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Hi! I’ve been absent from here for a long time but today, the 13th June marks a significant milestone in my family’s life and I felt I should mark it somehow. It’s been one hell of a twelve months. I can never forget this past year but I happily leave it behind with absolutely no desire to repeat it.

 

Twelve months ago my lovely dad suffered a major brain haemorrhage resulting in him having a massive stroke whilst he was driving … on holiday … in France.

 

Strokes are very commonplace; according to the Stroke Association, every 2 seconds someone in the world will have one. In the UK, it is the fourth leading cause of death, a leading cause of disability and there are over 1.2 million stroke survivors. Not wanting to be too commonplace, my dad had a haemorrhagic stroke, which accounts for only 15% of all strokes.

 

As it turned out, my dad managed to choose a good location to have a medical catastrophe necessitating emergency brain surgery. He was taken ill in Annecy, a picture-postcard city often called Venice of the Alps. He had medical intervention within 10 minutes and Annecy just happens to have a shiny modern hospital with an Accident & Emergency (A&E) department (an ER for those of you across the pond) and a Neurosurgery department – Centre Hospitalier Annecy Genevois. I cannot speak highly enough of this hospital and its staff who went out of their way to help us, support us and who took the most amazing care of my dad.

 

Lac d’Annecy, France. My photo.

Annecy, France. My photo.

 

Medical staff all over the world exceed our expectations every day but somehow we never really expect it. I certainly didn’t expect ICU staff to find and book a hotel for us in the middle of the night, or, a few days later to express kind concern for my mother’s health and offer advice. I never once saw anyone get exasperated with my bad French or my typing questions into Google translate or our constant badgering for information about when my dad would be deemed ‘fit to fly’ home.

 

As an amusing aside, when we finally got his ‘fit to fly’ certificate it stated in English that he was ‘feet to fly’. I never did ask what they proposed to do with the rest of him! I assume something got lost in pronunciation. I was just glad the insurance company accepted it.

 

The Swiss neurosurgeon who operated on my dad 12 months ago today and saved his life will forever be revered by us. Every medical professional who saw the scar on my dad’s head when he returned home expressed great surprise at the quality of her repair. In fact, she did such an amazing job of putting him back together again it’s hard to find much evidence of it now.

 

To think that had all this happened when he was happily ensconced at home there would be much less chance of him having survived, just makes us realise how fortuitous it was that circumstances placed him in Annecy. In Leicester, we have three hospitals but no neurosurgery department. A trip to A&E in Leicester, scans and then a transfer to a hospital in Nottingham or Birmingham would all have added too much time and it is unlikely I’d be able to tell you now about my dad’s remarkable recovery. This is not meant as a criticism of the NHS whose care of my dad over the last 12 months has been fantastic, but just an observation. Call it fate, call it luck, call it what you like … I’m just grateful for Annecy.

 

I flew out there on the 13th June last year with my brother and his wife, none of us knowing what we would find when we arrived. I was in France for 10 days, dealing with the insurance company, trying to organise repatriation and learning French words for things like blood, catheter and pressure and speaking spectacularly bad French like “Mon père voudrais dans la lit” when my dad had had enough of sitting up in a chair. For the first time in my life I found I didn’t care if people thought I was stupid although I don’t think they ever did. Without exception, not just in the hospital, everyone we met was kind, so don’t ever believe that the French hate the British.

 

So, where are we now? My dad finally returned to his own home on 10th August. Once back in the UK he spent roughly a week on a stroke ward in Leicester Royal Infirmary before being transferred to a Stroke Rehabilitation Unit not far from where I live. When he went home he had to live downstairs as he was unable to climb the stairs. He had carers in 3 times a day to help him wash and dress and he had a walking frame. The support he has had from NHS carers, physios, occupational therapists and speech therapists has been second to none. But all of that aside, it has been his own determination and personal strength supported by my brilliant mum that has enabled him to become physically fit and well again.

 

Shortly after returning home, with broken glasses. My photo.

 

First glass of wine. My photo.

