Richard Branson

You don’t learn  to walk by following rules. You learn by falling over.

Through dealing with toxic people I have learned that seeking peace is ironically often  a fight. Watching Bobby Kennedy give his speech I recognised he was actually engaged in a battle. The weapons were truth, humility and courage. My ways of presenting  my truth are generally unconventional. Now my youngsters are older I am gradually learning from them more and more of my mistakes. My sense of humour for example is probably not always funny. (Sorry family  no spiders don’t only bite you if you are up to mischief. Also I note here I am the only one who has been bitten by a spider and unfortunately there had been no mischief involved. )

 As a bit of an  aside,  I have  a beef with a certain fast food chain who decided to give away these motion-sensing toys one year. This had helped make one Christmas Eve particularly challenging. Santa had had to make two trips. The first one had been to remove the sensors, designed to catch him in the act.

When I was taught to teach we were encouraged not to give answers. This is very much part of my make up. I just present questions and try to speak my truth. People who have all the answers get up my nose more than just about anybody. If I ever slip into doing this I apologise. What I do best is  to make mistakes. As I tell my youngsters I may get lost all the time but I have been lost more places than most people have ever been. I  remember being taught in teacher training how viewing a page full of mistakes from a student can be much more informative than  examining a page full of right answers.

History is littered with pages of our past mistakes. Perhaps it is time to examine them closely, understand our thinking and at least try not to  continue making the same ones.


A Time To Be Silent and A Time To Speak

…a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.

Ecclesiastes 3:7

Where are the great speeches we all need right now? Where are the courageous men and women needed to shine a light, though what I believe is  a deeply troubled time. I can only appeal in my tiny blog for people  to wake up and see what is happening. I travelled through Europe not long after the Berlin Wall had been brought down.

Mr Gorbachev Tear Down This Wall


It was a time of hope – A hope which is now gradually being extinguished.

I used to listen to the stories of courage of the people who had desperately sought to escape East Berlin. When the wall had first been erected, people had been prepared to die, desperately throwing themselves over it. I have seen the remnants of that wall, rich with graffiti.

People Fleeing Over The Berlin Wall


Bobby Kennedy says it so much better than I do.

Here he comforts African Americans in Indianopolis, as he informs them that Martin Luther King has been killed.


Robert F. Kennedy


“Strength does not come from a physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” Gandhi

Acts of civil disobedience are never popular. By definition it almost always involves making a much maligned stand. I remember the film Gandhi. For me the most harrowing scene was the one where the Indians walk calmly towards the salt works while enduring vicious beatings, yet continue silently and courageously on their way.  It needs to be remembered that for all their formidable power and weaponry,  the British Empire in the end, had proven no match for  a quiet, peaceful man sporting  neither helmet,  weaponry nor armour, just a simple cloth robe. Incidentally he had grown to be loved and respected in Britain.

Gandhi’s Salt March

Gandhi in London

Who can forget Rosa Parks?  When Rosa had refused to give up her seat on the bus, she had helped bring about more change, than would ever have been achieved by other means. Her humble, defiant gesture, is still remembered today.

The Montgomery County Bus Boycott

Rosa Parks biography in her own words

My own view is  that rather than decrying young men who have the courage to kneel, in the face of great opposition, we should probably all be kneeling and getting ourselves right with God.

What Makes a Life?

I love newspaper archives. I have waded enthusiastically in when one of my youngsters had had a project on the Industrial Revolution. When I had studied this turmultuous period at school, I had found it dull, dry and uninteresting. Wading into The British Newspaper Archives had taught me just how wrong I was. Perhaps having children descended from the starving weavers who had marched in an attempt to save their own lives and livelihoods, had helped to bring it to life. I now view the word” weaver”(Links to actual footage of workers leaving the mills in 1901).with excitement.

I never expected to find this amazing footage of millworkers leaving a factory-On a personal note I had a relative who had worked briefly in the Lancashire Woollen mills in the 1920s. She had often told me how she had been the only other woman wearing a hat, coat and shoes(being from the south of England) instead of a shawl and clogs (as see in this film). This had led to her being gently teased.


The trouble with me and newspaper archives, is that I get really caught up, as if I am reading some great novel.  I often skip straight to the end to find out the conclusion, before I can bear to read the painful bits in the middle.

It comforts me when I learn that an individual lived to a reasonable age and did not end up dying destitute in a workhouse. I was shocked to discover at least one family member who had died in the dreaded workhouse in the relatively recent past of the twentieth century. I love it when a story with an unpromising beginning, seems to end in a quiet, relatively comfortable old age-or as in the case of one individual I studied, they turn from a life of crime, to the more sedate pastime of prospecting. I guess I still seek the “Happily Ever After”. I love to read the glowing tributes to individuals who have struggled their whole life but who seem to have inspired love in friends and family. I remember a particularly touching episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Ray decided to write his father’s obituary, while he was still alive. A sentimental story of Frank’s softer side emerges, when it is revealed how he had quietly showed affection to the children’s pet rabbit.


I have come across a few such deeply personal, touching obituaries and to me they are worth more than gold…

Alan Sachs

Death is more universal than life. Everyone dies but not everyone lives.

There is no greater legacy than learning that somebody has inspired genuine love and affection in those they have left behind.

Documentary about the historical films of Mitchell & Kenyon, who produced the film showing the mill workers.


Documentary about voices in Edwardian England.







Drawing a Line in the Sand



There are moments in life when something totally different bursts into the light. One of the first such moments for me was Fawlty Towers. We had almost accidentally changed channels when the scary, outlandish Basil Fawlty  had made his first  magical appearance.  Basil was a real groundbreaker at the time, offensive yet irresistable.    I had the same experience with my first dramatic jolt watching the early Simpsons in a San Francisco movie theatre. Bart and Lisa, who had looked very different to how they do now,  were having a belching competition. This was a view of sibling rivalry to which I  had related. (I  had never stood a chance against my brother). Then there was South Park-The characters  had looked so cute, until one of them got on the bus and  had started swearing at the bus driver. Somehow these moments are timeless. They were never quite acceptable. They will never be quite acceptable and that is probably why they have endured.

I believe the same can be said of principles. They never quite fit in. They often shock when they first appear but in the end they last the distance.

The Challenges of Family History

My stated goal of my blog was to bring family history to life and show its relevance to our daily lives. I believe the wounds of the past do not simply disappear, they  perhaps continue for generation after generation. Edward Ball attempted to bring healing for those who had suffered as a result of his family’s five generations of slave ownership.

Descendent of slave owners apologises to descendents of former slaves on Oprah.

Every family has a closet full of skeletons, which it takes courage to face and unearth. Yet doing so may bring peace and closure to so many.  When I have been faced with some of the more challenging aspects of my research, I have attempted to steal myself and dive right in.  We all want to know about our family’s former glories and aristocratic connections. Facing  possible wrongdoing and tragedy is much harder, however ultimately perhaps more rewarding.