Reflection on Week Two and Thoughts on Homesickness

Last week was my second full week of fieldwork. For the most part, it was productive and successful. I conducted two in-depth interviews and collected more observational notes at various sites around Glastonbury. Last Tuesday I went down to the University of Exeter by train to check in with my advisor there and have lunch. The train trip was pleasant and the weather held up for the most part. I was able to familiarize myself with the library, the student forum/union and how to print things. I also introduced myself some of the other graduate students in the office suite where I have a desk assigned to me. I feel bad that I haven’t really been there much yet, but these first few weeks are dedicated to data collection and then I’m going to start sifting through it all when I move to Exeter on the 15th of April.

The weekend was great and I took some time off for myself on both Saturday and Sunday. My AirBnB host Cathy is a member of the voluntary choir at Wells Cathedral and she invited me to listen to their rehearsal on Saturday. It was their last rehearsal before a concert later that same day. It was a beautiful distraction in the middle of the day and the venue was certainly amazing. But anything music related always makes me miss Michael even more!

Monday I conducted another interview in Glastonbury and Tuesday I took the bus to Winscombe and met with several rangers/volunteers from the North Somerset regional office of the National Trust and collected five 30-minute interviews there. Their ranger office was a converted sheep shed in the countryside and they picked me up at the bus stop in a National Trust Land Rover. It was a fun experience. The five people I interviewed seemed to enjoy the opportunity (the free-listing activity was particularly entertaining) and I thanked them by bringing fresh pastries with me from the bakery. Food works wonders but this is something you should definitely budget for in your fieldwork expenses. Buying someone a coffee or an afternoon pastry goes a long way, but it can add up.

So far fieldwork has had its ups and downs. I knew going in that a lot of it requires patience. You send email after email. You introduce yourself over and over again. I’ve had to explain my project so many times at this point I sometimes forget exactly what it is I’m actually doing. And rejection… you have to come to terms with rejection. My dissertation proposal included a plan to conduct visitor surveys at Glastonbury Abbey. Long story short, I didn’t feel comfortable doing this until I got permission from the administration at the Abbey. Unfortunately, even though I initiated the conversation with them via email two weeks before I even left Florida, it was only last week that they finally got back to me to set up a meeting with the director. I met with her two days ago and she’s asked me not to approach visitors but that she and other staff are happy to chat with me. This is a disappointment, but I understand. I thought briefly about trying to survey visitors outside the property as they’re leaving, but that feels wrong. The main issue I’m having now is that my initial focus was on the consumption of the heritage, and now I seem to have found myself focusing more on the production side…which isn’t terrible, but again, not what I planned. However, I have a lot of interviews and other field-notes to work with. I do feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the workings of the town and the heritage tourism that happens there.

Yesterday I had a good friend, Neil, visit from Cornwall. He brought along his best friend Derek, who I finally got a know a little better, and we had a wonderful day in Glastonbury. I met Neil in 2012 when I worked for him at the CCT. They arrived around 1pm and checked into the George and Pilgrim. On our way out to the street one of my key informants passed us and I said, “Hi Trevor!” Neil kind of chuckled and said, “Look at you on a first-name basis with people.” I laughed because yes, I am on a first-name basis with a few folks but I wish I was on a first-name basis with a lot more.

We grabbed sandwiches and walked up to the Chalice Well Gardens where we sat in the meadow in the shadow of the Tor soaking up the glorious sunshine. Two hours seemed to pass remarkably fast just sitting in the grass and catching up. From there we went to the Hundred Monkeys for tea before making the hike up the Tor.

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There are two ways up and I always prefer the “back way” which includes crossing some pastures. The last bit of the hike is always a quad burner because it’s just loads of steps. I was only mildly ashamed that these two men in their late 40s were in better shape than me and I was sort of catching my breath the whole time. At any rate, I definitely have more endurance than I did when I first got here simply because I’ve been walking everywhere.

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This view will never get old!

We enjoyed the view at the top for quite a while before heading back into town for dinner. Dinner and drinks were had at the George and Pilgrim and it was lovely. Around 11pm I called for a taxi (no buses running that late) and had to say my goodbyes. On my way out I saw another one of my informants, Steve, and said hello and got a warm hug. I wish people everywhere were as friendly as they are in Glastonbury.

I got to chatting with my taxi driver, Sam, on the way home and found out that he also owns my favorite Indian take-away place in Glastonbury! A small world, indeed. I told him they have the best sag paneer. We got to talking about my travels and his travels and I was on a pretty good high from the whole day when I finally got home. Unfortunately this morning I woke up alone and the isolation seemed to be the most obvious it had been since the few days after Michael left three weeks ago.

I opened my fridge this morning and didn’t want to eat anything I saw. I’m not ashamed to admit that all I really wanted was a slice of pizza, or damn taco! Haha. I’m not eating poorly by any means, but my budget does limit what I feel good about buying and there is a certain degree of monotony. I also just miss cooking. Cooking for Michael is usually my stress-relief at the end of a day and that is definitely missing from my life right now.

England Fieldwork-92I forced myself to take the bus over to Shepton Mallet this morning because I needed to make more copies of my informed consent form for the coming week. I was able to get ten copies of a three page document for 1.70… which seemed pretty cheap! And then I went on an emotional grocery trip to Aldi before coming home and doing laundry. I know this last week and a half in Glastonbury will go by quickly and once I’m in Exeter I’ll wish I was back here. I have eight more interviews scheduled between now and when I leave as well as two events I’m attending for participant observation. Most days I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. Imposter syndrome is real. But some days are easier. I guess I just have to stay flexible and take it one step at a time.

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I’ll close with some positives. Everything is currently in bloom. Spring is definitely here and it’s been nice to see the environment change over the last three weeks. It started with tons of beautiful yellow daffodils. Right now the tulips are coming out and next to come are the bluebells. The pastures are full of little lambs, including the field just behind my place. I hear them throughout the day and even at night and it makes me smile. Technology makes it possible to video chat with Michael, as well as mom and sister, on a fairly regular basis. Snapchat and texts keep me in touch with my colleagues back at USF. And I signed up for a free month of Netflix UK and have finally finished the O.A. which made me ugly cry.

27 days done in Phase I. 42 days to go! Then two weeks at home before coming back for Phase II and the study at Tintagel.

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