need around me and people and things to do. Pewsey itself is much smaller, but the place we’re staying is kind of in the middle of a farmland, and without a car there isn’t much to do. But hopefully this’ll mean I’m more productive when I work…or it could mean I’ll get cabin fever. Literally.

The three other ladies here are great and we all get along just fine. Debs and Christine did this Inglesham project last summer and are back for a second year as conservation interns. Debs is some the UK, and Christine is Canadian. And the third, Claudia, is from Germany. She’s studying at a university in Stuttgart, but her family lives outside Frankfurt. The three of them are all conservation people, so I’m a bit of the odd man out in terms of studies, but they don’t seem to mind and I certainly don’t.

Yesterday I went with the other three to the church site to get acquianted with what we going on there. I met Jane who is the head conservator on the project. But it needs to be made clear she is working independently of the CCT. The CCT is her client, and they’ve been paying her to do this work a few weeks each year for the last twenty odd years. So she’s a bit of an entrenched figure at the church, and it’s obvious to me now that she’s forgotten a bit about who is in charge. She was rather rude when she asked me what I would be doing at the church, knowing I wasn’t a conservator and wouldn’t be working on any actual wall paintings. I explained the list of things Neil has given me to do and in a rather brash manner starting telling me why half of them were irrelevant. She may mean well when it comes to the work she does on wall paintings, but she’s no people person.

So I called Neil and told him there was a major miscommunication about whom I was working for and he assured me he would take care of it. Neil had warned me that Jane could be abbrasive, but I guess I wasn’t quite ready for what I encountered yesterday. I won’t go into too much  more detail than that, because it wouldn’t be very professional of me. Suffice it to say, she made a very bad first impression, and I’m glad I work for Neil and not for her.

After work, the four of us went to the grocery store and stocked up on goods before heading home. We had dinner and I got to skype with Mom and Michael briefly. I worked on a bit of computer work before bed and fell asleep pretty quickly.

Today the weather is gloomy and I’m at the lodges all day working on computer stuff. I’m finishing up the regional newsletter and working on some PR/Marketing stuff for two small events we’re holding at Inglesham in the next month .If I was in Glastonbury I probably would have taken a walk by now, but I’m not sure of my way around here yet. Maybe I’ll explore a bit later, if it stops raining. So…that’s all for now.


The rain is back…

Today I move to from Glastonbury to Pewsey, and the rain is back after so many days of beautiful sunshine. I am a little sad to be moving today, only because this little town had really grown on me, but I know I’m going to like Pewsey just the same and learn a lot while I’m there.

Yesterday I didn’t do much at all. I slept in, had breakfast, played with the puppy, took a short nap and then went for a walk with the dog. She wasn’t very cooperative so it wasn’t a very long walk. I brought her back to the house and went off on my own walk back down to the Abbey ruins. I bought a muffin along the way and bought some tea when I got there and sat in the grass. There was a couple with a toddler who was running around butt-naked having the best time. And then I came back to the house and did some work before Dr R and Sarah got back and then we went to dinner.

After dinner they tried to take Tess for a walk again, and I watched some TV. BBC channel 2 had a special on Daniel Barenboim and Beethoven’s 9 symphonies. It was pretty cool. The kind of programming you just don’t seem to get in the States anymore.

Well, it’s breakfast time for me now and then one last Glastonbury walk before I catch the 3:30 train to Pewsey. Cheerio! 🙂

Oh Danny Boy, I think ye did well!

Daniel Boyle was the director and main mastermind behind last night’s Opening Ceremonies in London. I think, first and foremost, that I’m glad he didn’t try to “beat” or “top” Beijing. Because let’s be frank…somehow I don’t think the “volunteers” that worked on the show in China really had a choice. Not to mention the huge cultural differences…there was no way for London to come close to the kind of militaristic accuracy and precision that characterized the ceremony in 2008. So I’m glad that Boyle opted to do something quintessentially British.

