Being a Guest and other Randomness

It has been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately – places to go, people to see, sunshine to enjoy. I have been being visiting the descendents. That’s always a joy, even if the travelling can be tricky. There was an incident that illustrates the stresses of such journeys and perhaps has something to do with the effects of spending ten days in the company of the under 4s. Travelling from the World Athletics to Lincoln we passed though the Dartford Tunnel. For those who have not had this dubious ‘pleasure’, the toll charge for the tunnel has to be paid online by midnight the following day. Great, we think, we will pay that when we get to Martha’s. Our homeward journey is via Hounslow, to allow me to talk to West Middlesex Family History Society about the impact of non-conformity, as you do – well as I do anyway. On the way through some horrendous traffic back to the caravan I muse, ‘I wonder if we will go back through the Dartford Tunnel.’ DARTFORD TUNNEL!!! We didn’t pay the toll charge when we went through ten days earlier. How could we have forgotten? We grumble about the fine, which is in the region of £80. There are better things we could have spent £80 on. There will no doubt be a letter waiting when we get home. Next day, back home, the letter has not yet arrived. I am bemoaning to Martha that we forgot to pay the fine. ‘No you didn’t,’ she says, ‘you paid it while you were here’. This would have involved me on the computer and the fisherman of my acquaintance handing me his credit card with which to pay. Neither of us have the slightest recollection of so doing. Perhaps Martha is wrong (err, no, actually Martha is never wrong). Said fisherman checks his online banking and sure enough a £2.50 deduction for the Dartford Tunnel. STILL neither of us can remember paying! Should we be worried about this?

Not only have I had a wonderful time as a guest of the grandchildren but while I was away I was a virtual guest too. I had the honour of being interviewed for Wendy Percival’s blog. Wendy writes mystery stories with an historical and genealogical flavour, highly recommended, especially for my family history friends. Wendy was in one of my blog advent boxes last year and I am reliably informed that there will be a new Esme Quentin adventure soon – hurrah!

England has been enjoying what actually passes for some sort of a summer; I am endeavouring not to blink. In between bouts of attacking the still half-remodelled garden, I have been lounging in my amazing new garden swing chair. I have been trying to read books that might pass for ‘research’ but who am I kidding. I even managed to assemble this wonder single-handed, despite what purports to be the instructions indicating that it was not a one-man job. There was only one slight ‘mistake’. Let’s just say I now know how to disassemble the chair as well. It is super relaxing, to the extent that, after an hour in the chair, I still feel as if I am rocking when I am in bed at night. Now just to work out if I can use the laptop in the chair and I am well away!

There has been a surge of interest in the Braund DNA project that I administer, with several new results and more in the pipeline. Inevitably the results are not all as predicted but it has been fascinating as well as throwing up a few dilemmas. One of my DNA related posts has just appeared on the blog of the In-depth Genealogist, so another guest appearance. A webinar, about Following a Surname Around the World, that I gave earlier in the year for The Surname Society is also now available on the Legacy platform, so you can’t get away from me.

My ‘In Sickness and in Death’ online course for Pharos Teaching and Tutoring is going really well, with a very active bunch of students, all keen to research the history of medicine and its relevance to their family history. I have just found some wonderful new ‘cures’ involving boiled frogs, goose dung and trouts – great stuff! Next on the timetable is another presentation of ‘Are you Sitting Comfortably: writing and telling your family’s story’. This starts on 17 October and runs for five weeks, a must-do project in the run up to Christmas. Sign up, you know you’ve been meaning to organise your family history for eons.

Daisy and Hollyhocks#Daisy has been making progress and is currently requiring me to research the poetry of World War I and the Bideford shops of the 1890s. I have just realised that #Daisy is about anorexia, shell shock, death, menopausal women, depression and war – just wondering if that might be a tad dark! Still it is enlivened by depictions of the beautiful Devon landscape.


Mostly about Writing #authorsinacafé #pigeongate

Take three authors, a promoter of books in Devon and a pigeon, mix them with the excellent menu on offer at Bideford’s Late and Lunch café on the quay and you have a recipe for #authorsinacafe. It’s official, I am now involved in a writers’ support group. We aren’t quite sure exactly where we are going but at least we have started from here. The general idea is to provide mutual encouragement,  promotion and support, as well as a break from talking to ourselves and our characters. By coincidence all of the authors, as well as two others who we hope will join us, have an historical slant to their writing but we may branch out from there. Special thanks to Ian Hobbs of Devon Book Club for taking a morning of his holiday to join us. Oh, the pigeon, I hear you enquire. Being on the riverside, café goers are used to protecting their paninis from the ravages of the seagulls but this time a wayward pigeon was tempted by the gorgeous muffins on offer. He flew in from the quay and alighted on a table. He obviously picked the right one as the resourceful occupant competently grabbed the offending bird and deposited it outside, amidst resounding cheers. I once did something similar with a bat – long story.

dscf3202All this meeting and chatting with other authors is a wonderful way of procrastinating but I really have made some #daisy progress; honestly. First a foray round some impressive Victorian villas, trying to identify which one my character may have been working in during the 1890s. Once again I find myself peering at people’s properties, taking notes and photographs and arousing suspicion. It seems that the name of the house concerned once applied to several homes and then in the twentieth century referred to a different dwelling entirely. There really should be a law preventing people from changing the names of their homes. Of course the bottom line is that, for the purposes of fiction, its doesn’t really matter which house it was but actually it so does. Now off to write 100 times ‘I can pretend it is any house I wish’ but it still matters! I have roughed out a chronology and done some more research to extend the biographies of some of my characters and since you asked 3500 – ok, I know that isn’t much but I have been very busy sewing shifts for Swords and Spindles (there’s got to be a tongue-twister in there), being auditioned as a WI speaker, despite being in my fourth decade of giving talks, writing biographies of local World War I service men, I could go on. It was when I ‘spring’ cleaned the bathroom I knew I really was procrastinating.

Not writing but reading – Inexplicably, my electricity tripped out at 3.45am. I managed to grovel for a torch and padded off to investigate. The trip switch would not reset. You may be wondering why this is a problem 3.45am is clearly not getting up time, even for me, so why not just go back to sleep. Quite apart from not wanting a freezer full of food to disintegrate into defrosted mush, the only way I can get to sleep is to read; reading requires light. I debated using the torch but feared for the battery life and decided I really needed to preserve that for an emergency. I wandered off to get my Kindle (other e-readers are available). I then realised that it does not illuminate without the very handy case that my offspring kindly gave me for Christmas, so out of bed again to fetch that. By this time I was further from sleep than ever. I did have Saving Sophie by Sam Carrington that I had appropriately been saving – bad plan. It is gripping, page-turning, well written but sadly not sleep inducing. It took daylight to eliminate each fuse in my fusebox in turn in order to identify the offender; this accomplished, power was restored and I could begin my day. I was reluctant to save Sophie until tonight but places to go, blog posts to write.