Monthly Archives March 2017

Family history: Look locally

Once you can place a relative in a geographical location, it is then possible to fill in background information about them via your local council records. Some of these may be online, others may be found in local archives or the family history centre, and can include council minutes, education records and quarter sessions. Quarter sessions in the UK were courts of limited criminal and civil jurisdiction, and appeal, usually held quarterly in counties and boroughs [above]. Discontinued in 1972 to be replaced by the Crown Courts, these are a fruitful place to search if one of your relatives appeared in court. Some records are available online, others may be accessed via your local archives. They are a rich source of information including the names of those present such as justices, bailiffs, High Constable, jury members and defendants. Some records are available online at Ancestry, for example Yorkshire quarter session records for the years 1637-1914. Council minutes are usually accessible in archive reading rooms, making interesting reading perhaps for information about a specific relative who worked for the council, or for social information about a particular time. If your relative was involved in local politics or Government service, this could
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Categories: Family history research and On Researching.

Book review: Bloodline

This is a combination of genealogical mystery, murder investigation and historical examination of the Nazis. Bloodline by Fiona Mountain, the second Natasha Blake mystery, covers a lot of ground from its seemingly innocuous starting point when Natasha hands in her report to a client. But nothing is mentioned lightly in this book, everything has a meaning. Natasha is not sure why Charles Seagrove requested this particular family tree, but knows he is unrelated to any of the people featured. The real reason for Seagrove’s interest in genealogy is at the heart of this storyline. There are many dead ends and I admit to losing track of who was who at one point but Mountain ties all the loose endings together so there is clarity at the end. At first, Natasha is simply conducting another genealogical research but everything changes when she receives an anonymous note, ‘Cinderella is in the bluebell woods at Poacher’s Dell’. Once her client is murdered with his own shotgun, Natasha feels threatened as well as puzzled. There are many storylines to be connected including Charles Seagrove’s grand-daughter Rosa and her father Richard, Second World War land girls, and two soldiers – one German, one English –
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: Kate Frost

Today I’m delighted to welcome women’s novelist Kate Frost. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is the classic Chocolat by Joanne Harris. “To be honest, I have more than one ‘Porridge and Cream’ book, and they’re all quite different, but the book I’d happily pick up when feeling ill or run down is Joanne Harris’ Chocolat – a delicious and delightful character-driven novel centred around single mother and chocolatier Vianne Rocher and her young daughter, Anouk. I first read it over a summer, not long after it had been published, so around 2000 or 2001. I’d recently moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) and we’d been to Greece together to meet his parents and the whole of his extended Greek family, so a book set in a French village that immersed its characters in local life with the focus being on food and delicious chocolate creations resonated with me and my first experiences of a Greek family and their abundance of delicious food. I’ve only read Chocolat two or three times (like I said it’s one of a number of favourites), but it is the perfect book to get pulled into when I’m feeling down. The most recent time I read
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

Book review: Darktown

Darktown by Thomas Mullen is a gripping book. A combination of the social history of black Americans in post-war pre-civil rights USA, and crime story, it tells the story of the first black policemen in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1948 and the physical, emotional and moral challenges they faced. Page after page, and they turned quickly, I was astonished by what happened and the knowledge that similar events really took place. It is a commentary on racial divides in the USA that the summer (2016) this novel about white police brutality was published, white policemen are still shooting and mistreating black citizens. Politics aside, I read so quickly because the story of Officer Lucius Boggs and the case of the murdered Jane Doe grabbed me and made me resent the moments I wasn’t with them on the page. Twined together are the stories of Boggs and Police Officer Denny Rakestraw; one black cop, one white cop, both dissatisfied with the rules they must police and with the way black people, cops and citizens, are denigrated, both disturbed that the dead Jane Doe has been ignored. Boggs and Rake investigate alone and off-duty, risking suspension plus hatred and injury at the hands
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Categories: Book Love.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Alone’

This is a short poem from a pamphlet by Yorkshire-born, Lancashire-based poet Dea Parkin. The collection is varied, designed to appeal to people who don’t normally read poetry. Some of the poems are based on stories or images. When I read the first stanza of ‘Alone’, I knew where I was standing. Read it. Where do you see yourself? Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full. ‘Alone’ I stand in a startling place White-cold and bleak With absence all around.   The clamour of the world Grows bold and strident in my ear But I am quieted.   ‘Any Other Business’ by Dea Parkin [UK: Open Circle] Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:- ‘Name’ by Carol Ann Duffy ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ by Stevie Smith ‘Lost Acres’ by Robert Graves And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘Alone’ by @DeaWriter via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2lp SaveSave
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