I loved the mix of live footage and the filmed portions. And it was so obvious that Daniel Boyle is a film maker. The sequence of singing choirs all across the UK, interspersed with the live choir singing in London was fantastic.

I thought the opening sequence showing the transition of the idyllic English countryside into the smoke-stack ridden Industrial period was visually amazing. The slow disappearence of the green landscape and the rising of the gray smoke, and the iron forging. It looked like something out of Isengard in the Lord of the Rings…and fittingly so, since Tolkien was pretty obviously commenting on the distruction of nature. And just as a side note, the green mound where all the flags were planted….it’s a reference to Glastonbury Tor, which is where I’ve been taking my even walks! 🙂

I thought the queen’s entrance with Bond 007 was very clever, and I am still wondering who convinced her to play along. And well…need I say more than the two words: David Beckham. 🙂

And speaking of authors…how about the section that followed???? I loved the section dedicated to showcasing Britain’s contribution to children’s literature. The references to Mary Poppins and Harry Potter had me squealing in my seat. And the second I heard JK Rowling’s voice I had a smile stretched from ear to ear. And when the giant puppet of Captain Hook and Voldemort came up, you realize how two stories that have a profound effect on children’s imaginations, Peter Pan and Harry Potter, both came from England. There was a great emphasis on children and their role in the next generation, and I really appreciated that foreward looking theme of the whole show.

The reference to Chariots of Fire, that iconic music theme for anything melodramatic and atheletic, and Mr. Bean playing along with the London orchestra was pretty priceless. It had me in stitches. And then of course the section dedicated to Britain’s most important export….popular music! Boyle took us from the 1960s all the way through to the present day, with spectacular colors and dancing. And the acknowledgement of the digital age, by showcasing the man who created the first website, was also very much a forward-thinking feature.

I thought the Parade of Nations was pretty basic…but the commentator here kept telling us to notice the copper petal/vessel that each child was carrying in front of each flag bearer…and boy was that a great surprise in the end. The torch came via Beckham and his speedboat down the Thames and into the stadium where it was handed off from a reknowned retired British athelete, to a group of young athletes. This passing of the flame to the next generation was of course highly symbolic, and their lap around the stadium, slowly lighting it up as they went, was a great moment. Not as great though as when you finally realize what those copper petals/vessels are for. They were put on the ends of long stems in a giant sunflower-like arrangement, and when the seven (I think?) young people carried the torch and split the flame between them, they each touched a petal and the domino effect started, setting each petal alight with fire. And then the stems began to rise up and form a huge cauldron and then the fuel must have been turned up because the flames tripled in size when the finished product stood tall and proud in the middle of the stadium.

The fireworks were amazing, both on the Tower Bridge, and when they went rippling across the edges of the stadium. And then who better to round out a huge show in London, but Sir Paul McCartney! The rendition of Hey Jude, and the audience singing, (I was singing at home), was such a quintessentially British way to finish a great show. I’m pretty sure most of London was singing. YouTube videos are already cropping up of groups spontaenously breaking out into song in Tube stations, and certainly anywhere there was a TV screen showing the ceremony.

I think they did a great job. Sure…not all the choreography was spot on. People weren’t always in sync with one another. There were no stadium-floor-covering mass routines. But this isn’t China. England is much more laid back, and much more about humor than perfection. They acknowledged the volunteers who made the show possible, and even brought in the workers who helped build the stadium. That would never have happened in China. This show was about what makes Great Britain great, and what makes it a very unique place to live. And so long as people acknowledge that, then they’ll see how great this show really was.

Great job Daniel Boyle. And great job making sure that even the least visible volunteer was acknowledged for their efforts.

Olympic Madness

So, Tuesday I survived Bristol with my silly banged up toe. Wednesday I went to a National Trust site called Stourhead House and Garden, with Dr. Rushton. He was going to meet the manager of that site to discuss how they recruit volunteers and what the National Trust’s process for volunteer recruitment and training is. I only sat in on part of the meeting, which didn’t really give me any new information that I hadn’t already learned working at FLMNH, and then I got to walk around the estate. It was quite something.

