Christmas is Coming

DSCF1180Yes, geese are signing up for Weight-watchers in flocks as I type. I kid you not, the ‘Back to School’ shelves have not yet been cleared and the Christmas cards are on sale. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, with the dark evenings on the horizon, this means our thoughts turn to digging out our virtual or literal family history files and promising ourselves that this year we really will create some order out of the chaos that is the fruits of years/decades of research. Maybe we would like to tempt our dearest and not so nearest to take an interest in our obsession with a yuletide gift of a family history, or we would like to share family stories over turkey and tinsel. Now let’s be honest here, ‘would you like to see my spreadsheet of baptisms?’ just isn’t going to cut it. I can feel the glazed over looks from 100 paces. That fascinating story of great uncle Fred’s bigamy, or auntie Alice’s spell in jail, though, that could just raise a flicker of excitement. Even if your family is devoid of all black sheep, set their lives in the local and social historical context of their time and you could be on to a winner. ‘Did you know great-granddad was the local rat-catcher?’ ‘Granny served tripe twice a week’ or ‘Great great grandma died of cholera, did you know she would have passed 20 litres of diahorrea a day?’ (good one for the gore hungry children that) – so much more engaging than a list of names and dates. If you want some motivation then can I humbly recommend that you take a look at my five week online ‘Are you Sitting Comfortably: writing and telling your family story’ course that starts on 17 October. Details are on the Pharos website – you can click on the course name on the left hand side of the menu. This time, for the really adventurous, you can submit up to 3000 words for feedback but that is strictly optional.

Yesterday I went to purchase a new pair of walking boots. The old ones, despite liberal applications of superglue, require a plastic bag to be worn between sock and boot in order to remain dry, not a good look. To be honest I’ve been putting this off. I am not a great fan of any kind of shopping (unless it is books of course – that’s not shopping that’s surviving) but shoe shopping is a particular nightmare. My feet are almost square so when asked, ‘what are you looking for madam?’ (do people still say madam?). I say ‘anything that fits’ and I mean it. I dread it when pointed toes are in fashion as then I know I have no chance. I defer the dreaded shoe shop until the previous pair (singular) has fallen to pieces. I once went to one of the largest shoe warehouses in the country and they admitted that nothing fitted me. Walking boots tend to be on the rounder toed side, so I was hopeful.

It seems that the smallest ladies’ shoes are now two sizes larger than my feet, so I turn to the children’s section. There is nothing in the boys’ range in my size so I am stuck with girls’. Does this mean that I will be forced to buy walking boots depicting Peppa Pig? At this point I should say that I despise all this ‘girls’ toys’ ‘boys’ toys’ nonsense and the bemoan the perception that every girl wants to wear pink. If you like pink, fine but don’t force me and my female descendants into some pink, fluffy, glitter laden mode. I pass by anything that looks vaguely cerise, fuschia, salmon or rose. Eureka something that at least doesn’t cut off all circulation to my toes and at best might actually fit! The magenta laces I can live with/get dirty/change. Epic win – as these are held out for sale as children’s shoes, I save 20% because there is no tax!

Stop Press – #Daisy now has a publisher – more news of that soon. This means I have a deadline. I am usually quite good at deadlines but I am going to have to up my Daisy production rate!

Advertisements

Ailments of various kinds: your ancestors in sickness and death

In the three weeks since my last post (three weeks! – you’ll guess I have been busy) I have spent four wonderful days in schools, swording and spindling away, extolling the virtues of the seventeenth century. Summer hit the west country last week. Temperatures rose to 85 degrees – that’s 30 to some of you and yes, in the UK, that’s hot. Four hours ensconced in crowded classrooms with a bunch of 13 year olds and no air-con – great. Followed by a chance to get outside – hurrah. Or rather not hurrah, as now I am on a scorching sports field for an hour, without a smidgen of shade, banging a drum – as you do. Well as I do. I should perhaps add that I was attired in multiple layers of thick wool at the time. I then went straight on to an evening presentation. Let’s just say that we brought the smells of the seventeenth century with us. I have also been finishing off the job I must not mention and presenting on various topics to adults. Today’s will be the fifth talk in four days – why do I do this?

dscf3202#Daisy is making some progress. Some lovely friends have read a chapter and didn’t hate it, which was encouraging. I am currently immersing myself in suffragette activities, purely in the historical sense, though I am not adverse to a bit of banner waving. Next on the list is research into the wartime experiences of a new character who has forced his way into the narrative. This did lead to that exciting moment when your ‘based on fact’ historical novel requires you to research someone new and you find that he attended a school that has an archivist. Better still, said archivist responds to your email (written after office hours) within minutes with information and a photograph. Ok, so he wasn’t the heart throb I was hoping for but I can get round that with a minor re-write!

I am looking forward to the start of my online course “In sickness and in death: the ill-health and deaths of your ancestors”, next month. I keep finding more and more gems and am resisting the temptation to add them all to the course text or it will become another novel. Did you know that bookbinders are adversely affected “by the smell of the putrid serum of sheep’s blood, which they used as cement.” (C Turner Thackrah 1831)? On the subject of ill health, I manage to move awkwardly and pull a muscle in my back so have been hobbling around all week. Great excuse for not doing any housework; now I just need an excuse for the preceding five weeks. May not try the C18th remedy, which is cow dung and vinegar.

Added to this a new research client has presented me with some fascinating family members to pursue. Despite explaining that I would not be able to start this for some time, it was just too tempting.

I am excited that a webinar I gave earlier in the year on surname studies around the world is now available online. That wasn’t the exciting news I hinted at in my last post; that‘s even more exciting but still under wraps – patience is a virtue and all that.