Some Birds, Absent Voters’ Lists, Ancestral Dancing and Extending the Family Tree

On our way back from the Guild of One Name Studies conference we stop off at Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust – hence the bird seed of an earlier post. Always a good place to visit even on quite a chilly day.


Back home and one of my friends and fellow researchers has collected all the Absent Voters’ Lists for local parishes – these are now a candidate for one of my favourite sources for community history – all those names, addresses and regiments/ships.

Week 2 of our not being at home much month and this time we are off to Cambridge for a wedding. Always a lengthy journey, this is exacerbated by roadworks, Friday rush-hour delays, hail and other incidents. Trundling along the M5, our bonnet flies open. This is not as dramtic as it sounds as there is a safety catch so we can see where we are going until the next services, where we fix the problem. Next, an attempt to avoid the M25, which is advertised as experiencing severe delays on the very stretch we need. I rummage in the glove compartment to find a book with lines, dots, numbers and place names – racking our memories we realise this is an historical artefact, otherwise known as a map.  I spot a way to avoid the M25, we approach Beaconsfield from the south. We aren’t moving very fast so the M25 will need to have been very congested for this to have been a good idea. As navigator, I try to maintain an air of confidence whilst the Sat-Nav, which is determined that we should go along the M25, frantically tells us to ‘turn around where possible’. We approach Beaconsfield from the south. Those who have been paying attention will notice that we have already done this. Even I can’t claim that this is all in aid of the ‘pretty route’. In the end we give up and return to the M25 – at least this has allowed time for the congestion (if there ever was any) to subside. At least, we think it has subsided – we can’t actually see because of the hail.

As is our wont, we stop at a Harvester to eat. We are fans of Harvesters, largely on the grounds of the nominally ‘free’ salad. The place is heaving but the waiting staff rate as some of the friendliest ever and appear unflustered. We do observe however that we have probably never before seen quite so many obese people under one roof – not sure if this is a good advert for Harvester or not. We are in, eat and out within half an hour – just what was needed – so hats off to Harvester Bedford and our waitress Claire, who has had time to tell us her uncle lives in Holsworthy.

Wedding Day – not mine I hasten to add. Becca, as bridesmaid, has already left for the bride’s house – strange for her as this was the house that she left from when she married. We arrive at the church very early as Graeme has been allocated a task. It transpires however that this task has now been superceded so we try to make ourselves useful. I am assigned the role of holding open the back door so cakes can be brought in. Whilst waiting for cake bearers I let some dubious characters through – most of whom are the wedding party. Chris has managed to pour himself into his suit. I am taking bets on how far into the Ceilidh his buttons will last. Ever the rebel, he is wearing his ‘gone fishing’ socks. I am sorry that age means I do not qualify for the wedding colouring sheet and crayons.


This is a lovely wedding although we doubt the wisdom or indeed possibility of getting the 200 strong congregation all on the stage at once for a photograph. We contemplate when the stage has last been weight tested. It appears it is possible and passes without incident. We are off to the reception in a double decker bus. This attracts a fair bit of attention in central Cambridge and we practice Queen-like waves.

You can tell that a significant number of the wedding party are engineers. We are provided with laser cut cogs and shapes on the table with which to build creations. One member of our table appears to be absent – we hope he is absent as we have just eaten his starter – oh dear he is just late – can we get away with this? There are some impressive special effects accompanying the wedding including a double bass for the first dance appearing up through the floor as the central section of the room rises – bit difficult to describe this but certainly striking.


We ceilidh away like mad things – with no adverse effects on Chris’ suit. We ignore the fact that most of the other participants are 30 years younger. This is always good fun and shades of how our ancestors may have celebrated and danced. We finished with an incredible ‘strip the willow’ which we managed to keep going indefinitely by turning what should have been a long set into a circle – even the caller is impressed. We don’t know very many people here but those we’ve met before stop and chat and everyone is very friendly. I’m not sure if this is still a secret, put it this way, Facebook doesn’t know yet so maybe you will hear it here first but if all goes well, Becca and Graeme will be ensuring that my family  tree is extended come the autumn. Lots of people I don’t know are congratulating me about this – not quite sure how I have contributed but it is very exciting. So thank you Katie and Dom, it was a lovely day and all good wishes for your lives together.

One comment on “Some Birds, Absent Voters’ Lists, Ancestral Dancing and Extending the Family Tree

  1. Caro - Claire Wiles says:

    Another thoroughly enjoyable musing from the queen of muses And…. congratulations to all on the upcoming addition to your family lines..

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