Book review: We Are Water

We Are Water by American author Wally Lamb is the examination of a family riven by differences, tragedy and horrors, how they first avoid then finally admit the truths and shame, in order to face the future. It is a story about looking forwards, not back. I loved the storyline set-up in the Prologue, elderly artist and curator Gualtiero Agnello recalls the discovery of a self-taught artist, Josephus Jones, a poor black man in the Sixties with a raw untapped gift. But then as the story develops, Jones is not centre stage. The focus is on Annie Oh, another untutored artist discovered by Agnello, who lived in the same house where Jones lived in a shed out back and where he died in a well. Murder or accident, it is never proven. Via the Oh family, Lamb explores the imbalance of family life, its events and consequences. When she is small. Annie loses her mother in a flood which devastates the town of Three Rivers in Connecticut. This flood is based on a real-life event though the town is fictional. Growing up, Annie is subjected to abuse which remains unspecified for a long time. The reader comes to realise she
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: The Hobbit

My worn copy of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein was published by George Allen & Unwin – the edition dates from 1966 – and cost 50p/10s. I’m not sure of the date it was bought for me, I remember reading it when I was about 11 or 12, which corresponds with the dual pricing on the back cover [the UK adopted decimal currency in 1971 and for a time, goods and services had dual prices]. I particularly love the cover, which is an early sketch by the author. The story This is a quest, a journey both geographically and of personality, undertaken by a quiet unassuming hobbit called Bilbo Baggins. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know the story? The themes of personal growth and bravery are rooted in Tolkein’s experiences during the Great War. Never out of print, The Hobbit appears not only as book and film editions, audiobooks and games, but also stage adaptations and video games and countless merchandise. Forget all of that, and go back to the book. The film  Tolkein’s novel was taken by Peter Jackson – director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy – and turned into a trilogy, although for much of
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Categories: Book Love.

How Mary Gaitskill writes

Mary Gaitskill “It wasn’t fast, partly because I had to learn to ride horses in order to write it.” [on writing ‘The Mare’, in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine] American writer Mary Gaitskill is well-known in her native land, but has passed under the radar in the UK. Her third novel, The Mare, may change things. Velvet is a streetwise 11-year old Dominican girl living with her single mother and younger brother in a tiny apartment in a deprived part of Brooklyn. Eligible for the Fresh Air Fund, Velvet takes a free summer holiday with Ginger and Paul and discovers the stables next door. There she is entranced by a mare, a rescue horse called Fiery Girl. As Velvet is besotted with the horse, so Ginger becomes besotted by the child. Gaitskill’s original idea was for a film, not a novel. She wrote a 30-page treatment in 2007 and sent it to her agent who said it wouldn’t work because it didn’t know if it was either a dark, gritty story or a Walt Disney story. Gaitskill said she wanted it to be both. She tried to forget about it, but couldn’t, wrote 50 pages and kept writing. She
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Categories: On Writing.

Book review: Hide and Seek

Different from the preceding five books in the series and even faster-paced. DI Helen Grace is in prison, awaiting trial. Unsurprisingly, as a copper she receives brute treatment from her fellow inmates. And then one of them is killed and the prisoners don’t know who to fear – Grace, who is accused of murder; a fellow prisoner; or a prison guard. Hide and Seek by MJ Arlidge is a relentless page-turner. The action switches viewpoint as Helen tries to identify the killer and prevent him killing again. Her friend DC Charlie Brooks is on the outside, trying to prove Helen’s innocence and find the real murderer, the prison governor can’t cope, and the killer is planning the next attack. Meanwhile the aggressive journalist Emilia Garanita is somehow getting photos from within the prison. While Helen is struggling to survive from one day to the next, the prison guards are under-staffed and under-pressure. Helen uses a few old prisoner tricks to unlock her cell door and move around the prison, I don’t know how realistic this is but it certainly moved the story along. How often do murders happen in a prison wing at night when the prisoners are locked in
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Golden Age

When I go on holiday I see a lot of people around the pool reading ‘family sagas’, usually a historical setting, based on one or two families, with characters that lock you in. That’s what the ‘Last Hundred Years’ trilogy by Jane Smiley is like. In the first book, Some Luck, I studied the family tree at the front. It started with the two key figures, Walter and Rosanna Langdon. The names in the future generations, stretching to the bottom of the page meant nothing. I was interested in Walter and Rosanna’s story. In Golden Age, the final instalment, I became locked into the story of those names at the bottom of the family tree, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Langdons. The story opens with an arrival, a newcomer to the family introducing himself. No-one can see forsee at that time what role will be played by Charlie Wickett and how his appearance reverberates through the Langdon generations. The story is a fascinating journey through American history including Richie becoming a congressman, his twin brother Michael, the Machiavellian one of the family, makes his fortune and loses it again on Wall Street. Walter’s great-grandson Guthrie fights in Iraq and
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Categories: Book Love.