The arrival (of Esme)

Walio cerrig sych - a Welsh wall in Washington DC

I have to break into my little story of the Smithsonian Festival to announce that a little girl arrived in my life, Esme, my first grand-daughter, so forgive me if I rush a little.

So we got a taxi – a thrilling experience in itself for visitors from rural Wales – I was so disappointed they weren’t yellow ! (I have a model yellow NY Taxi, a prized possession) but the electric hybrid (having some problems I hear) was cool too.

Betty B was there to greet us and Rob (to Chad copy).  and off to go, there was my stone all neatly packaged and in a line along the length of the section – boy it looked a lot, and it was ‘crap’ (not at all what AJP and I had ordered) but it was exactly what I’d left behind in the hills of Breconshire.

Saturday and Sunday went in a flash – broken nicely by a chinese dinner at Betty’s house and having our palms crossed by ‘General’ Strickland (as I came to know her – one of my favourites and not just ‘cos she was sooo rich !!)  And then Monday morning, oh Monday Monday, so good to me, Monday morning, it was all I’d hoped it would be……. (Mamma Cas for those of you too young to know it).

I’d been asked ‘how many’ interns I would like, two or three big strong college footballers had been promised.  What did I get ? Katie T, Sarah M, Mary S., Sally and May….. a whole gaggle of white knees and skinny arms – or so I thought, Paulinus instantly categorised me as a mysogonist, what an error I made in even allowing that thought to surface.  My ‘Rock Chics’ were the most amazing team I’d ever worked with.  We sweated, got down and got filthy together, danced and laughed our way through the most enthralling ten days of my life !

Then there was the rest of the crew, Josh – we were singing together by the end of the first day – Tyler, Marti, Chief, Mike, Chad -soon captioned Capt America , Will, Andrew and a host of others and then the ‘girls’ of course, Charity,  Whits and hundreds of others – the ‘cheer leaders’, and the boss lady, the erudite, sheik, alluring, angelic but distinctly ‘don’tmesswithme’ Parker.  Not forgetting Dory and Barbara and Beryl and all the others back at the hotel, oh my, so many wonderful, wonderful people, and all in the first few days – too too much.

The ‘famous five’ set about building AJP’s vision of  little Wales on the Mall.  We were being ‘fly on the wall’d’ by Gutto from a Welsh film company.  He was a great addition to our little band and soon became esconced in the locale of me and the rock chics to become as much a part of our little team as anyone – I suspect he did as much walling as filming, and as much drinking as the rest of us put together !!

We settled into a routine, metro in by 7.30, tea and begle 9.00, elevenses, everyone but me and KT – mainly ‘cos we were always filthy – went off to have lunch usually to the nice outside garden of the Museum of Sculpture – a place I didn’t get to until the Monday we were all packing-up and Whits paid for lunch – lucky people.  We usually kept building until 6ish and then get on the ‘tube’ and back to Arlington.

The entrance walls took a lot of time and would not have been completed without the aforementioned, no, not at all.  Stone was rapidly consumed (and the ‘hearting’ – the packing in the middle of a dry stone wall – was variously cinder block, sand bags and anything else we could find) and eventually I had to tell AJP and she in turn ‘told’ Rob…. The extra stone was down to AJP, Geno and the ‘banker’ Ifona – darlings all.  And Rob s… miracles to get it delivered the next day.  The quarry owners – the Stone Store – came over to see the work and seemed well impressed – they came back on the first Saturday with camera and boxes of ‘corporate goodies’, including, for some strange reason (no doubt the marketing officer knew why), stone store ‘frisbees’ !

I was getting very tired but the cheer and fortitude of friends, especially my new found team of interns and crew, made everyday a joy and by the end of the first week all was on schedule – well in my world…

I was summoned (by Ifona and Geno) to attend a ‘pool party’ on that second Saturday, oh yawn I thought… the rest, as they say, is history…. Sunday and everyday thereafter, to the opening on Wednesday was hard hard graft but good good fun, given the addition of a daily hug…

AJP, Evs and Howie had also s… miracles and completed the most astounding ‘stage set’ ever seen, all the WAG girls and Geno slogged it out in the heat and kept a smile despite the occassional hick-up with the ‘special relationship’.  The crew were driven to a standstill too and my little team were gradually ‘pinched’ for last minute jobs, but by the time I staggered back to the hotel at 10pm on the Tuesday night, all was ready for the opening of the festival.  For that night, room service, and a good sleep with no need to metro on the morn, coaches from now on.

The Welsh brigade had arrived on the Monday (to coincide with a dreadful wreck on the Metro which got the phone lines buzzing back to Wales – well no one there would have even considered there was more than one metro line and train) and the hotel suddenly resembled the Royal on International day.  It seemed a bit strange to see all these excited, slightly non-plussed countrymen and women from the homeland which we had left such a long long time ago… And then there was the Latin American contingency – Spanish seemed to be the dominant language in the hotel from then on – and the ‘Giving Voice’ participants (I’ve never been in love with so many stunningly beautiful and intellectually superior – to me that is – women all at once in my life !!).

Sleep did not come easy that night, I was excited for the dawm – despite the fact that we had changed to ‘trough eating’ – all the participants in one big room eating buffet style, but boys boys, what food we ate, what flavours assaulted my palate and what amusement I provided to my Latin and African American friends by my absurd mixtures – probably equating to gravy and lettuce on toast !!  I hope my inability to match the erudite Mr Gower in my descriptive wordworks in no way dimishes your ability to ‘get’  the extent of my utter joyous absorption into the whole ‘God damn’ show !

Wednesday 24th June, chapter 2 in this amazing, unsurpassed episode in my life…  The story continues in ‘The Smithsonian Folklife Fest’ later on.

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