A Family Thing

I wrote this post last week, but then my poor old Jeffie deteriorated further and on Friday was diagnosed with liver cancer, so I’ve been concentrating on spending time with him, enjoying his company and making sure he is as comfortable as possible in his remaining days or weeks. I wanted to add another photo, but for now I’ll publish and if I find the picture I wanted, I’ll add it later.


Last week, I cashed in a Christmas gift.

When a couple has been married for thirty-eight years1, it becomes a tad harder for them to find suitable gifts for each other, so in recent years, OH and I have tended to try to find something a little different. There have been concert tickets, for instance, and one time I sent him on a cheese-making course which he thoroughly enjoyed. Often we can make these things a surprise, but sometimes we resort to asking for a list, and this last Christmas I asked to be taken to the ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ family history fair at the Birmingham NEC.

However, neither of us could have foreseen that this would be the week that poor Jeffie deteriorated to the point where we both felt it would be unfair to send him to Sharon’s for three days while we swanned off enjoying ourselves2 – even though she’s really great with the dogs and Sid used to live with her anyway – because it’s a small house and it has anywhere between eight and twelve greyhounds living in it at any one time. The poor old guy would have got knocked about and he wouldn’t have eaten, and that would have meant he’d have come home thinner and even less well. So we decided that I would go, and OH would stay home and care for the dogs.


As it turned out it was a good decision, because he had a crisis and we called the vet out today (Sunday) really thinking that it would be a case of euthanasia, which caused not a few tears. But I’m happy to say that he’s still here, and doing a bit better. He is being given medication and we’ll see how he goes over the next few days. (Please forgive the placement of the copyright notice on that one, by the way. It’s to discourage the more extreme anti-racing activists from stealing it for their propaganda. Trust me, I’ve had this happen in the past and it’s really upsetting).

So anyway, on Wednesday evening, I arrived at the hotel3 armed with the tickets, my laptop, a couple of notebooks, many pencils, and some old family photos to take to the experts for dating to give me a clue as to who the hell was in them. And Thursday morning, bright and early, I was in the door and doing the rounds.


One of my photos caused some excitement since it appeared to have been taken by a somewhat famous photographer, and while I still haven’t identified everyone who is in it, I know which regiment the man in the centre belonged to, and the approximate year range, and I know that one of the young ladies is my grandmother, and the others are great aunts (her sisters) so I can probably narrow it down. And I have some great information which should help me with some of the others, too. I did get my wrist slapped a bit for taking in a reprint of one instead of the original, because he needed to see the back to be able to tell me where and when it was taken, and of course the back of mine was a nice, clean … blank.

Then it was on to the ‘Ask The Experts’ desk to book a couple of sessions, and I’d hardly got to the front of the queue and made my bookings than it was time to find my seat in the first lecture of the day, after which I managed to look around a few stands and have some lunch before the next one began. I attended a lecture called ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably?’ on how to organise my research, and called simply ‘Parish Records’, the first of which was sobering but incredibly useful, and the second both fascinating and a little disappointing because I wanted to make notes of what was written on the slides but they were whipped away so quickly that I missed a lot.


As you can tell, it was a very, very busy day. I came away with pages of notes, some great ideas on how to proceed on several different fronts, and a huge amount of enthusiasm. The next day was the same except that I never did get to the ‘Ask The Experts’ desk to book more sessions because I had two lectures booked for the morning and early afternoon and I needed to leave by half past two to get home. I’d only booked two nights at the hotel – and, of course, I wanted to get back to my sick dog. Friday’s lectures were ‘Scottish Parish Records’, which was a much better presentation than the English one, and ‘Copyright & Family History’ which was excellent if a little daunting and I’m not sure I understood it all completely.