 

When he was still in ICU in France, a doctor told us in broken English that my dad would make a good recovery but that he would be left with some permanent disability. I’m not sure what we imagined when we were told that but I think the reality is probably somewhat removed from whatever we conjured up in our minds. My parents’ house sits on a plot of land that is probably nearly half an acre in size. Yesterday my dad cut the grass with a petrol driven push mower – all of it! He makes a cup of tea for my mum every morning and takes it to her in bed, upstairs. He does washing up and drying up and he does a lot of gardening. He will tell you that he “can’t always say the right words” and that he can “be silly” (for silly, read emotional). What he can’t explain is that he has aphasia and possibly dyspraxia as a result of his stroke. He has lost some of his sight – on his right – and his fine motor skills are impaired meaning it’s unlikely he will return to model engineering. He has had to relearn a lot of things like how to dress himself and even though he knows, he can’t tell me my name or his. He can, however, give me word-perfect directions to pretty much anywhere whilst sitting next to me in the car! The brain is a complicated yet mysterious organ is it not? Most of all, he is happy and enjoying life. What more could we ask for?

 

We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5

 

It’s been a difficult twelve months but family are everything. My wonderful brother and sister-in-law were absolute rocks last summer – I couldn’t have coped without them – but since then have had a truly dreadful year. They lost a loved one just before Christmas and then started the new year with even more bad news but they are strong, and with a lot of love and some of that determination that we seem to possess in our family they will get through it.

 

My mother has been a trooper too. Stronger and more able than she will ever believe, she has been there for my dad every single day and while he may scare her on a daily basis with the things he says he can do, she has never given up. I am so very proud of her and what she has achieved.

 

Most of all I am just grateful. Grateful that I could go and see my dad tonight, tease him about the tan he has obtained in the garden really being dirt and talk to him about politics. There’s a lot of guess-work involved in understanding which despotic world leader he might be talking about from which country, but we get there in the end. His use of language still improves a little bit every day and while his use of the wrong words can be frustrating, it has also provided much laughter. We now have a private family joke about badgers which I couldn’t possibly explain here. So here’s to the next twelve months; may they be immeasurably better than the last twelve have been!

 

My dad, proving that, at 75, he still has a sense of humour. My photos.

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Source unknown.

 

To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without root”

Chinese Proverb

 

Throughout all the research I’ve done into my family tree there have been many things that I’ve longed to find buried in the past. Some I’ve been lucky enough to stumble over, others have remained elusive.

 

Some of these things might surprise you because they’re not all lovely and fluffy but then neither is life, and if nothing else I’ve found that my ancestors were real people with faults and flaws, and I’m proud of every single one of them. I’m so blessed to have found such exciting and interesting people, and I love that a small part of these people lives on in me. I don’t necessarily want to emulate them but I would love to have met them.

 

I hoped for and found:

 

Scandal – Closer to home than I expected; so close, in fact, that I can’t write about it here. I will say that we’re talking 3 generations back so not directly involving anyone still living!

 

Bigamy – I found one confirmed bigamist, a great x 3 grandfather on my mother’s side, John Hawkins. There is a possible other, a great x 3 grandmother on my father’s side, but it’s unprovable. The first one I’m sure brought great shame on the family but I can’t help being ridiculously excited by it. I was lucky enough to find that a vicar had written a note in the margin of the parish register. It was next to the christening record of my great x 2 grandfather – John Hawkins’ son by his second bigamous marriage. It confirmed what I was already sure was true although it seems he went unpunished as he died in 1851, 3 years after his son’s birth. The note said: Elizabeth Warner was married on the 3rd of November 1847 in Kenilworth Church to John Hawkins who, it has since been ascertained is a married man with a wife & children living.

Parish register margin note. My image.

 

Lawbreakers – I know it’s not big and it’s not clever but it makes for interesting reading! The Smiths of Tollesbury aside I’ve found quite a few others spending time behind bars.

 

Convicts – not direct ancestors but siblings of my ancestors – one went to Australia, the other to Tasmania and I consequently have hundreds of relatives scattered all over that part of the world.

 

Foreign ancestors – I am part German (Prussian actually) but that’s a story for another day. I am also part Welsh but that doesn’t count as foreign.

 

Famous relatives – For a long time I searched in vain for a connection to Herbert Morrison, Labour politician, senior cabinet minister and grandfather of Peter Mandelson. He looks very much like my great-grandfather (also an important figure in the Labour Party) of whom he was a friend and associate. The family believed that they were cousins but I know for certain they were not. I have found a possible connection by marriage but have been unable to prove it. I am, however, related to sisters Carole Carr (actress, singer and radio presenter – a forces sweetheart in WWII) and Dorothy Carless (singer), and The Wyatts – Thomas (poet allegedly in love with Ann Boleyn), and his son Thomas (beheaded for raising a rebellion against Mary I); none of them close relatives but famous (or infamous) nonetheless.

