NaNo Approacheth – Well, Sort Of

This time next week it’ll be Day Two of this year’s National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo or just NaNo) – and I still have a curious ambivalence about it …


Not about the concept of NaNo, nor about the good that comes out of it, but about my journey through it this year. (On the off-chance that you have no clue what the point of NaNo is – participants agree to write a 50,000 word manuscript in the 30 days of November – James Snaith has a nice round up and makes some valid points that are kind of outside of this post.)



At It Again …

I have a problem … I admit it …

A Wiltshire Garden

Today, seeing as how I had yet another day off work (the nerve!), the hubbie and I decided to take a trip to the nearby town of Tetbury in Gloucestershire. Its exactly as chocolate-box and middle-England as you’re imagining.

This cobbled lane with its old weaver's cottages is a medieval relic that abuts the old 'Chipping' or market place. This cobbled lane with its old weaver’s cottages is a medieval relic that abuts the old ‘Chipping’ or market place.

Cotswold stone, olde-worlde shoppes (even if every other two are antique/’design’ shops and every other three are tea shops of some description), awful parking options – that kind of thing. But we lunched and drank (mojito at lunchtime – don’t mind if I do!) – and then made out way home.


The point? That on the way home we did our weekly grocery shopping (very exciting – stay with me) and then popped in to a garden centre to buy some compost (one of horse manure, one of multi-purpose peat-free). And…

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Loss: Part 2

I had a crappy day at work on Friday. Actually, I should clarify that a little. Thursday ended crappily and with me in a bad mood that only got worse as the evening wore on. Friday morning, purely due to work reasons, began crappily. Friday morning extended the crappiness for a time, but then it got better. A lot better. Mostly due to the people I work with. Then it got crappy again, but then it ended on a high note with the crappiness evaporating completely. Again due to the people I work with.

However, during the early morning crappiness a colleague asked me something – a very reasonable request that wasn’t in any way connected to the crappiness – and I gave somewhat of an incoherent and rambling response, for which I apologised for later on. The lady in question asked if I was okay, and I gave her a précis of the crappiness and then wondered why I was so crappy about it as I wasn’t a crappy kind of person – with which she agreed. But she said something to me … “At least you care enough to be bothered.”

Which is a good point.

And it reminded me of two things. Firstly, of a particular song (and the film its connected with) and, secondly, of the emotions associated with the song and the film – and a particular evening I spent dissolving myself from the inside out listening to the soundtrack.

Anyway, this is the song – More Than This by Shane Mack.

I played a fool, yeah I played a losing game
And let go of my innocence
And I don’t know, I’ll never be the same
Can I just be more than this, more than this?

If this is all, if this is all we ever were
At least I loved enough to hurt
Enough to hurt

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? The thing with loss. Why it hurts.

And why its necessary.

Here’s Part 1 … in case you missed it.

Dino-fuzz & Asteroids: Dinosaur Round-Up

You might remember (probably not) a while ago that I had a bit of a … well, a rant about dinosaur coverage in the media. Well I’m back. But this time its not a rant. Well, its 50% rant, 50% awesome.

We’ll do the happy dance first … which is all based around this guy:

Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus - Art by Andrey Atuchin

Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus – Art by Andrey Atuchin

Brian Switek (he of the Allosaurus tattoo) does a very nice write up of the story and the implications over at his slice of National Geographic’s Phenomena blogging salon, Laelaps.

In a nutshell, dinosaurs are primarily one of three large families – theropods (home to Sexy Rexy, “raptors” and the bird-lineage), sauropodomorphs (Diplodocus and the like), or ornithischians (horned beasties, armoured/spiked beasties, “duck-billed” beasties). Ornithischia (literally: bird-hipped, due to the bird-like structure of the pubis – despite birds themselves coming from a different lineage altogether) also included families of mostly bipedal dinosaurs that were remarkable in being pretty … well, unremarkable. By that I mean that they were generally small, unspecialised beaked dinosaurs.

