Thursday, 21 August 2008


I have been taking people round Kew as a volunteer guide since December 2006, and I have never seen the Princess of Wales' Conservatory chameleon. I wasn't particularly upset about this, because I do know where to find the axolotl (which can usually cheer people up in a white, underwater, albino sort of way). I think there's more than one chameleon, too - Kew gets to keep any illegally imported reptiles confiscated at the airport, and there are a few in the house. And I'd still never seen it.

Most weeks I do one tour, so that takes me about two minutes to get there and about an hour to go round. Depending how chatty people are, I might stay with a group for longer - the other day I took a group to the Treetop Walkway and they were such good fun that we stayed for ages. But it's really only giving an hour a week of my time. However this week there were a few emergencies, and I live close by so I've done three tours. 

So anyway I was going round yesterday with a group of carers being given a day off by Kensington and Chelsea Council - all caring for a member of their family - and nobody spoke English as a first language, so I had to speak realllllllyyyy slllooowwllly and clllearrrrllly before I saw they understood me. 

But they were so full of amazing facts! 

  • You can lick the juice out banana flowers (we did it)! 
  • Agave is called mother-in-law's tongue in Syria! 
  • Taro leaves give you a rash if you brush past them with bare legs (I knew it was bad to eat raw)! 
  • You can eat the whole pod off a coffee plant and it tastes really nice and gives you a pick-me-up! 
  • You can insult someone in the Seychelles by saying they smell like Amorphophallus!

But the final treat on this really hilarious tour was getting down the end of the glasshouse and suddenly seeing a group of kids crowding round - this is always a good sign, it means something really interesting. And it was the chameleon. Hurrays all round. And particularly hurray for cameraphones. 

I loved going round with a group who collectively came from France, Poland, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Seychelles, Antigua, and loads of other places I've forgotten: I can't believe how much I learnt from them. So here to finish with is a picture of the wild flower meadow in the bedding area outside Main Gate, yum yum. Come to Kew and get one of us guides to take you round! We will try to show you lots of stuff. We promise it will be fab. Unfortunately, the chameleon is the one appearance we can't guarantee. 


VP said...

Of course you may have seen the Chameleon already, but it was matching your dress or something already, so it was out of view whilst in view so to speak ;)

emmat said...

very Zen of you!

VP said...

Yes, I appear to have a very strange 'head' on today as Wurzel Gummidge would say ;)