The Carr / Carless sisters:

 

Members of the Peerage – I’m related to the current and 9th Earl Bathurst of Bathurst (he’s my 12th cousin). Their family seat is Cirencester Park which is famously the home of the oldest polo club in the UK.

 

Still proving elusive although a bit of simple maths shows that if I go back far enough they are inevitable:

 

My parents being related – so far it seems that they’re not and a connection is becoming increasingly unlikely. Their families originate from very different parts of the country and I have no surnames that appear on both sides, but I have always loved the idea of finding out they were distantly related. If that’s weird then I don’t care!

 

A Royal connection – who doesn’t want a Royal connection? Well maybe some don’t but I do! A link to the Royal family is something I’ve become increasingly desperate to find. As I’ve done more and more research I’ve discovered that some of my ancestors and their close relatives moved in some very elite circles. And of course, the further you go back in time the smaller the population and the greater the chance of a connection. A connection has proved to be frustratingly elusive but I am now a little closer than I’ve ever been before.

 

On my mother’s side, I have the aforementioned link to the Wyatt family. Thomas Wyatt (snr) married Elizabeth Brooke who was 3rd cousin to Anne Boleyn and a direct descendant of John of Gaunt, so the Royal Family already exist in my family tree albeit connected to me by marriage only.

 

My link to both the Wyatts and the Bathursts is via a marriage between the two families. An Edward Bathurst married an Elizabeth Wyatt on 1st June 1714 in the parish church of Ash in Surrey – my great x 7 grandparents. Both were the children of gentlemen, the lowest rank of English gentry. They would likely have been well-respected members of their communities and judging by their wills were comfortably off. Their connections with their better known cousins were too distant to have elevated them socially.

 

Edward was the grandson of Margaret (or Margarite) Holland who was born around 1580 in Angmering, Sussex and when I was browsing through some of the names in my lineage the other week her name jumped out of my computer screen and sent me into a frenzy.

 

My frenzy was caused by me knowing that the surname Holland appears in the Royal family tree. Yes, I have a very detailed one on my computer that I compiled myself. Obsessed? Me? Never!

 

Another Margaret Holland, Duchess of Clarence and grand-daughter of Joan of Kent, married John Beaufort and was the great-grandmother of Henry VII, making her an ancestor of the Tudors, Stewarts, Hanoverians and consequently Queen Elizabeth II. But what does this have to do with my family tree?

 

The Margaret Holland in my family was the daughter of George Holland of Angmering. I did a bit of googling for Hollands of Angmering and found a couple of old books that have been digitised and are now freely available online. The first was a book of pedigrees of families in the county of Sussex compiled in 1830 by someone called Berry. This book told me that George was the grandson of William Holland of Calais and showed a copy of the family coat of arms. It also showed me that through his mother Joan (or Mary) Bellingham he was connected to some important armorial families and could trace his lineage (and hence mine) back to the time of William the Conqueror. The second book was entitled The Lancashire Hollands and written by Bernard Holland. This book raised my excitement levels considerably because I found a whole section about the Hollands of Sussex. Sadly, these Hollands were not from Angmering so my excitement abated slightly until I read the last paragraph.

 

There was in Sussex another family of Holland living at Angmering, whose pedigree for five generations, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, is given by Berry. This family had the same crest and arms as the Hollands of Conway; but Berry, in his ‘Sussex Genealogies,’ does not say that they were derived from these, or from the Hollands of Upholland. The first of them mentioned is a William Holland of Calais.”

I looked up the Hollands of Conway (anglicised spelling of Conwy), which is in Wales, in the same book. It shows a detailed pedigree going back to someone called Piers (or Peter) Holland who it says was in the service of Henry IV. The book also states that he is “believed to be fifth in descent from Alan, a brother of Robert, first Lord Holland.” The book explains this further and says that these brothers were of the Hollands of Upholland in Lancashire.

 

Robert, first Lord Holland, was the great-grandfather of Margaret Holland, Duchess of Clarence. Can you see why I might be excited?

