What I did this summer.

Just thought I'd better write something before I forget everything.

I arrived a few days before my suitcase, it turns out. I am now quite familiar with LHR to city navigation, and lobbed at the unknown, company-travel-system-booked Thistle Hotel in Bloomsbury. I was excited at what the next month would bring: meetings with all sorts of lovely museum-y people, talking at 5 things about The Commons etc, and I admit to you, dear reader, that I was chuffed at it all and basking somewhat.

The bask quickly cooled as I entered my room. It was fucking tiny. One of those rooms (single as well) that slaves must have lived in in the olden days. About the size of a generous moving box with slanty ceilings, the room was actually L-shaped. I immediately channeled the excitement/woe that the young Ms. Woolf must have felt as she embarked on her Bloomsbury glory days.

I don't know why, but I still sometimes try hotel breakfasts instead of wandering out into the wild and seeing what turns up. Believe you me, this is a dreadful mistake at the Thistle. The English Brekkie was tragic. (The next day, I went to a busy caf on the way to the office, and had a far superior meal for 1/3 of the price.)

Now, I'm not normally a whinger, I think, and I persevered for some time (as I waited for my suitcase, mainly), but then it all became too much - except for the handy "press your pants in a moment, gentlemen" iron thing. I haven't ironed anything since high school, but wanted to make a good impression in Londinium - and then escaped to a nice little pub that has some rooms above the bar. Nice brekkie too.

It is an absolute pleasure to meet people who work in museums. To see behind closed doors and meet those who construct and describe their collections is simply wonderful. Fascinating. So, I went from end to end of London meeting everyone who could make time, and it was good. I must say thank you to my colleague, Fiona, who was very helpful in this endeavour.

I also bought a frock on Carnaby Street, and ended up lobbing with dear friends for a night or two before...

The kernel of my trip, I had met Professor Ross Parry in Montreal earlier this year, who asked me to come and talk to museum researchers and the UK Museums on The Web delegates. I had not been to Leicester before.

The train journey was downright green and pleasant. I walked from the station to my hotel. It was Fawlty Towers x 100. I declined housekeeping for the entire stay, wanting by then to have a room of my own.

Lovely people. Thank you particularly to Simon, who helped me jump online to launch the Smithsonian. He bought me a coffee, then ran all over the campus to get some internet.

I was woken in the wee hours one morning by a woman screaming outside, however. This was singularly shocking, though I was reassured by the prompt sounds of helpful voices, that she was to be saved.

Talks went well, I think, although I was quite embarrassed by the build up. Jon Pratty is also a lovely chap.

Back to the capitol for a quick day of more meetings, the launch of that radio thing, a bacon alarm clock, and a quickie presentation at Interesting. That last bit actually made me surprisingly nervous. I was given the brief to speak for 3 minutes about something that interested me. Anything. Naturally, that was way too hard to nail down, so I talked about work. It's rare that I can have fun poking fun. I'll try to get the slides online somewhere.

Leaving with the lovely Fiona Romeo to Venice, we ended up getting to the island itself pretty late in the night. She had found an apartment that we had planned to rent for a few days before another conference, Communicating The Museum.

We ended up going on a total mission to a) find the keys while being hassled by a sleazy man who wouldn't stop looking, but I stared right back and b) navigating bizarrely bad written directions (why no map, people??). It was also stiflingly hot, and let's just say I was ecstatic to feel the cold terrazzo underfoot, and enjoyed the first cold shower I'd had for some time.

Wandered about Cannareggio. Had the best breakfast in the universe (cake and an iced shot of coffee) from a little pasticcieria. Fucking outstanding.

Sweated profusely. (It's good for the skin.) And not in a particularly glowing or sexy way. But, all the other tourists were too, so didn't feel too bad. No bank machines were working. Hard to get cash. Thank god Fiona was able to get some, otherwise I'm sure we would have been "taken care of."

Moved on to conference venue etc. Stunning and elegant, the whole way through. A highlight of my young life so far was a gala dinner at Peggy Guggenheim's house. Apart from the stunning collection, it was all just so lovely. I think we were all a bit taken aback, actually. One of the harder presentations I've done, due to general awe, and unlucky technical hitches. Realised how much I like to use notes when I couldn't see them.

Lots of boats, and waiting for boats, and tourists, and beauty. My friend Ben made a nice observation about Venice last night, that it's more a shell now than before. I found it enchanting most of the time, particularly a late night wander (in new girly shoes) that crossed the Piazza San Marco, far quieter than in daylight.

Spent time with my wonderful, loving family and my new nephew. It was terribly hard to leave.

Back to dear friends for a quick barbie with nice arty folk. Was severely crusty after previous night's drunken tear-stained evening across the kitchen table with my sister and brother.

San Francisco
Back. Lots to share, invigorated with ideas, possibly too big. Not sure what to say or who to tell. Caught up with friends last night and today. That felt good, particularly after throwing off the warmest blanket I have.