Of Strippers, Guns, Cauldrons and Celebrities

Some bizarre incidents lately. Last week I was scheduled to give a talk to my local family history society. Owing to an oversight, the venue had double booked our room and we were expecting to meet in the smaller room next door. I had duly reminded members that we were to be in a different room, so that we didn’t keep barging in to the other function. In the end it turned out that we were given our usual room and the other booking was moved next door, so I then had the task of intercepting my audience on arrival. Oddly, given that we meet at 2.00pm, the other function was a hen-party, who were awaiting the arrival of their male stripper. Many a joke was cracked about the potential defection of my audience to the room next door. I think some of them were hoping that the ‘entertainer’ would be as confused about which room he was supposed to be in as we were.

Then yesterday it was off to Dorset, via Somerset where I was to collect a cauldron, as you do – well as I do anyway. The car was already full of deactivated guns that we were delivering to Dorset (as with many of my activities, it really is best not to ask). There had been some sort of terrorism scare in Devon. Despite it being legal to carry these guns, we really didn’t want to be stopped and have to explain ourselves. The journey passed without incident however and I am very pleased with the cauldron, which will probably be a more effective weapon, should I need one, than the deactivated guns.

We were heading for a seriously posh hotel to celebrate a young lady’s very good examination results. I don’t really do posh. Don’t get me wrong I can clip my vowels with the best of them, I can do posh I just don’t very often. If I tell you that items on the wine list went up to £6445 a bottle (and no I haven’t left out a decimal point there) you will get the idea. Even I (a non-wine drinker) know that a £50 bottle of wine is better than one for a tenner from a supermarket near you but £6445, really? How is that possibly £6395 better than one for £50? There was a visitors’ book in the reception of the hotel and the last signatory was Lady somebody or other – are you getting the picture? We are tempted to talk about when we met Princess Anne in resounding tones and we loudly recite a list of our televisual appearances, so we are probably holding our own. A random guest, with gold rings the size of knuckle dusters approaches our guest of honour asking what she was celebrating. Initially, we all think he must know someone else in our party but it turns out that he didn’t and that this was his ‘local’. He weaves off to order more champagne. The staff have spotted cards and gifts on our table and come out with a cake, candle and birthday greetings. We debate maintaining the fiction with a rendition of Happy Birthday to You.

Half way through our meal I start to feel a bit peculiar. This is not like me and not wishing to faint in front of the minor aristocracy, I go outside for some air. Typically, this is the ten minutes during the day when the hot sunshine has given way to thundery rain. I clearly look less than well as the staff are proffering glasses of water and chairs under the pergola. They are probably keen to usher me to an inconspicuous corner before I vomit on their patio. I sit on the chair before I realise quite how wet it is, so I now look and feel as if I have had an unfortunate accident. Equilibrium restored without being embarrassingly unwell, I return to my seat, thinking that, if I have a relapse, I can put the cauldron to good use in the way home.

We learn that Chris Evans is about to bring round some million pound cars on which people have bid tens of thousands of pounds in order to drive (that is drive for a hour or so, not drive away). This is in aid of Children in Need, so the maitre d’ is sporting Pudsey ears. Now I may be odd but to me a car is a means of getting from A to B as safely and economically as possible, with as little damage to the environment as can be achieved. I am totally unimpressed by makes of car and no way would I be interested in parting with any sum of money to drive expensive Aston Martins, Bentleys or whatever they were. They have four wheels, just like the battered Nissan Micra we arrived in, so what?

Anyway, people seem to be impressed and Chris Evans arrives on a motor bike. Pudsey appears from somewhere. It is about 28 degrees; who would want to be wearing a bear suit? People start trying to take surreptitious picture of Chris Evans and some simpering sycophants are saying how much they enjoy his radio show. Someone a little closer to home is muttering, none too quietly, ‘We never liked him in The One Show.’ So not everyone is dazzled by celebrity then. It is time for us to extract the battered Nissan Micra from between the Range Rovers and Jaguars. As we leave the car park we narrowly miss knocking Chris Evans from his motorbike as he zooms across our path. Never let it be said that life is boring.