After Stourhead, we headed back to Glastonbury where I continued working on the newsletter and was able to finish up several of the feature stories. And then I went to bed fairly early after dinner, because I knew I needed to get up very early on Thursday morning.Thursday morning Dr. Rushton drove me over to the Castle Cary train station to catch the 7:35am train to London. It takes about two hours to get to London, and I arrived at London Paddington Station just before 9:30am. My toe was still really bothering me, but I had taped it up. Problem was that my right foot was swollen compared to my left foot…so shoes that normally fit, and did fit my left foot, didn’t fit my right foot. Hahaha. So, I shoved my right foot into a pair of sandals with every intention of buying flip flops when I got to London.Unfortunately I didn’t find a place on my way to the meeting at head office, so I had to wait until after the meeting to get different shoes.

The meeting itself wasn’t bad at all. It was a sort of orientation to the Churches Conservation Trust, and I was one of three interns to go through it. The other two, Claire and Ryan, where both British university students, and we had lunch together during break. The meeting was a surprisingly comprehensive overview of the CCT as a whole, and I definitely feel more informed about the CCT, it’s history and how it works and what my role in the grand scheme is…and that’s something I can’t say about working at the Florida Museum of Natural History. I know the organizations are apples and oranges, but I have to say that I feel much more comfortable in my job here because I know more. And I feel like even though I’m just an intern, that I’m appreciated and valued as an equal to a paid staff member. The meeting went from 11-3:30pm, and then I headed out to roam London until my return train left Paddington at 8:35pm.The CCT head office is just near the Smithfield Market (London’s big meat market), and it’s close to St Paul’s Cathedral.

So I walked to St. Paul’s because I had discovered a shopping mall in the vicinity thanks to Google maps. I found a shoe store and bought some sandals that didn’t constrain my toes, and the rest of my day was much better for my foot.I headed from St Paul’s toward the river and walked over the Millennium Bridge to the middle of the Thames and took some photos of the Tower Bridge in the distance. The Tower Bridge is the iconic bridge of London…and is often called the London Bridge, even though it isn’t. The London Bridge actually isn’t that appealing either. Hah.So I took some pictures and then walked along the Thames back toward the Westminster/Parliament area. It was quite the walk, but I didn’t mind. Once I hit Waterloo Bridge I headed back towards the city, away from the river, at ended up in Trafalgar Square. I didn’t realize that the Olympic Torch was making it’s final tour through London on Thursday, and I hit a mass of at least 3000 people gathered in and around the square. I asked a policeman what was going on and he said the torch was coming through in about 15 minutes. So, I found a spot and waited. I mean…when in Rome, right? :)The torch came by and it was pretty neat. And then the masses started trying to leave the square. I had strategically placed myself for a quick exit, so I headed down the Mall toward Buckingham Palace.

Unfortunately most of the Mall was barricaded off for Friday’s festivities, so I took another road back toward the river, and to the Parliament building and Big Ben.The walking was pretty slow-going. There were people everywhere and I was mostly concerned of getting my foot stepped on. But everthing worked out and I ended up at the Westminster tube station and took the tube away from all the craziness and went back to Bayswater, which is where I was my first night of my trip. I knew it was an absolute tourist trap, but I needed to eat dinner before my train, so I grudgingly went to an Indian resturant and sure enough did they try to rip me off. If you think the Italians in Rome are bad…wait till you encounter some of the Indian waiters in London. I had a good chat about it with the couple sitting next to me. She was from Sydney and he was from Oslo. Talk about a long-distance relationship there! Hah.The food was okay, the service was horrible. They tried to get away with not giving me my change back. I did eventually get it back and left without tipping. I may be American, but I ain’t stupid, thank you very much.And then I took the tube two more stops to Paddington and sat down in the station to wait for my  trian. Unfortunately, “due to signaling issues”, the train was delayed an half hour and I didn’t leave London until just after 9pm. That put me into Castle Cary at 10:50, and home in Glastonbury around 11:20pm. And then I happily crashed in bed after so much walking!

