Guest Post: Ancestors


Ancestor: An ancestor or forebear is a parent or (recursively) the parent of an ancestor (i.e., a grandparent, great-grandparent, great-great-grandparent, and so forth). Ancestor is “any person from whom one is descended.

This is another wonderful guest post for whilst I am away en France! This time it is from the lovely @raspberryswirls. She used to blog and this post makes me wish she still did…because it’s brilliant!

One of the wonderful things about the summer holidays is that I get to be at home with my 13 month old son, R. I miss this time so much when he’s at nursery and I’m at school. I spent the other morning sat with a cup of tea, just watching R play and explore. He was trying very hard to make his bricks balance on top of each other and it wasn’t going so well, possibly due to the fact that he was trying to do this on a cushion – not the most stable of bases. His little face was set in such a pose of stubbornness and concentration and for one brief moment, he looked so much like my grandma that it took my breath away.

My grandma was, for the most part, a cheerful, gentle Scotswoman. However, the genial exterior hid an inner determination and focus that she could use to move mountains, if needed. You always knew when Gran had decided ‘something was going to be done’ as her eyes slightly narrowed and her lips slightly pursed…it’s very hard to describe her exact expression, but trust me, once her face showed it, you knew STUFF WAS GOING TO GET DONE. Whether that was getting donations from companies to support her charity fundraising, or simply getting me to do the washing up, it worked. I know from talking to my mum that when Gran received the news that she had breast cancer, she fixed that steely look of immovable determination onto the consultant, took a deep breath and simply asked, “So. What are we going to do about it?”

It was quite a surprise to see that distinctive expression on my young son, but I didn’t think anything of it till the other night. I was pondering what to write for my guest blog while ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ was on in the background. Nigel Havers was exploring his family tree and discovered that one of his ancestors was a bit of a cad, a role he has played many times during his acting career and he said something about how these genes get handed down and affect the next generations without us knowing.

These ideas of ancestry and inherited characteristics have always fascinated me. Through choice, I have never had any contact with my real father or his family; therefore there has always been a large part of my personal ancestry missing. This has never really bothered me, as I am so much like my mum that we could be twins, so I’ve never had any curiosity as to what made me ‘me’ – I’m essentially a carbon copy of her. Mum’s always answered any questions I had about my father openly and honestly, so I know that he was very tall, hence me being slightly taller than the rest of my family, and he was a musician, which explains why I’ve ended up as a teacher specialising in music, despite there being no previous history of musicians on my mum’s side.

Despite never having met my real father, blood will out, as the saying goes, and these traits have shown up in me. I do believe that there are certain things that are inherent in our genetic make-up that get passed down through the generations, traits that go beyond chromosomes and DNA. It made me think about R, his family history and the little personality he is becoming. What will he inherit from us? What will be unique to him? How much of his ancestral past will shape his future?

Physically, R resembles his paternal side. He is the absolute image of my father in law, but seems to have inherited his height from my side. His personality so far seems to be a mix of both me and my partner; he has his dad’s laid back and calm demeanour and my confident, gregarious nature. He adores music, and according to his nursery, shows a natural sense of rhythm. This isn’t a great surprise, both his grandfathers and his dad are accomplished musicians and I’m a music specialist teacher. Is this early love of music nurture, nature or a combination of the two? He’s certainly been exposed to lots of music and singing, so it’s part of his day to day environment but I like to think that music is hardwired into him, part of the genetic code that is in every cell of his little being.

Genetics are not the only thing that gets passed down. Family traditions and histories follow and shape us as we grow into adults. We chose R’s middle name to honour his Great Uncle, a man he’ll never meet, but whose name he will carry for the rest of his life. If R had been a girl, his middle name would have been Anne, like me, my mum and my grandma and every girl born into my family have been named for as far back as we can trace using the family Bible. I don’t know who the original Anne was or why the name holds so much importance to our family, but I continue to honour her memory, and so will any future daughters of ours. I’d one day love to find out who this woman was, and why her memory has echoed 150 years down our ancestral line.

We are responsible for forming our children, physically, emotionally and mentally. They develop according to how we nurture them, what influences we expose them to and those threads of our family histories and ancestors. Whether we mean to or not, our parenting choices are influenced by our own parents, who in turn were influenced by our grandparents, and so the pattern goes through the generations. I think it’s awe inspiring that when that microscopic sperm and egg meet, it’s not just physical characteristics like eye colour that are passed on, but hundreds and thousands of years of our ancestry and family history combine to create these walking hopes and futures that are our children.