Two ornitischians have been found with … “integumentary traces”. One is a Psittacosaurus (a type of basal ceratopsian from the early Cretaceous – which is actually pretty cool for various reasons already) with bristle-like forms on its tail. The other is Tianyulong (a tusked heterodontosaurid from the late Jurassic with filamentous structures on its back, tail and neck), but the dino-fuzz found on Kulindadromeus has a few implications that may be a bit cool.

In brief, this little munchkin sits further back in time (mid to late Jurassic) and a part of the dinosaur family tree that could show that dinosaurs weren’t just the scaly giant lizards that chunks of the populace still believe. There’s more I could say here, like how pterosaurs have a kind of ‘fuzz’ and how alligators have dormant genes for feather production so this could point to a much earlier presence of integument but as Brian puts it:

… while the headline that “all dinosaurs had feathers” stretches the evidence too far, [they] are correct that dinosaurs probably sported a variety of filamentous body coverings in addition to scales.



Mammals feasting on fried Troodon at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Photo by Brian Switek

Mammals feasting on fried Troodon at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Photo by Brian Switek

Now, the other part of this post has been the reporting of a study that the dinosaur extinction at the end of the Cretaceous was just plain bad luck. I’m going to link you back to Brian’s write-up for a good take on it. The gist is that if the asteroid had hit a few million years earlier or later then the dinosaurs would’ve survived – maybe not intact, but there you go. Turns out that their environment and food chains were at a particularly delicate place

Of course, dinosaurs did survive the impact and they’re all around us today. And plenty of other types of animal didn’t survive – certain types of bird, mammal, lizards, plants, mollusks, sharks, marine lizards, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs, insects and planktons – so perhaps its a bit of an over-simplification.

Obviously, but its very nature, getting hit by an asteroid is extremely bad luck – but 75% of all life was extinguished, not simply the part that was inhabited by non-avian dinosaurs. I also object to the term “luck” – but its in a way that I can’t really quantify or explain properly. On the one hand, everything happens by pure dumb luck. On the other hand its neither good luck nor bad luck it just … is. Its just life. Its just living.

Does that make any kind of sense? I’m not sure I can articulate it any better than that. Which makes this slightly less of a rant and more of an incoherent murmuring that drifts off into awkward silence …


Do you ever find a family line that has a mix of occupations – and you wonder how much the behaviour of one generation has affected the subsequent ones? I came across one such line recently.

A cousin of mine (7th cousin once removed but, hey, who’s counting?) recently shared a link to an online digital archive of American newspapers, as part of the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America collection. As I always do when faced with a ‘new’ searchable database, the first name I type in is ‘Holborow’. As its such a unique surname I’m always pretty sure that any results have a link back to my family – and I came across some fantastic articles in this archive.


Katy Brand > The Ting Tings

I like music, me.

I am also not ashamed that my taste runs toward the electropop/disco/house/dance end of things – but stops far beyond the horror that is dubstep …



Consequently one of the websites I peruse on a regular basis is Popjustice. Recently they showcased the “comeback” video for The Ting Tings, which I’ll pop right here …

“I’m in the wrong club listening to this shit”.


But apart from the clear inspiration from Daft Punk’s recent album, it reminded me of this absolute gem …

For anybody not in the know, Katy Brand is an English comedian who had her own comedy sketch show a few years back which included various musical lampoonings – and the track she’s parodying specifically here is The Ting Ting’s 2008 ‘hit’ “That’s Not My Name”.


Money, Cash, Moolah …

As I have now been gainfully employed once again for over a week, I thought that I’d amuse myself with a little list of Things To Buy once I have disposable income again (which, given the way the invoicing system works, won’t be until the end of August).



I’m not listing stuff like “Pay off credit card” or “Pay larger loan instalments” because that’ll happen anyway (honest!).

No, this is the fun stuff. Or at least the nice to have stuff.

In no particular order …

  • Garden bench
  • Retrieve data from old external hard drive
  • New external hard drive
  • Wireless printer/scanner
  • Driving lessons (dare I even dream …?)
  • Trip to USA
  • Various family history certificates
  • STATIONERY (it deserves the capitalisation in my head)
  • New bed
  • Bedroom dresser type thing
  • Guest bedroom furniture
  • Replacement washing up bowl (the curse of not having a dishwasher)
  • Gym membership (*cough*)
  • Dinosaur books
  • House insurance (*sigh*)
  • Fine rasp (you know, for zesting and whatnot)


No, this isn’t a revisit to the subject I wrote about in January of this year.