The Olympic feel is definitely in the air, and I wish I could have found out where Gator Band was on Thursday. I know now that they’re performing today (Friday), and all throughout the weekend. It’s pretty awesome that Gator Band gets to represent not just the Sunshine State, but the entire USA at such an international venue! If it wasn’t so expensive, and so crowded, I’d go back to London on Sunday to see them perform. But I’m sure there will be videos posted to YouTube.

Here are some pictures from the day:

The first two are from Stourhead on Wednesday. And then I took a few in London. These are all photos from my iPhone. I took more pictures with my good camera, but I won’t post those for a while probably. Anyway, so the photos from London show some of the Olympics decor around the city, the Millennium Bridge, the London Eyes and Parliament off in the distance in the picture of the Thames, crowds in Trafalgar Square for the torch, and finally all the people milling around Westminster and Parliament before I headed to Bayswater.

That’s all for now. TTFN 🙂

I survived Bristol

Well, my foot is marginally better. I still can’t wear anything besides my sneakers, which definitely limits my clothing choices at this point. But I’ll just deal with it for a few days. The toe is less swollen, but more blue and purple. I spent most of Monday afternoon after arriving in Bristol, in my hotel room with a towel and a bag of ice on my foot, elevated on a few pillows. But I had dinner at an Italian place just down the street and the food was excellent. I hobbled back to my room and messed around on the internet for a while before going to sleep. Tuesday morning I got up, got ready and then walked over (only three blocks) to the CCT Bristol Office to meet up with Emma and Matt. They then walked with me over to the actual meeting place, which was in a church they’ve “regenerated”, and is now used by a company called CircoMedia, which does circus and trapeze arts. It’s actually pretty cool when you see all the equipment set up inside the old church that now gets much more use as a building than it did before it was converted.

The meeting itself went well. I think all non-profits have the same problem of having meeting after meeting, and noting what to talk about at the next meeting, but never really getting much accomplished. Because the CCT recently restructured with budget cuts and everything, it is obvious that there are some big communication gaps between staff members.

The meeting went from 11-3:30pm, and we had lunch outside in the sunny grass in between there. And then Emma showed me to the bus station and I took the bus back to Glastonbury. Sarah and Neil took me out to dinner, which was lovely, and I hobbled down the High Street with only one sandal on, because the one on my hurt foot was just too painful.

Today we’re meeting at an English Heritage site, to talk to someone who is really good at volunteer recruiting…which is something the CCT desperately needs to figure out. So we’ll see how it goes.

Cheerio for now!

Manic Monday – July 23

Well, this week is off to a great start. Not. Well, that’s an exaggeration. But this morning I fell down the stairs. It was about as ungraceful as you could get. I slipped, my butt hit the step and I slid and bumped all  the way down the rest of the 6-7 steps. My elbows got roughed up and my phone case has a slight ding in it, but worse than that, is that my pinkie toe got caught on the railing on my way down and its now really badly stubbed. It’s swollen and throbbing and all sorts of goodness. I’ve had some frozen peas on it for the last hour and taped it to the fourth toe. But still…it hurts to walk and I am supposed to do a lot of walking today.

Today I’m headed for Bristol. I’ll take the bus from Glastonbury to Wells, and then from Wells to Bristol. I’m spending the night in a hotel and then attending the regional team meeting at the CCT office tomorrow morning. But the walk from the bus station in Bristol to my hotel is no short distance…neither is the distance from the hotel to the office. So this could be interesting. I was so happy with how much walking I’ve been doing the last two weeks and now this. At least the toe isn’t broken. At least, I don’t think it is.

