Day 6 – At Sea

Another full day of lectures, although I miss the first one in order to prepare for my own. All in all I have attended all but two of the sessions on offer during the week. There have been some difficult choices, as for the most part, there have been two and sometimes three, streams of lectures. I begin the day with Helen Smith on ‘Begotten by Fornication’, an interesting look at illegitimacy. Then Jan Gow with ‘Remember the WWW. No, not the world wide web but the Who, Where and When’. It is over twenty years since I last heard Jan speak, when she was in the UK. This is really a talk about one-place studies so very interesting for me. I follow this with my session on the mental health of our ancestors, a talk I always enjoy presenting. A short break and then it is Pat Richley-Erickson aka Dear Myrtle with ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective Genealogists’. I volunteer to represent one of the points although I am not sure I quite qualify as ‘highly effective’ as much of my information is still on index cards. Next, more DNA with Maurice again. This time his title is ‘Using Triangulation to Break Through Brick Walls’. The afternoon ends with my Facebook Generation talk, which was very well received and sparked many questions and comments.

An interesting incident in the toilets by the Windjammer. The doors to the cubicles open inwards and an injudiciously position toilet roll holder makes it quite difficult to exit, for even an average sized person. One of the cruise-goers has got herself in but is struggling to extricate herself. She attempts to sidle out facing the toilet roll holder. This fails, so she turns round and gives it a go facing the other way. I have to say she was a lovely lady and was laughing at her various ineffective attempts. We wonder if she will have to do a Winnie the Pooh and remain there until she is thinner but no, somehow she squeezes past the obstacles and is free.

DSCF0814.JPGThe evening sees the presentation of the prestigious Prince Michael of Kent Award to Cyndi Ingle for her decades of tireless work on Cyndi’s list. Mia has somehow managed to successfully bring this glass vase from the Society of Genealogists without mishap and there are a few tears as it is handed over. Very well deserved it is too, if you haven’t consulted Cyndi’s List then you can’t call yourself a family historian. Caroline Gurney follows with ‘Are you Related to Royalty?’. The answer is probably yes, so Maurice, who has been trading on his distant relationship to Princess Diana all week, now has to deal with competition from the rest of us.


Day 5 – Tracy Arm

066 11 September 2018 Tracy Arm.JPGIcebergs prevent us from getting right up Tracy Arm but we still have beautiful views to admire. It is too chilly to sit outside for long so we spend the morning in the Windjammer again, as breakfast blends in to coffee and then into lunch. Great to relax and chat as the scenery and icebergs flash by. I later realise that I spectacularly failed to get any close up iceberg photos. I seem to keep missing out on this trip.

An afternoon of lectures. A double dose of Michelle, firstly on getting the most out of our DNA matches and then a really brilliant talk, ‘The Facts, Fun and Fiction of Family History’. Maurice follows on Y DNA projects. We have certainly been well informed about various aspects of DNA. Having scoffed pizza and chips for lunch, I restrain myself with a small vegetable curry for tea. Allegedly, the average weight gain whilst cruising is a pound a day. The amount of food that is consumed and wasted on board is obscene, one of the aspects of cruising that makes me uncomfortable. Another is the servility of the lovely staff. I am not better than them but they clearly feel I am. I can’t quite define what gives me this impression but it definitely goes far deeper than a customer/employee relationship.

The evening is spent with Michelle, Maurice, Helen and Cyndi contributing to a DNA ethics panel, leading to some very interesting discussions. It seems that the northern lights were on display last night. No one warned us to look, so that is something else we have failed to experience. The problem with watching for the northern lights is that it involves the unappealing combination of being somewhere cold and staying up until way past my bedtime; we missed them when we were in Finland too. Bravely, we wrap up in multiple layers and join several other hardy souls to see if they will reappear tonight. It soon becomes obvious that it is far too cloudy so we give up.

We work out a cunning way of accessing the balance on our sea pass cards using our TV. Our refunds from the bear watching trip have arrived in our accounts. We have benefited from currency exchange rates, which have fluctuated heavily in our favour since booking the trip, so the dollars we have received back are worth significantly more than they were when we paid for the trip. This will be a good start for our Mediterranean excursions next year.