Guest Post: Dinner Parties


Holiday: A holiday is a day set aside by custom or by law in which normal activities, especially business or work, are to be suspended or reduced. Generally holidays are intended to allow individuals to celebrate or commemorate something of cultural or religious significance. Holidays may be designated by governments, religious institutions, or other groups or organizations.

So lovely readers, as many of you who follow me may know, I am currently on holiday in France for two glorious weeks! During that time I have asked some lovely bloggers to guest post on my blog as I will obviously be eating too much cheese and drinking too much wine to blog myself! The first one is from the lovely @APluckyHeroine who I had the pleasure of meeting this year at Britmums live. If you don’t already follow her on Twitter do it, especially on a Sunday morning when she does her Sunday Shuffle and re-introduces me to wonderful songs I had forgotten about! You can find her brilliant blog here. Here is her fab first guest post!

I was on a seminar at work recently and as an icebreaker we had to tell other delegates who we would like to be stuck in a lift with and why.
I love things like this. I like the “who would you invite to a dinner party and why” question too.
The answers people give to questions like these are quite revealing, especially if you don’t give them much time to think about it and their answers are more instinctive.
One girl instantly said she would like to be stuck with a lift engineer so she could get out as soon as possible. (Practical. This idea never even crossed my mind)
Another girl said she’d like to be stuck with Gary Barlow, but then admitted it would only be so she could look at him, she wasn’t that bothered about talking to him! (stalker…)

So, because I’m in charge and it’s my game, you get to be stuck in a lift with THREE people, alive or dead (er, but not dead in the lift, obviously). It’s a big lift ok? So no claustrophobia. And there would be chocolate and wine for the duration, naturally (my rules remember).

My first person would be Queen Elizabeth I. The Virgin Queen. I remember being fascinated by the Ladybird book about her when I was a child. When we were allowed to pick a ‘free reading’ book to read at junior school I would invariable end up with that. I would look for ages at the iconic reproduction of that full length portrait of her and the Ladybird imagining of Rayleigh laying down his cloak for her to walk over a puddle.
From the age of just 25 she led a great nation, governed wisely and was respected worldwide. I would want to know how she felt about her life. Were her personal sacrifices worth it for the country she loved (arguably) more than any man, even Robert Dudley? How did she feel about her father, Henry VIII and mother, Anne Boleyn? Possibly the two most famous parents in history, one responsible for the death (murder) of the other…

My second person would be Chris Evans. He’s a bit “marmite” isn’t he? I know lots of you will be completely anti-him. I went off him a bit for a while too, but then when he started working on Radio 2’s Drivetime programme I grew to love him again. I’ve read both his autobiographies and they are fascinating. He holds his hands up to all the mistakes he’s made in his life with good humour, self deprecation and a very humble attitude. The section of the book where he writes about his split with Billie Piper had me in tears, and I hardly ever cry when reading books. (Notable exceptions include Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” and the more contemporary novel ‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes at which I sobbed)
I would love to chat to him about how he turned his life around. And how he realised he even needed to. His enthusiasm and lust for life is contagious. He seems to have the greatest capacity for love and is generous to a fault (he discusses this in his books too). Did you know he has recently paid half towards the expenses of Paul Gascoigne’s rehabilitation in Arizona?

My third person would be Nelson Mandela. History is littered with these amazing people, the lone (at the start) men and women who have quietly started/caused and won revolutions. Ghandi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Nelson Mandela did just that. I would like to know how he survived those long years in prison, how he kept his faith – in his cause and his God. How do people like him keep on going even in their darkest times? I would ask him how he felt on being released and how it felt to discover he was the author of such great change.

Other people on my (secret reserve) list would include Tom Hanks and David Tennant (both such great contemporary actors). Emeline Pankhurst (no need for explanation I hope). My paternal grandmother (she died when I was very young and my memories of her involve nursing homes and dementia only). Marilyn Monroe (I’m positive she had a lot more about her than people give her credit for). Jane Austen (I’d like to talk to her about how much women’s lives have changed since she wrote her books). Oscar Wilde (simply to listen to his stories). Georgiana Cavendish (Duchess of Devonshire who surrendered one of her children and stayed in a loveless, cuckolded marriage for the sake of her others). And George Clooney (well, just to look at really, you know?)

I canvassed a few friends whilst writing this too. Michael Palin, Margaret Thatcher, Ian Fleming, Florence Nightingale, Jessica Ennis, Audrey Hepburn, Ghandi and Sir Edmund Hilary all came up.

Which 3 people would you like to get stuck in a lift with ? Let me know, here or on twitter @APluckyHeroine x