 

My Hollands carry the same coat of arms and crest as a family that is believed to share ancestry with Hollands that are ancestors of Kings and Queens. I know it’s a very tenuous connection and one that sadly can’t be proved. I can prove my connection to the Angmering Hollands by searching through parish registers, helpfully now digitised and available online but the trail from William Holland of Calais back to the Hollands of Conway and Upholland is as cold now as it was back in 1830. All I can do is make a note in my records explaining what I know to be true and what I believe might be true, and hope that one day something remarkable comes to light.

 

So a provable Royal connection remains elusive but the Hollands of Angmering may be the closest I ever come to it. I shall never stop searching for more information on them and I’ll continue to search for other Royal connections because you just never know what might turn up.

 

 

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William Richard Curtis, 1899-1980

William Richard Curtis, 1899-1980. Family archive.

 

Most people my age don’t have clear memories of relatives who fought in the First World War … some have no memories at all. The Second World War is still within living memory: my parents were born in it, my grandmother lived through it; however, it’s the First World War that draws me in time and time again as I scour records for information about my ancestors and relatives.

 

The Great War – “the war to end all wars”. It draws me in because I can’t, not even for a moment, imagine the horrors that the young men in my family faced. Too many never came home, their stories, like them, buried forever in a field in France, a desert in Gaza or some other battle-scarred place.

 

Uncle Will came home and I have clear memories of him – my one living memory of someone who served his country in the horror of the trenches.

 

Will with his parents and sister, my grandma. c. 1906.
Family archive.

 

Will was born a Victorian in 1899. My grandma, his sister, was born in 1904 and, as a result of being born so long before the war, seemed to me to be a whole generation older than my other three grandparents (she was 12 years older than my granddad).

 

Will was born in a beautiful village called Snitterfield, just outside Stratford-upon-Avon, where his family had lived for generations. He was born 9 months and 9 days after his parents’ wedding day – a honeymoon baby, if they had a honeymoon. His father’s occupation is listed on the 1901 census as “carrier / dealer” and maybe this profession is what took the family to Wales where my Grandma was born. In Wales he found work as a “domestic gardener”. They then moved to London for a short time and then to Bosbury in Herefordshire where they ran The New Inn. They finally settled in Bromsgrove in Worcestershire where Will’s father became an Insurance agent and later ran a grocer’s shop.

 

Will’s father died of cancer in 1916 and was buried in Snitterfield, a place that was close to his heart. It must have been an extremely difficult time for the family. Will’s mother had to take in washing to put food on the table and in January 1917 Will enlisted in the army two days before his eighteenth birthday.

 

Will with his mother (in mourning) and his sister. c. 1917. Family archive.

 

He joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and then, after a few months, was transferred to the Royal Berkshire Regiment. Sadly, his service records were destroyed during the Second World War and because he never spoke of his experiences I have no way of knowing the details of the time he served. What I do know, from doing a little bit of research into regimental service numbers, is that he transferred into the 8th Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment and is unlikely to have served at Passchendaele.

 

Thanks to my grandma carefully hoarding some old family postcards, and to her memory of times past, I know that both she and her mother travelled to Newcastle upon Tyne and visited Will in hospital on 1st June 1918. It was exactly two years, to the day, since they buried his father. Will had been wounded in France.

 

Will wearing “hospital blues” while recovering from his injury.
c. 1918. Family archive.

 

Will was one of the lucky ones. He came home with little more than a badly injured foot. Lucky because he survived the injury, lucky because it rendered him unfit for war service and lucky because he never had to go back. Of course, there are many reasons why he may not have felt lucky.

 

As I mentioned, he never spoke of his war service but there’s no doubt that it affected him very much. He refused to have anything but condensed milk in his tea, a common trait of men who’d spent time in the trenches, and, after he retired, he gradually left his bungalow less and less often. Eventually, he could barely make it to the garden gate, not because he was debilitated in any way but, we assume, because of some unknown fear, most likely related to the experiences in his past.

 

Uncle Will, as I knew him.

Uncle Will, as I knew him. Family archive.

 

To me, he was always an old man. He was 73 when I was born. He smoked roll-ups (with a herbal mixture rather than traditional tobacco) and I was endlessly fascinated by the little machine he had for rolling them. Even though I was only 8 when he died in 1980 I have clear pictures in my mind: Uncle Will sat in his front room rolling a cigarette and licking the paper to seal it; his wife, Auntie Lil, whisking me and my brother into the walk-in larder to find something we might like to eat, me playing in his garden as the trains roared past up the Lickey Incline (I mentioned this here).