Day 2 – At Sea

004 8 September 2018 Towel Art

Towel Art

It is 3.50am. My body thinks it is time to get up, so I bow to the inevitable. Today is a conference day so we settle down to some excellent lectures. Firstly it is Maurice Gleeson on ‘Commemorating the Missing’. I have heard this before but this was a slightly different version and my particular interest is because it centres on a battle that has Barefoot on the Cobbles connections. Next, is Caroline Gurney with a very informative presentation, ‘Lost in London’, followed by Susan Brook speaking on the English Poor Law. Cyndi Ingle is as entertaining as usual, this time on ‘Being your own Digital Archivist’.

I am feeling the ship’s motion rather more than I was expecting and have a throat that resembles rough grade sandpaper, add to that the lack of sleep and I am wondering how my session on the impact of non-conformity will go. Go it did, although I didn’t really feel as if I was on fire with it. After a short break to chat, it was time for Helen Smith’s DNA talk and then back to deck 11 to encounter ‘washy washy’. Today she has added ‘happy happy’ to her exhortations. It is Mongolian day in the restaurant. I opt for that well known Mongolian dish – pizza. There has been heavy rain all day so we haven’t missed an opportunity to sun ourselves on deck.

In the evening, Mike Murray gave a hilarious DNA presentation. With a great ‘punch line’ when he revealed that the relatives that he had been talking about were in the audience.

Introducing 100 Days of Barefoot on the Cobbles

0U9A3415On 9 August it will be 100 days until Barefoot on the Cobbles is launched. Each day, from 9 August onwards, I will be posting a short item about one of the characters you will meet in the novel, or one of the locations that is mentioned. This will give readers an opportunity to learn more about some of the people and places that grace its pages. These will be accompanied by lines from the book. I will continue to bore you with other elements of my rather eccentric existence but these posts will be separate. I hope you will enjoy getting to know the people who have been part of my life for the last couple of years.

Historical Fiction and other Excitements

Picture of posterAs I am in full-on Barefoot on the Cobbles marketing mode, I am excited to share my latest acquisition. Well, that’s the zero marketing budget well and truly blown. I am still working out where I can keep it! I am also now able to announce that I will be speaking at The Genealogy Show at the NEC in Birmingham next June. There are some great speakers from across the globe on the bill, many of who I am proud to call my friends.

Today I was giving a talk in South Devon and was able to combine it with searching out the probable burial place of my 7 x great grandfather, John Braund. It took me 37 years to find him, now I am frustrated because I can’t confirm his parentage after only four years of searching. I am almost certain I know who they were but assembling sufficient evidence to support my supposition is another matter.

And finally because, as a Brit, I have to talk about the weather, an incident from earlier this week. Don’t get me wrong I love the heat, unless I am incarcerated in a small space with a large number of hormonal teenagers that us. The downside is that numerous pesky insects have decided that I make a half-decent meal. My incredibly expensive super-strength insect repellent was confiscated by Qantas security but I do have the equally expensive and as yet unused insect repellent scarf, purchased in order to go to Peru. This takes the form of a circle of stretchy material, which can, the instructions allege, be worn in a variety of ways. Most of these involve me looking as if I am about to hold up a bank (I wish – we are now bereft of an even half local bank and there’s a y in the day, so no chance of the mobile post van turning up). I opt for the least sinister style, which means I have just hung the loop round my neck. It is 80 degrees. Casual callers, such as the postman, clearly think this scarf wearing lunatic should be certified.

Days 21-23 New Zealand Society of Genealogists Conference

Still not firing on all cylinders and equipped with a very unflattering over the ear and round the head mike, I deliver my keynote presentation about the story of Isabella Fry. It is the tale of an unfortunate woman, chocolate and a very bad man, which appears to go down well. Afterwards, we choose to stay in the main hall to listen to our friends talk about DNA. Firstly Michelle Patient and then our housemate for the duration, Maurice Gleeson. After lunch, Maurice is up again, this time talking about using DNA to identify unknown world war 1 casualties. By co-incidence, he was focussing on the Battle of Fromelles, which is featured in Barefoot on the Cobbles, although I don’t name it. Maurice used the session to launch the ‘Commemorating the Missing’ project. This encourages people to look at the list of the world war one soldiers whose bodies have never been recovered and ‘plant’ a virtual family tree on their behalf. Thus, if bodies are recovered in a location that links to those personnel, it might be possible to contact relatives so DNA can be obtained. I have already committed to ‘planting’ trees for the six Braunds on the list and we do already have relatives who have taken DNA tests, although obviously, it would be their decision whether or not their results should be used in this way.