Both the puppy and the cat are getting on my nerves. The cat is just stupid, and the dog won’t listen. So I’ll be glad to get out of the house in an hour or so and by the time I get back on Tuesday, Dr. R and Sarah can deal with the animals.

This week will be pretty busy. Like I said today is travel to Bristol, Tuesday is the meeting in Bristol and traveling back to Glastonbury, Wednesday is work on the newsletter, Thursday I have to go to London for my formal orientation with the organization (two weeks late…but they only do it once a month for any new staff or volunteer members), and Friday I want to finish up the newsletter.

For those of you who don’t know, Gator Band is traveling to London to do several performances at the Olympics.
They’re performing a few different venues for different events, and are playing songs from Queen and the Beatles and so forth. So I’m going to try and meet up with Mark and a few others on Thursday while I’m in London. Why not? 🙂

That’s all for now. Cheerio.

First Two Weeks in England – Picture Post!

This entry is mostly to post some photos that I haven’t been able to post yet. I don’t really want to make an album on Facebook until I get back to the States and can put together one of my whole trip. So in the meantime, I’ll post some photos here from the first two weeks. For some reason WordPress and I aren’t getting along and the spacing between the photos and their captions is a little funky…so sorry about that. But hope you like the pictures! 🙂

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July 21st – Festival of British Archaeology

So for the past week you’ll have seen me mention the church at Holcombe many times. The archaeological surveying and studies going on their this past week were part of the Festival of British Archaeology, and it concluded yesterday with a series of presentations inside the church. Attendees to the presentations were mostly locals, but also people who had read about the event in other local papers. In all we had about 45 people turn up, which for a small church isn’t bad at all. We had just enough sitting room.

The presentations started with Dr. Rushton talking about the CCT in general, what they’re doing and the plans they have for the 18 churches they preserve in Somerset county. Part of this presentation involved me going up and, holding the Cameley Head, discussing what we were doing with dendrochronological dating. One person said, “You’re not from around here, are you?” and I said, “What gave me away?” Most of the people I’ve met so far have been really interested in where I’m from in America and how on earth I ended up working on a church in a little English village. One lady in particularly yesterday was very intrigued by how I ended up there and gave me one of those elderly pats on the shoulder saying, “Well I hope you get to do the job you really want to do when you get back to the States.” 🙂

Following Dr. R’s presentation, the team from Wessex Archaeology gave some presentations about the high-tech stuff they use, including laser scanning and satellite technology. And the finale was a demonstration/fly-around of the drone plane they use to survey landscapes.

I think overall the event was a success, though the lack of any kind of refreshments was noted by many attendees, and I think that can definitely be addressed for the next event. The program material itself wasn’t too difficult to understand, but not so dumbed down that the attendees felt cheated. Throughout the day I was on-hand to take pictures and answer any basic questions about the project at Holcombe, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. I felt useful and appreciated, which is always nice. Not long after we got home Dr R headed out for London, and I’m puppy/cat/house sitting until Monday morning when I head to Bristol.

I don’t feel particularly indignant about having to watch the cat and the dog, but I do wish the dog wasn’t a puppy. She’s completely untrained and doesn’t really listen to commands yet. And I feel awkward trying to impose any training of my own, because it’s not my dog. So, I’m just going to let her chew the rug after telling her for the 20th time not to. I’m doing all this as a favor, in exchange for staying here for free all this time, so it’s not a bad deal. But it’s not ideal either.

Today I have the day off. I think I’m just going to relax and lounge around and try to overcome a slight bout of homesickness that started last night. In the meantime, check out some of the photos from yesterday’s event. Just click the “read more” link below:

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Thursday July 19 – Church Tours for CCT Supporters

One of the programs the CCT holds fairly regularly throughout  the year, is a guided church tour. In this case, yesterday, there were three churches and lunch included, and Dr. Rushton was the “expert” giving the tours and explaining parts of the churches to the participants. Yesterday’s tour took place in Berkshire county, and all three churches were medieval. We started at church in East Shefford. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and it is a bit in the middle of nowhere, on an old estate property. But inside are some really great wall paintings and other medieval features. Here is a photo of Dr. R giving a talk about this church.