 

Uncle Will was, of course, actually my great-Uncle but he was always just Uncle Will to me. Very close to his sister and happily married to Lil, he was also a craftsman. Aged just 12 years old he went to work for the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts, a very important name in the Arts and Crafts Movement. They are perhaps best known for the work they did on the gates to Buckingham Palace although this was before Will joined them. He specialised in all aspects of ecclesiastical work e.g. altar & processional crosses, but the work of which he was most proud was bronze work done for the Queen Mary liner and the entrance gates to ICI house on Millbank, London.

 

Unable to find any information online, a couple of years ago I went to London and wandered down Millbank to see if I could find the gates. The building is now Nobel House and is occupied by Ofgem but the gates are still there and are very fine indeed. I can understand why he was so proud.

 

The gates to 9 Millbank, formerly ICI HQ. Panels designed and created by the Bromsgrove Guild. My photos (click to enlarge).

 

He worked with the Bromsgrove Guild until 1956 when they sadly ceased production. He went on to work for a company called Garringtons which made automotive parts and where, although he was much respected as a craftsman and very popular, he was never happy. He retired in 1964.

 

Uncle Will died in 1980 and was cremated. He would very much like to have been buried in Snitterfield, a place filled with happy childhood memories of holidays and kindly relatives, but it was never meant to be.

 

My reason for wanting to remember my Uncle Will was because I watched a drama series on BBC1 called The Village. I won’t go into detail about the programme except to say that it portrayed a young man who went off to fight in the First World War. He came home on leave and developed symptoms of shell shock caused by being left out in the open at night as punishment for things written in a letter home. A doctor blamed it on ingested toxins, another less reputable person blamed it on him being feeble-minded. When he failed to return to his regiment because he was too ill, he was taken by force and shot for desertion. I cried.

 

We all know that this really happened. Men, although relatively few, really were shot for cowardice, desertion and other offences. I don’t believe it’s the fault of the people who made those decisions, it was simply of the time. It’s just sad that it took until 2006 for those men to be posthumously pardoned.

 

The programme made me think of all those men in my family who had to fight for their country. Uncle Will was the only one I ever knew personally. As I said, I can’t begin to imagine the horrors of war and what living through those things must do to a person. Uncle Will was one of the lucky ones and I am proud to have known him.

 


 

An interesting article on The Bromsgrove Guild can be found here.

 

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What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet (1595)

 

It seems one of my ancestors was Sarah Daft! Some people, my dad especially, will take great amusement from this. Incidentally, this ancestor is on my mother’s side not his, giving him free rein to laugh … a lot!

 

Of all the names I’ve found in my research this has to be the most amusing to date. When I first found it I assumed it had probably been misspelt in the parish register, but no; I just found a whole family of Dafts!

 

Pulling out my Oxford Names Companion I have found the following meaning:

 

Daft English: nickname for a meek person rather than a stupid one, from Middle English daffte mild, gentle, meek (Old English gedæfte). The surname survives in the East Midlands in spite of the unfavourable connotations that were acquired by the vocab. word in the 15th cent.”

 

I feel a bit better about it now although I have to admit that despite living in the East Midlands I have yet to meet anyone with the name Daft. If I ever do I must remember to ask them if they’ve researched their family tree!

 

 

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On Christmas Eve my family and I will settle down to our biggest and most well-preserved family tradition.  We’ll sit around a candle-lit table and tuck in to plates of bangers and mash.  This may seem like an odd tradition but my grandfather assured me a long time ago that sausages, mashed potato and fried onions have been eaten by candlelight for Christmas Eve supper in the Dobson family for over 100 years.  My grandfather was not known for over exaggeration or stretching the truth so I’m confident that this truly is a time-honoured custom.



My particular family unit have now added baked beans to the equation, and for several years now my dad has insisted on there being a light on somewhere as he claims he can’t see his food without it!  This of course always provokes groans and jokes about old age…so now it’s candlelit with some background lighting!  We’ve had variations on the bangers and mash theme over the years, such as cheesy mash or onion gravy but we always return to the old favourite and knowing that my ancestors have always eaten the same meal on this special evening, for me, makes it feel more important to continue with the tradition.