There is a session on New Zealand School records and then I have to summon the adrenaline to talk about One-Place Studies at the end of the day. People are taking pity on my lurgy ridden state and keep pressing medication into my hands!

Det7qRgVMAAF8WVWe are taken to the Chateau on the Park for the conference dinner where we have an unusual but very tasty, hot/cold buffet mixture and delectable but clearly not very good for us desserts. Chris ‘entertains’ all-comers with the delights of seventeenth century barber surgery. We do present to adults on a regular basis but the addition of alcohol has an effect on the levels of audience participation! At the request of the maitre d’, one of Chris’ patients is a young waiter, who enters into the spirit of the thing. Fiona, our self- appointed chauffeur and also the overworked conference convenor, explains about the psychological impact of the earthquake on Christchurch residents.

The Sunday begins with our seventeenth century presentation. Yesterday’s sessions were very well received but now I am feeling as if I am giving of my best. There is an overwhelmingly positive response afterwards, which gives us a warm fuzzy feeling. I listen to a double-handed talk on ‘Research Tips and Tricks’, which includes a very effective use of Power Point as a way of recording family history from the ’other Fiona’. I then listen to a story-telling session from Margaret Copeland, an historical interpreter who represents the wife of the goaler of nineteenth century Lyttelton Goal. I have to leave before the end to prepare for my own Facebook Generation talk. It was very well attended (there are three streams of lectures) and there was a real buzz afterwards, with plenty of questions and comments.

In the evening, we have invited a few fellow members of The Guild of One-Name Studies round to our adopted home. We are feeling more and more like riotous students by the minute. We have an hilarious evening, with the humour partly fuelled by the fact that the local pizza house names its offerings after the seven deadly sins. One of our party ordered a ‘Twelve inch lust’, no comment! There was also this hysterical attempt to take a picture with all of us in, using the time on someone’s precariously balanced phone. We had a lovely time but we are obviously showing our age, as our guests had left by 9.15pm and we managed to keep the house in very good order. Our hostess has been incredibly generous with her home and my early blog comment about Hokey-Pokey ice cream led to the freezer being stocked with the same – yum.

The final day already. I can’t believe it has gone so fast. I listen to Fiona talking about The Time Travelling Genealogist, encouraging us to record our own lives as part of our family history. Her ‘Memories in Time’ business has some great products and it is a very good presentation. Next, I learn about the ‘Decimation by the Invisible Enemy’, which is about the appalling effect of the Spanish flu on those on board the ship the Tahiti. I finish the conference with my ‘Remember Then’ session. I wondered how it would adapt to an international audience but judging by the reaction, nothing was lost in translation. It is sad to say goodbye to people who have become friends. We have had a wonderful time and have been looked after exceptionally well by all concerned.

Four of us take a trip to the Antarctic Centre in the afternoon. Included is a ‘Hagglund’ ride, deemed to be unsuitable for those with heart conditions, of a nervous disposition or who are pregnant. I briefly debate the wisdom of this and decide I should enter into the spirit of the thing. The Hagglund are the all terrain vehicles that are used on Antarctic expeditions and we career across a track hanging on tightly. It was a bit on the bumpy side but pales into insignificance in comparison to sand-dune buggy riding, so I survived unscathed. We pat some huskies and watch the blue penguins being fed. These are all rescue penguins, who would not survive in the wild. Then a chance to sit and relax whilst watching a 4D film. We don the approved glasses. It turns out that this is not as relaxing as all that, as the seats tilt alarmingly, to simulated power boating across a lake and at intervals, water is hurled in our faces.