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Happy Birthday #Daisy

I am watching the turbulent trees and the torrential rain pounding an uncaring tattoo on the window panes. One hundred and thirty two years ago Devon’s August weather was similar, heralding fears that the cool temperatures would keep tourists away and worries about how and when the harvest could be garnered. At some point, amidst the storms of 20 August 1894 a first-time mother held a moonflower child in her arms. Newborn cries drowned out the crashing tide that raked pebbles shoreward and then hurled them, uncaring, back to the darkening sea. Today is Daisy’s birthday.

So today I have learned that British Summer Time was introduced in 1916. If I am going to write about dawn and dusk, I need to pin-point them at the right o‘clock. I have read historic weather reports and discovered a ‘summer’ season, reminiscent of that of 2016. I have had to draw a blank on working out the state of the tides at particular times. Since my last #amwriting report, I’ve made a couple of site visits, roughed out a chronology, looked into the history of some of my characters, written some fragments and a more substantial piece. I can’t tell you how many words as it was longhand. In the unlikely event that I can actually read my own writing, I’ll let you know the running total when I have typed it up. You are looking at someone who wrote ‘ravioli’ on the shopping list and the hapless shopper returned with carrots. No, I have not been allowed to live that down.

Garden 1 August 2016At present, Daisy is as embryonic as she was in the early hours of 20 August 1894 but she is on her way and I am looking forward to my role as midwife. Creativity has also been channelled towards constructing a special place to sit and dream. This may lead to procrastination rather than productivity and today is certainly not the day for outside musings. Check back for more #daisy updates.

Of Writing (by me and potentially you), Books and Health History

DSCF3269.JPGThere are diminutive sandy shorts on the washing line, the pile of washing-up stretches from here to there (where there is a very long way from here and the only dishwasher I have is human), toilet rolls are disappearing like fairy dust and I have just tripped over a plastic hippopotamus for the third time. This can only mean one thing, yes, the descendants have descended, hence the dearth of posts recently. I have had great fun collecting shells, dressing as a gnome, identifying breeds of plastic puppies and trying to sound like I know the difference between a telehandler and a front loader (no, no idea). I have played a very small part in persuading a two year old boy that teeth cleaning is not an ordeal; the real credit goes to his patient parents. A whole menagerie of animals have had their teeth duly scrubbed and what a joy for us all when the stress free teeth cleaning session was followed by him beaming, ‘I made it!’ (no plastic creatures were harmed in this process).

This does mean that ‘work’ has taken a bit of a back seat. Mind you, nothing I do to earn a crust ever actually feels much like work. This week has seen the start of my Maps and Surveys course for Pharos Tutors and I look forward to our first online chat on Saturday. With students from five different countries picking a time when we are all, nominally at least, awake has been a challenge but we are giving it a go. I am also putting the finishing touches to my Are you Sitting Comfortably?: Writing and Telling your Family History course, to be presented by Pharos in September. If you feel that you need extra encouragement to put fingers to keyboard (other formats are available) you can sign up now. No excuses, you can do this from anywhere in the world. You know you owe it to your extended family to create something special from all your research efforts.

I took a break from being smeared with peanut butter and reading Meg and Mog in order to meet up with local authors and other booky people. What a wonderful afternoon, networking at Killerton House, thanks to organisation by Devon Book Club. There were bubbles, there was Eton Mess and plenty of book chat. I spoke briefly about Remember Then and it was well received, with interest in its use by people caring for the elderly and those with memory problems.

Then, an opportunity to make use of my forays into the history of medicine, as we are interviewed by a PhD student in connection with family health history. A fascinating morning. After spending three hours with two of us, we learn that a previous interview had taken the researcher only seven minutes. Surely we cannot be accused of talking too much? We did seem to be particularly relevant to the study on several counts. It also made us think again about how the information about health and death that we glean as a result of our family history research could be used. If we discover what appears to be a tendency to suffer from a particular health problem, are we interested or scared? How do we feel about telling other relatives for whom this information may potentially have personal implications? If these discoveries reveal mental health problems, is this more sensitive than the realisation that many ancestors died of heart disease, for example? Definitely thought provoking.