It is, instead, something very funny by one of England’s all-time funniest people – Victoria Wood.


More Australian Shenanigans!

In my previous post about Australian migration, I mentioned a lady who had (possibly/probably) married her (possibly/probably) deceased first husband’s (half) uncle. I don’t want to leave you thinking that this kind of thing was present in only one side of my family. Oh no. My father’s side has an interesting tale to tell too …

William Fisher and Hannah Perry were married in Collingbourne Kingston on 10 March 1806. They already had one son together before the marriage, but would go on to have another 10 children. I am descended from Jacob (3 x great-grandfather), born in 1813, but amongst his 3 younger sisters was Jemima, born c.1815 – she was christened on 24 March of that year in the parish church, St. Mary’s.

St. Mary's church, Collingbourne Kingston. © Graeme Harvey

St. Mary’s church, Collingbourne Kingston. © Graeme Harvey

On 05 October 1833, Jemima married William Smith in Collingbourne Kingston church. The couple had a daughter, Emma, born out of wedlock, and then another 10 (much like her own parents).:

  • Emma Fisher
  • George Smith
  • Jane Mary Smith
  • William Smith
  • Henry Smith
  • Louisa Smith
  • Thomas Smith
  • Martha Smith
  • Jemima Smith
  • Daniel Smith
  • John Smith

In early 1855, Jemima and William left England aboard the  Asiatic, bound for Australia – perhaps prompted by the gold rushes of the 1850s – as “assisted immigrants” (that is, people whose passage was subsidised or paid for through one of the several assisted immigration schemes which operated to New South Wales from the United Kingdom and other countries). They arrived in Sydney (or possibly Newcastle) on 25 May 1855.


They had travelled with a number of their children, but not Emma or Jane who were by this time married with families of their own. Emma married George Romans in Hounslow (then Middlesex) on 23 September 1860. Emma’s sister Jane married William Annetts on 29 May 1855 in Collingbourne Ducis.

It was Jane and William who were the next to travel to Australia. On 24 February 1857 the pair – and their two children, Mary Jane and Charles – left England. Approximately 90 days later the Herefordshire arrived in New South Wales.


Around this time a number of William Annetts’ siblings made the journey, including his brother Thomas. Thomas married Martha Smith, Jane’s sister, on Boxing Day 1864 in Gundagai, and they had 8 children before his death in October 1886.

LA HOGUE - From a painting by Jack Spurling illustrated in "SAIL: The Romance of the Clipper Ships"

LA HOGUE – From a painting by Jack Spurling illustrated in “SAIL: The Romance of the Clipper Ships”

By this time Emma, Martha’s eldest sister, and her husband George Romans and their children had arrived in Australia (on 21 October 1878 aboard the La Hogue). As you will see, 18 year old William Romans is present.


Three years after the death of her first husband, 42 year old Martha Annetts nee Smith, married her 24 year old nephew, William.

I feel that I need to reiterate that this is not a nephew-by-marriage. William was the son of Martha’s elder (half) sister, Emma. I am a firm believer in that we, sat here today, cannot truly judge the actions of our ancestors as we do not know them, their lives or their struggles. However, occasionally you come across something that truly makes you sit and wonder.

And I have to say, this is one of them. How did that happen? How was it received in the family? In the wider community? How did they overcome any ‘opposition’? Its one of the down sides of family history – especially when its half a world away! – that you’ll  never know all the answers (unless you’re incredibly lucky) … which in this instance is a crying shame.

They went on to have two daughters (bringing Martha’s total number of births up to 10 – in league with her mother and grandmother!), Albertha Muriel and Letha Marion.

Martha Smith with husband/nephew William Romans

Martha Smith with husband/nephew William Romans


It feels like I’ve dropped the ball with the blogging lately, what with holiday, post-holiday pre-work paperwork and then week one at work …


But now I have some time to myself (i.e. le weekend), I shall be writing and queuing some posts to get me through to next weekend. Probably here and at AWG too.