The bangers and mash are followed by my mum’s homemade mince-pies.  She’ll tell you that they’re nothing special but in that regard she is very wrong.  In my opinion her secret is that she makes her own mincemeat and extra special rich pastry.  Sadly, having a wheat intolerance I have to restrict my mince-pie eating to a bare minimum which of course makes me appreciate them all the more.  Now a mince-pie in my family is not complete until you have prised open the lid, put a dollop of rum butter inside and then replaced the top before taking a bite.  Inevitably the pie collapses and rum butter drips down your chin but it’s a family tradition not to be missed.  My brother takes this tradition one step further and on Christmas Day after he’s eaten his Christmas pud (homemade of course), he prises open a warm mince-pie and fills it, not only with rum butter but also a piece of pudding.  It is very messy but, he assures me also very delicious!  When asked why he does this…he’ll tell you that it’s traditional!



Christmas morning when my brother and I were little was of course a frenzy of upending pillowcases and emptying football socks to find out what Father Christmas (never Santa in our house) had brought us.  My brother used to drag his pillowcase and sock into my bedroom and then we’d run backwards and forwards between my room and our parents’ bedroom to show them what delights Father Christmas had seen fit to bestow.  Of course with no young children in the family anymore this is one tradition that has sadly ceased…at least for the time-being.  Somewhere in the sock, amidst the satsumas, apples, monkey nuts and other small pleasures there was always a sugar mouse.  A homemade sugar mouse no less!  Over the years this has developed into a chocolate mouse with a fondant filling and now, all these years later, my mother continues the tradition and still buys us each one of these every Christmas, although it’s now handed over rather than delivered in a sock!



It’s still traditional in my family to go to church at Christmas.  Some of us go and some of us don’t but my dad always sings in the choir at the Midnight Eucharist.  As children, going to the midnight service was a real treat as it meant bedtime was delayed and the church lit by hundreds of candles, was a sight to behold.  On Christmas day there was always a loud clamouring from my brother and I to be allowed to open one present each before church as the main event wouldn’t happen until much later.  As I recall, this begging was usually indulged and the present was often taken to church and duly showed off to various members of the congregation.



Present opening in our family was and still is done long after most people have cleared away the debris of paper and ribbons that’s left behind.  As children this no doubt prolonged the excitement and although I don’t remember any I’m sure there was begging and whining.  Now, we wait patiently for there to be a suitable break in the cooking for everyone to gather in the living room with alcoholic aperitifs and nibbles.  Presents are then duly dished out and opened.



The main event is of course the dinner.  In our family we have no unusual traditions but my mum and I insist on bread sauce with the turkey.  No-one else likes it and even though I’m not supposed to have it, I still spoon it liberally onto my plate because after all, it is Christmas and bread sauce is traditional!  Brussel sprouts are also traditional fare at this time of year but sadly I have never liked them.  As tradition dictates sprouts should be eaten, every year I carefully place three on my plate and then proceed to eat approximately one and a half before giving up and leaving the rest.



Before the pudding can be brought out the curtains have to be closed and the lights turned off.  Once we’re in darkness, the pudding is brought forth awash with blue flames, having been doused in something suitably flammable such as rum.  This seemed much more exciting when I was a child but it wouldn’t seem right not to have a flaming pudding.



As I’ve got older and developed a real dislike for cream I have found that something else I really don’t like is really good when served with the pud – custard!  None of the posh stuff for me made from cream and vanilla pods.  No, it has to be good old-fashioned custard powder and milk.  Christmas is the only time of year I’ll eat it but, poured over the pudding together with some rum butter, it really is perfect and now, in our family, something of a tradition.  Eating Christmas pudding always reminds me of my Grandma.  Sadly she has long since departed this life but I will never forget how she really liked a tiny bit of pudding with her cream!


After dinner there will of course be washing up to do and this used to be the one time of year my brother and I were not expected to help.  My dad would surprise us by donning an apron and helping instead.  Of course, the roles have now reversed although unlike in previous years, there is now a dishwasher which I will be happy to help fill!  The washing up is one tradition I will not be sorry to lose.



In years gone by there used to be some festive singing around the piano but this has long since been replaced by snoring and television watching so, from me to you, I’m including a link to a Christmas carol that has always been one of my favourites and is one I used to sing as a child.  Apologies in advance as this is me singing!





Whatever your own traditions, I wish you all a very merry Christmas filled with joy and happiness.



