Lots going on this week. Firstly, I am thrilled with the success of the inaugural meeting of Buckland Brewer History Group. Our venue was full and people were so supportive and enthusiastic – we can’t wait to put all our ideas into practice. Great to have such a hard working band of assistants on this one.
Three days in the seventeenth century then another weekend, another county. We head off to Somerset for me to speak about life in 1851 at the Annual Conference of Somerset and Dorset Family History Society. This was supposed to be the start of two weeks away but owing to my travelling companion’s burgeoning film career, we are required at home next week. This is a story worth telling. My travelling companion, a.k.a. a fisherman of my acquaintance, is approached, whilst minding his own business and is asked to present himself at the local Village Hall. Always one to do as he’s told, he turns up, along with hordes of wannabes, at the auditions for an advert for a well known brand of frozen sea food. He is allocated number 1066. I’m not saying there were 1065 other people there but it felt like it. He has his picture taken, he is signed up with a casting agency, he waits three hours, he is given a script. This would work well if only he had remembered his glasses. Meanwhile, back at home, an acting friend (that is a friend who acts rather than one who acts as a friend) has sent me the full person spec for this casting session. It seems, amongst others, they are seeking a hairy, smelly fisherman. How can he not be chosen? The audition moves on to sea shanty singing. Paired with another hopeful, the hairy smelly fisherman of my acquaintance agrees to sing along with the only sea shanty the other candidate knows. The fact that the hsf of my acquaintance only knows every other word doesn’t seem to matter. He joins in, with gusto, complete with actions. Now hsf’s singing is pretty much like mine, great on volume and enthusiasm but tunefulness is open to question. He obviously does something right as, after a call back, he gets the message to say he is required, so our holiday is on hold. We had better get a lifetime’s supply of fish fingers out of this.
Whilst on the subject of fame and fortune, the nominees for the Worldwide Genealogy Rock Stars were publicised recently and the list contained many friends and acquaintances. Now the winners of the virtual medals have been announced, I see I got an honourable mention as someone who should have been a nominee but wasn’t. As a friend pointed out, better a ‘should have been’ than a has been.
We arrive at our caravan site in Somerset and decide to try out the automatic movers on the new-to-us caravan. They seem to automatically move not a great deal, possible because we are on thick gravel. Back to brute force.
The day at the Somerset and Dorset conference was very successful. Nick Barrett, on the future of family history, was the first speaker. Some inspiring ideas about how we can reinvent family history for the next decade. He also stressed that the 1921 census will not be available before 2022. Despite appeals on the grounds of freedom of information, it would require an act of parliament to permit earlier release. Lunch was most acceptable but cold meat, salad and roast potatoes did seem a little unusual.
The whole day promoted the need for context for our genealogical data. The second speaker was a fellow seventeenth century historical interpreter who had done an impressive amount of work on Benjamin Blake, a native of Somerset and a brother of the more famous Admiral Blake. It was strange for me to be in the nineteenth century for the day whilst someone else was wielding a musket. My contribution seemed to be well received. It was pointed out that I had mis-spelt Bridgwater on one of my slides. I explained that, of course, this was done deliberately, to keep my audience on their toes. It was one of those venues with a lollipop mike. Never quite so keen on these and they are somewhat incongruous with period clothing; I always feel I should be on X-factor. Unfortunately, for this talk, I need to wear not very Victorian glasses in order to read the delights of the problem pages of The English Woman’s Domestic Magazine. I make mention of Widow Welch’s female pills, advertised in The Bath Chronicle in 1851 and which ‘effectively remove obstructions and overcome all other inconveniences to which the female frame is liable’, whilst being ‘perfectly innocent’ and ‘useful in windy disorders’. Someone in the audience says that these were still available in the 1960s! There was a great deal of interest in the Society for One-Place Studies and all my publicity leaflets were snapped up. Excited to discover later that my talk was being Tweeted by Somerset and Dorset Family History Society.