After East Shefford, we followed the folks on the bus to a church in Catmore. This church was far less interesting  that the first, and the talk didn’t take as long, which was good since we were already behind schedule having spent too much time at the first church. After Catmore we went to a pub called The Swan Inn, where ladies from the head CCT office in London has already prearranged lunch for us. It was pretty good. And then it was off to the last church, in Lower Basildon, which doesn’t have wallpainting, but beautiful medieval style windows and other architectural features. Here is a picture of Dr. R talking in that church.







After this tour was finished, all the people got back on the bus and headed back to Reading Station, and Dr. R and I headed back to Glastonbury. The drive took two hours and I slept a lot. Neither of us felt like cooking so we went to Cafe Galatia around the corner for dinner and then, because the weather was actually pretty nice, we decided to take their new puppy Tess, for a walk up to the Tor. And after that hike up and down I was pretty exhausted. So, Thursday was a good day. I got to see the kind of educational programs a non-museum heritage organization can run, and what challenges they face in doing so. Learning something every day. 🙂

Today is a day for me to work on the newsletter, so I’m afraid I won’t have anything very interesting to talk about. But we’ll see.


Wednesday July 18th – More Dendrochronology and Mick Aston

Wednesday morning we headed out fairly early, back in the direction of the church in Puxton. We stopped at Mick Aston’s house first, and this was quite the experience. He’s a prominent English archaeologist, and any quirks you’ve ever associated with an absent-minded professor apply to this one. His house was strewn with papers everywhere, books piled on books, and his kitchen table was covered in newspapers that had the potshards from a recent dig drying on them after having been washed.

So we had a cup of coffee and he asked me what I’m doing here and he showed me some of the things he’d recently dug up, including a 13th century clay pipe, which was pretty darn cool. And then we went upstairs into his attic office which had even MORE bags and bags of numbered and catalogued potshards. It was pretty surreal…mostly because the museum person in my is wondering what in the world is going to happen to all that stuff.

So then Mick and his partner Teresa followed us  to Puxton church in their car, and we met up with Dendro Guy (Michael Worthington) again. Mick and Michael have worked together a lot in the past. Michael has an archaeological background, too…and did traditional archaeology long before he switched over to specializing in dendrochronology. They joked and said Michael went from “Mick the Dig” to “Mick the Twig”. 🙂 So we met up at Puxton and Michael took some samples from the old wooden pews, which Dr R suspects are about 12th century. Below are two photos, one of the samples once they’ve been removed from the drill-bit and labeled, and one of Michael and Dr. R taking a sample from a pew.

And then we headed back towards Holcombe church, but stopped at a pub inbetween for lunch. After lunch Michael left to go on to Cameley to take more samples there, and Mick came with us to Holcombe to look at some of the survey techniques they’re doing there. The RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) people were there again, working on some of the stones in the graveyard, but more importantly on an Anglo Saxon carving that is on the side of the archway leading into the porch of the church. The carving itself is cut off, and it’s obvious that the stone was reused when this arch was made…but the carving was set in upside down which makes it all the more interesting. But what RTI allows you to do, is see things from angles of light that aren’t possible with the naked eye. Essentially, you take a series of 50 or so photos, during which the camera is in a fixed position, but for each photo the light is coming from a different point. The photos are then loaded into special software that compiles it all together, and allows you to manipulate the lighting on the screen so that it’s easier to read the worn away text. In this photo you see Nicole, from a project called “Re-reading the British Memorial”, Dr. Rushton in the middle and Mick Aston on the right, looking at the RTI version of the Anglo Saxon carving.

We spent about two hours at Holcombe, and then headed back home. We had rice and beans for dinner and then I went to bed fairly early after Skyping with Mom and Mike. Too many Michaels, Mikes and Micks in one post! 🙂