We are then collected for a meal with some of the conference organisers. This is followed by Te Reo Maori lessons, which are being put on, free of charge, by the owner of the Fush restaurant. He is concentrating on teaching us ‘pidgen’ Maori, where we substitute English words for those we don’t know (which is most of them). We had already picked up that Maori is not actually pronounce Mawree but more like Mardi. Te Reo Maori was not originally a written language and there is no equivalent of the letter s for plurals. Instead, what comes before the noun indicates several, rather than one. So ‘the‘, followed by something singular is ‘Te’ but if it is plural, ‘the’ would be ‘nga’ (pronounced nar). This is great fun but my inability with languages has not undergone a great transformation and the fact that it is in the evening after a very hectic five days does nothing for my concentration. Somehow, this ends up with us appearing on Maori TV news, fortunately not at the point when it all caught up with me and my eyes closed momentarily.

Then, after reluctantly bringing our last evening chat to an end, comes the applied mathematics that is our packing. We have a baggage allowance of 30kg each; easy, 60kg you’d think. But we only have three bags, one small one having gone to meet its maker on the outward journey. We cannot be deemed to have one and a half bags each, so two of these bags cannot contain a total of more than 30kg. In addition, no one bag must weigh more than 23kg. Effectively, this reduces our total allowance to 53kg between us providing we can, without the aid of scales, distribute our belongings appropriately between the bags. If you think 53kg is a ridiculous amount of luggage for two people, you’d be right but remember that we have three sets of seventeenth century clothes, including hefty shoes and numerous heavy surgical instruments. I also have the clothes that I abandoned in Peru that have been, very kindly, brought to me from Australia. In addition, we have also picked up a few things from the conference and our preceding trip, which have to be accommodated.

More Writing – by me and by Others

My students on the Pharos Writing and Telling your Family History online course have begun submitting their assignments this week. The option to request feedback on a portion of their story is a new initiative and about half the students on the course took this up. It is a real pleasure to read these and to feel that I have had a very small part in their creation. Some of them are even signing up to do the course again, to motivate them for chapter two! It you want to join the party, there are one or two spaces left on the presentation of this course that starts in three weeks. Definite warm fuzzy feeling time and some great comments on the course to add to my testimonials page. Not that anyone ever reads my testimonials page and understandably so. After all, I could have made them all up. I haven’t, I hasten to add but I do wonder sometimes why I have that particular page lurking unread on my website. I suppose it does serve a purpose, in that I could look at it in moments of self-doubt and be reassured that people do enjoy and benefit from what I do. I don’t actually do this but the option is there!

EbeneezerOn the subject of self-doubt, as Barefoot on the Cobbles nears completion (it does, really), I am consumed with fears that everyone will hate it. I never had this crisis of confidence with my non-fiction books. Maybe it is because fiction is somehow much more personal and although none of the characters are based on me, I have invested myself in their emotions and shared their anguish for the last couple of years. It isn’t all anguish of course, although I have to say that their tragedies do outweigh their joys.

Today I have one fewer chapter left to complete than yesterday. This is not because I had some turbo burst of creativity and wrote 5000-6000 perfect words yesterday. Instead, I looked again at my planned structure and decided to axe the proposed chapter one, which weirdly I hadn’t yet written. If you’d asked me before I started this fiction journey, I would never have believed that I wouldn’t begin at the beginning and finish at the end. Anyway, the realisation that I had very little to say in the proposed first chapter, means the old chapter two is now chapter one – I hope you are following this. There is a prologue, which at one point was itself chapter one but ignore that added complication. The new arrangement means that I need to ensure that the old chapter two is robust enough to be the first full chapter. I think it is, I hope it is. I just need to run the principle by a few people. Poor Martha, who is reading it all, in the wrong order, has been sent three totally different chapter 11s during the course of her proof reading marathon. She is an ace proof reader, not just spotting errant semi-colons (oh yes, along with the plethora of adjectives and adverbs it does have that endangered piece of punctuation) but telling me that I have used a particular phrase before, often in a chapter she read six months previously; she is rarely wrong. She claims she is looking forward to starting at the prologue and reading through to the epilogue but I wouldn’t blame her if she never wanted to read any of it ever again.

So, now I have a choice of chapters 3, 4 and 12 left to work on, although by the time I’ve finished with them they could have different numbers altogether!