…at least for twenty minutes.
It’s always interesting to get a chance to dip a toe into something new, and I like variety in my work. It’s one of the reasons I like my job, where every day can bring something new to deal with or something odd to sort out. Today I got asked to be a stand-in press office member for a brief spell; the PR team all had to go into a meeting and one of them was meant to be meeting a photographer from the local paper, the Richmond and Twickenham Times. She came scuttling into the Info office and asked if one of us would meet and escort this character to the Princess of Wales Conservatory, to photograph the setting-up of the Tropical Extravaganza (yes, it’s February; it's Trop-Ex time again already).
I stuck my hand up, of course, and half an hour later found myself taking a friendly woman with a huge case of photographic equipment over to the PoWC in the rain. Yesterday was a glorious day, bitingly cold but with sunshine and a brilliant blue sky, but today is grey and damp and drizzly. Such a pity, from the photographer’s point of view; the light is soft and muted and flat, where yesterday it was bright and full of high contrasts.
But the PoWC is looking gorgeous. They’ve finished the pillar displays, with massed orchids and bromeliads encircling each of the big roof supports; the decorated archways in the upper walkway are almost done, and they’ve just started on a series of giant hanging baskets with anthuriums and hybrid phalaenopsis in great bowls of colour. A display in the big pool, recreating an epiphyte-smothered tree trunk in the Amazon, is beginning to look realistic (yesterday it looked like a large metal framework with a few tufts of greenery tied on...).
I prattled about nothing much (small talk is not my strength) and managed to hand my charge over quickly to Mr Orchid Nursery, as she wanted to photograph a Kew person and I was determined not to get caught up in that (Mr O. N. promptly dashed off to look for someone else, so I’m guessing he doesn’t want to be on the cover of the Rich & Twick either).
The progress since yesterday is impressive. Getting Trop-Ex set up is a major undertaking and every year they manage to surpass themselves with the displays. This year, as well as the main display, which basically concentrates on lavish massed colour and show, there’s also a smaller display about rainforest conservation, with recreations of banana and coffee plantations and a mock-up of an area that has been subjected to slash-and-burn clearance (this, as you can imagine, is pretty drastic-looking in the middle of Kew). Signs in this area will plug the “Adopt a seed” programme to raise support (& hopefully funds) for the Millennium Seed Bank, and promote sustainable produce such as shade-grown organic coffee.
It looks like another winner… Now I just have to pin my folks down to visit.