Mistress Agnes and the wrong sort of teasel

On a beautiful late summer morning we watch two balloons hover above the field behind the van. These are of the hot air, rather than the Happy Birthday, variety. A few minutes drive and we are The Strode Theatre in Street for Somerset and Dorset Family History Society’s Annual Conference. It is an impressive venue and the first time I have had an upper circle to address. Alas no one is actually going to be sitting up there today. I am wired for sound and run through the usual ‘one, two, three, testing’ routine. A lady approaches me with a gift, momentarily I wonder why she is giving me a hairbrush but no, she has read ‘Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs’ and she knows teasels are used for carding wool. It appears that the illustration in my book is the wrong sort of teasel and the lovely lady has brought one of the correct sort along for me. I am irrationally excited by this. It is like no teasel I have seen before, darker, stiffer and more cylindrical than the common teasels and much more suitable for the job. Aren’t people wonderful.

My ‘How Your Ancestors Would Have Died’ presentation is well received and no one seems to have been put off the superior buffet lunch by the recurrent diarrhoea and vomiting theme in my talk. I get for enquiries for four future talks at various south west venues, including one in 2016. ‘Book early to avoid disappointment’, I say. Many positive comments about my Who Do You Think You Are? episode too. In the afternoon, an interesting talk by Roger Gutteridge on ‘My Ancestors and other Smugglers’, concentrating on the Rideout family. I had corresponded with him about this family when I was researching it for a friend many years ago. I sell some copies of ‘Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs’, thus reducing the weight in the van a little.

We leave Street for Tewkesbury in order to make tomorrow’s journey north a little more manageable. After an uneventful journey we arrive at the caravan site, in the shadow of Tewkesbury Abbey, at 17.59. That’s fine, last time we were here we were in trouble for arriving at 19.59 when they closed at 20.00. Unfortunately closing time is now 18.00 so we have made the same mistake again. We site ourselves on one of the five empty pitches, wind down the van’s legs and set up the water. We then discover that some incompetent eight vans down has plugged their electric cable into the wrong socket, leading everyone else along the line to be connected to the wrong socket as well. Rather like the situation when one does ones buttons up incorrectly, this leaves us with no electricity. We debate the relative demerits of just using gas over night and the hassle of re-pitching the van and opt for the latter.

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