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Blogging about things that matter to me. Photographing things I love - Instagram @debcyork. Writing about both. Only wine and chocolate can save us… You can also find me on Twitter (@debcyork) and Facebook. If you like four-legged views, try @missbonniedog on Twitter

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Wedding Etiquette

Last weekend my family and I attended the wedding of a very dear friend.  It was a very modern affair in some ways.  They had been together for eighteen years and produced two gorgeous children before they decided to tie the knot.  Yet in so many other ways, it was terribly traditional.  Far more than I had expected.
This was brought home to me whilst sitting waiting for the bridal party to appear.  My nine year old was asking question after question and it became clear to me that every step of a wedding is very much ingrained into most of us by adulthood.  You just know what is happening, no queries needed.  I guess that would be the same whatever religion or tradition you have been brought up within.
At this wedding, things about the day, the ceremony, the meal afterwards - all of which seemed perfectly normal and expected to us adults - were a source of much mystery to my child.  It was the first wedding she could remember attending.
So why was the groom waiting at the front without the bride?  And why did we stand up and sit down so much even though it wasn't a church?  Who is being given away and why?  Who told me what to read out at the ceremony?  Do all these people have to talk after dinner and what are they going on about?  What are we "toasting"?  More importantly, why can't we go over there and just cut ourselves some wedding cake?!  The child's eye view was fascinating.  It really made me think about what a wedding means. 
And to add a touch of genealogical musing (which was how this blog started - and please note, I have resisted the temptation to comment on Who Do You Think You Are? yet this series!), I did think this week about how times have changed in terms of late marriages.
Currently, when you are searching nineteenth and early twentieth century records, you tend to be surprised by illegitimacy, by people living together according to the census, by couples marrying later after having children.  Such genealogical discoveries lead to mysteries, to brickwalls, to family secrets.
Now, though, we are well used to such arrangements.  I can name many happy families who have no parental marriage certificate.  So, just as in the future genealogists will find divorce to be common place, they will also have to deal with far more fluid family arrangements.  They might find my friend on a census with her family, they will find her children.  Hopefully, they will look way past there and see the marriage as well...!
It was a fabulous day.  Even the weather was kind.  But it was particularly a day for love.  My beautiful friend was never more beautiful.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015


This week I took my children on a BBC Tour at Broadcasting House in London.  Despite the absence of CBBC - now based in Manchester - they absolutely loved it.  Photos with a "real" tardis and darlek.  Reading the weather on a newsroom green screen.  Sitting on the One Show sofa.
And interwoven with the up to date stuff, there were wonderful bits of history about the BBC.  From the Art Deco building to the stories of the war.  From the lists of famous people who have been through the doors to the invention of television in the basement.
So using the tenuous connection of "Auntie", I am using this genealogy blog today to make a simple plea for people to defend the BBC in its coming battle with the government.
You would think that politicians who are conservative would value all of the history and Britishness that we saw and felt on our tour.  Apparently not.  The current government is hellbent on bringing down the BBC in its current form.  If we allow it to succeed, we are allowing it to bring down nearly a century of our history.
The BBC has figured in all of our lives and the lives of many generations before us.  It has encompassed all the arts, sports and entertainment we could want and it has been a source of comfort, pride, joy and many other emotions.
I don't want to rant on about the economics or politics of the BBC's funding.  And I don't doubt there have been huge mess-up's over the years.  But where have there not been scandals in recent years?  Child abuse, going to war without a vote, MPs' expenses, bribes and corruption in the City, the banking collapse, the list goes on.
I just felt the need to say "Stand up for Auntie".  We must not let the saying "you don't know what you've got until it's gone" apply to the BBC.  We do know and we should be proud.  See below!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Return of WDYTYA

Far too many weeks since I last posted, sorry.  I had promised myself to get better at setting the timer thing to post more regularly.  Instead I have found myself on Yorkshire beaches, driving children to gym practice and walking the dog with ideas buzzing and no time to get them out.
However, I have managed to read Not My Father's Son, an excellent memoir by the actor Alan Cumming.  I heard him reading it on BBC Radio 4 soon after it was published last year but I have only just managed to discover the conclusion.
The gist is that at the same time Alan Cumming was doing Who Do You Think You Are? in 2010 - which turned up a completely fascinating family tale - he received a call from his estranged father, saying Alan should know, in the light of the programme being made, that he, Alan, was not his biological son.
The memoir is written in a number of  movingly interwoven strands - the WDYTYA shoot;  the time following its completion; childhood in Scotland; and early years as an actor.  The book is a great read and I really admire Alan Cumming for doing it but I won't discuss it further as I highly recommend reading it!
I watched Cumming's WDYTYA quite shocking episode when it was broadcast.  It has been fascinating, though, to read about what the poor guy was going through while he was on screen and talking about his ancestors.  And the childhood side of the memoir is awful but moving.  Human resilience in action.
However, as someone looking forward to the start of the new WDYTYA series (next week!), I was particularly interested in the machinations of the programme makers.  All the celebrities say, when asked, that they are told nothing before the shoot starts.  Read in the context of someone trying to deal with a personal crisis at the same time (albeit unbeknownst to the TV company), their methods seem almost cruel.  Of course, that is what makes good television.  Those special or disturbing moments, captured close-up.  I mean, they even squeezed a tear out of Jeremy Paxton so they must be good at what they do!  Television gold usually involves a "journey" these days and genealogy gives that in spades.
I don't imagine any of us, if confronted with the sort of information given to Alan Cumming, would keep a poker face.  The episode link is above.  Do watch it if you have not seen it already.  But read the book too.  The two make a good pairing.
And when WDYTYA returns, I think we should spare a thought for the celebrities who have agreed to take part.  Yes, they get top of the range (!) family trees given to them at the end but in return, they are expected to trip out their emotional reactions to whatever the producers have decided is most television-worthy.  Incidentally, for an example, in my humble opinion, of when the celebrity does not provide this entertainment, please see Sarah Jessica Parker's US episode of the show.  She literally had nothing to say....