Thursday, 16 July 2009

Been a bit quiet...

Sorry it's been a bit quiet. Currently having work troubles, and possibly facing redundancy. Hope to get back on track soon and keep this blog up-to-date. Don't worry though, I'm keeping up the volunteering...

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


I've just finished a four day stint at my property over the busy Bank Holiday weekend. I've been all sorts of things this time; Working the Shop, helping in the Tea Room, helping prepare for a great "Grow Your Own" event, hang bunting and have even had a go at cleaning the visitor toilets.

All in all, a very tiring weekend, but I still enjoyed it. Many of the people I work with during my "normal" job wonder why on earth I put myself through this. It's a good question, but comes down to two things;

Firstly, it's a break from my normal job, something different and means I'm not sitting at a desk all day. Secondly, it allows me to be myself - I sometimes find the corporate environment stiff and cold, my volunteering experiences are totally opposite that. It's hard to explain really, but it just gives me a real 'buzz'.

My first volunteering experience was at Calke Abbey, helping out with a Easter Trail event. I was looking after the finishing post for the Easter Trail - I had to ask the kids questions about what they saw, given them the chance to comment on the trail or do some colouring and then give them their prize. I was terrified; I'd never worked with the general public in this environment, and had certainly no experience of talking to children. I was welcomed by the other volunteers and the staff running the event. After two days, and speaking to an estimated 1,100 children - I was completely exhausted - my knees where giving in from having to crouch down to their level all day - but I walked away with a huge grin on my face and had a whale of a time.

So that's were it all started, and I've never looked back. Do you think I'm mad?

Friday, 15 May 2009

Peacock Pie anybody?

We have three peacocks, two males and one female. One male is the off spring of the other (Percy) and the female (Penny). There was a second sibling, but he met an untimely end after getting into an argument with a car and losing.

During open days, the males can be quite sociable – wandering around the picnic area and are big show-offs. Penny is less sociable, and tends to keep away until everybody goes home, but isn’t so wary of staff and volunteers – especially when there is food around.

All three of them love cars and can often be found wandering around the car parks. Penny can spend hours picking insects of bumpers and number plates – the males, on the other hand are not quite so popular in the car park. They love shiny cars, when they see their reflection, they appear to see a rival, and they will often take them on – resulting in scratched paintwork. Usually the marks wipe off, but they can get quite severe. I’ve been targeted myself. You are usually OK if your car is dirty though! On busy days, when there is somebody in the car park, it can be part of the role to constantly chase the peacocks away from the lovely shiny cars – and they can be very stubborn when they want to be. We’ve even tried using water pistols!

Nobody is safe, and there can be days where putting peacock on the menu of the tea room seems like a good idea. Especially if you add in an hour or two of screeching!

When we still had two youngsters, I once had to separate them as they decided to have a very violent looking fight in the middle of the picnic area. They wouldn’t have hurt anybody but it looked pretty vicious. In the end I stood between them as if I was separating a couple of scrapping boys!

But like everybody else at the property, they are characters and we wouldn’t be with out them. (Although if they touch my car again…!)

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Conservation in Action

In a previous post I touched on the subject of conservation in discussing why properties often have reduced light levels, or restricted opening hours. There is much more to the conservation of a property and it's contents than meets the eye.

Light is just one factor that needs protecting against, as well as reducing the exposure, one common method for historical properties (and not just the National Trust) is to use special UV protecting film on windows.

In some cases humidity is an important factor, as it can cause canvases to stretch or become misshapen, wood to crack or even promote the growth of mould.

Dust and dirt of obvious contenders, dirt brought can be brought in by visitors, although I'm not suggesting that they are moving refuse tips. Just the dirt and dust brought in on your shoes can cause damage - in my property every surface is dusted every day - not polished - that's only done once a year, just wiped with a clean, dry lint-free cloth.

The other menace is from visitors again... Sorry - but it's true, and this time it's about touching. A lot of damage can be done to delicate surfaces and textiles just by the lightest of touches. The grease on your fingers and hands can be transferred and cause discolouration. Sometimes it's unintentional - a coat brushing against curtain may seem negligible, but over a year hundreds of coats could brush against the same spot and the damage builds up. It has been suggested that 1 year open to the public causes the same amount of environmental damage to a house and its contents as 25 years of family life.

Properties do what they can to minimise the impact but they would certainly appreciate visitors doing their bit and resisting the urge to catch a quick feel of a 300 year old bedspread.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

A big thank you...

... to the lovely lady, who while I was helping to organise the car parking on a dull and, at times, wet Bank Holiday, offered me a cup of coffee from her flask.

It is so nice to see somebody take the trouble to do something nice. They could have sat in their car sipping their coffee, and it wouldn't have occurred to me that somebody would offer me a cup.

In fact, without sounding to 'slushy', it is this sort of thing that makes it all worth while!