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Well only you can answer that question so I will tell you a bit about who I am.


I’m an ordinary person, living in an ordinary place, working for an ordinary company, in an ordinary job.  But of course, I am so much more than that.  I’m Kathryn, heading for 40, living in the heart of England, working in Financial Services, and managing a large budget.  That’s still not very interesting though.


I’ve worked for the same company for almost 15 years.  This is a long time and something I never intended to do when I started there as a temp all that time ago.  Before that I spent 2 years working at Woolworths, for my sins.  I have to admit that were it not for the poor wages I might very well have stayed there (until they went bust obviously), as I really loved it.  I worked in the Entertainments department although  I should point out that this did not involve me providing any entertainment, it just meant I worked in the department selling CDs, videos and computer games (this was before the days of DVDs believe it or not!).


Prior to Woolies, I spent 4 years at Uni gaining a degree in Maths & Computer Science.  Not quite sure how that happened but I do have the certificate to prove it so it must be right!


So…onto the stuff that makes me…well…me!


Outside work, I have spent much of my time over the last 10 or so years researching my family tree.  It has been a labour of love and I have found many interesting relatives; some of noble birth (sadly no blue blood), some traitorous (lost his head on Tower Hill – see below), and some criminal (shipped to Australia).  I have found sad stories (left in a WWI trench to die – see below), success stories (highly decorated, 1st Class Warrant Officer in the Grenadier Guards, who later became a senior Yeoman of the Guard) and many many surprising stories (bigamy, illegitimacy, mass weddings, a forces’ sweetheart, and a chaplain to Charles II to name but a few).  My family were a colourful bunch and I’m rather proud of them, even the bad ones!


Sir Thomas Wyatt by Unknown artist
oil on panel, feigned circle, circa 1550
Purchased, 1947
Primary Collection. NPG 3331
© National Portrait Gallery, London
My traitorous 2nd cousin 13 times removed is mentioned on a plaque at Tower Hill in London for raising a rebellion against Queen Mary I. Beheaded in 1554, he was then quartered and his body hung in various parts of London – Newington, Mile End Green, Southwark & beside St Thomas of Waterings at the 2nd milestone from the city. His head was placed on a pole at the Tyburn gallows at Hay Hill but was stolen and never recovered.

Source: Family archive.
My great great-Uncle, Leonard Dobson, immigrated to Australia before the war and during WWI he fought with the 24th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force. Over the course of 2 years he moved up the ranks from Private to Sergeant, filling the shoes of dead men. He served at Gallipolli, survived 3 months of dysentery in Egypt, was transferred to France and fought in the Battle of the Somme. In March 1917 he even made it home to London to see his family. On 3 May 1917 he fought at the 2nd Battle of Bullecourt in Northern France where 80% of the battalion were killed. As you can see from the statement below, he was left behind when the trench was evacuated, too badly injured to be moved. The following December a court of enquiry was held into his death. The Red Cross had mounted an investigation and obtained various statements, confirming the events and ensuring he hadn’t been taken prisoner. He was declared “killed in action”. His name is listed on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial together with a further 10,764 men from the Australian Army. His youngest brother was also killed in France the following year.


I can trace some branches of my family back to the time of King Arthur and I know that apart from being English, I am also part Welsh and part German.  I have living relatives all over America, Australia (it’s a convict thing), and Canada.  I am directly descended from men who fought in the Army, the Navy and the Marines, about which I am immensely proud especially as several of them made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of their country.  I am also directly descended from, amongst others, a musician, a writer, an artist and an engineer.  I know that there is an argument for saying that it’s nurture that makes us what we are and not nature.  But I think nature plays a huge part in that.


I have been able to sing for as long as I have been able to speak, I can play musical instruments and have been known to write music.  I have recently taken up fiction writing in my spare time, posting it online, and have received favourable comments and reviews.  (There’s a link to my Wattpad profile in the sidebar if you’re interested.)  I‘m developing a small obsession with photography which I guess is my artistic side coming out, and, I’m good with figures…or so they tell me (bit tenuous with the engineer thing but never mind), which is just as well given my job.


So…who do I think I am?  I believe I’m a cocktail of all that has gone before me and have maybe added a little twist of my own.  I don’t believe I’m about to raise a revolt against the monarch and lose my head but as I always say, never say never!


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