All in all, it was a great event and I was really very surprised not to find it more crowded and busy, though I chose to attend on the Thursday and Friday, and I’m going to assume that probably by the weekend you could barely move in there. I’ve never been to one of these things before, but I’ll go next year if I can, and next time I’ll be a whole lot better prepared. For one thing, I’ll beg or borrow an iPad instead of dragging a laptop around, I’ll sort out more (original) photos to take along, and I’ll plan my time better. Oh, and I’ll book the lectures earlier, too, because the popular ones really do fill up quickly. I never got so much as a glimpse of Tony Robinson, and I know he was giving one. That would have been fun!4

I particularly liked these 1930s tea rooms. Incidentally, you could get a lovely cup of tea and a really good Eccles cake in there!


1 Yes, I am that old. Old as dirt, as my American friends say. I’m practically an antique.

2 Well, one of us would have been enjoying ourselves. The other one would have been utterly miserable and wishing he was anywhere but the NEC. In fact at one point, I sent him a text which read ‘This is FUN! You’d have hated it’.

3 But not, as it happened, the hotel we’d booked. We arrived at the really nice, luxury hotel OH had booked only to be told that they ‘had a problem with the booking’, which roughly translated almost certainly means ‘Ooops, we double-booked and you’re the unlucky ones’. They booked us a room at another hotel which they assured us would be of comparable quality, but was it heck as like. It was the Novotel at Birmingham Airport. Clean, reasonably comfortable but with toilet paper which appeared to have been made from recycled MacDonald’s drinks trays and about ten inches between the bed and the wall to slide along in order to get into the damn thing. Oh, and peculiar things like windows that opened, but with a notice on them which said in capital letters ‘DO NOT OPEN THIS WINDOW’ and three light switches between the toilet and the bathroom which you would think operated the lights for those rooms plus the little entrance area but which in fact did not. One of them worked the bedroom lights, while the bathroom switch was in the bedroom area. It was nearer to the NEC though, so it wasn’t all bad.

4 Although I’d have sat there grinning and thinking ‘I’m watching Baldrick giving a lecture on family history!’

9 thoughts on “A Family Thing

  1. Carol 25th April 2015 / 2:49 pm

    I’m glad you were able to get away for your conference but sad for poor old Jeffie. You deserved the break.
    Ha! You think you’re old – had I stayed married to my first, we would have been married 57 years next month (we married VERY young). Then again, had I stayed married to my first, stress would have taken me out years ago.

  2. Elaine 25th April 2015 / 2:53 pm

    So sorry about Jeffie!!! You know that.

    On a happier note, I’m more than a little jealous that you were able to go the Fair. Do you have any idea how much I would have loved to have gone with you? I buy their magazine all the time, which by the way costs a fortune in Canada, so I knew about it. Sounds like it was wonderful. Listening to Baldrick giving a lecture on family history would have been the icing on the cake!! Yet another reason I want to move to England. 🙂

  3. Valerie Daggatt 26th April 2015 / 11:23 am

    So sorry to hear that Jeffie has deteriorated. It’s hard, isn’t it, when our beloved animals suffer. I didn’t know what was on at the NEC but did wonder why there were so many people around. Sounds like a good show with lots to interest everyone.

  4. Rob Lenihan 28th April 2015 / 12:30 am

    I’m so sorry about Jeffie, Jay. This must be a terribly painful time for you and your family.

    Still, this event sounds fascinating and I’m glad you were able to go. I’ve been meaning to do some research into my family’s history, so you’re inspiring to stop talking and start doing.

  5. nick 28th April 2015 / 11:01 am

    The exhibition would have bored me to tears too. Not my sort of thing at all. But I think I would have enjoyed the 1939 tearooms. Very sedate and genteel and no doubt some delicious traditional cream teas to be had!

    Sorry to hear the news about Jeffie. I hope he’s not in too much pain.

  6. jeannine 2nd May 2015 / 7:48 pm

    Sounds great fun!! (What does NEC stand for though? Something genealogy related…) Do you know if parish records are ever online anywhere? Are they being digitized?? Still need to come over there for genealogy research…

  7. liz 10th May 2015 / 7:19 pm

    And were they 30s prices in the tea rooms?!

    So sorry to hear about Jeffie. Always painful to lose a pet but I’m glad you had such a good time (barring hotel).

  8. Secret_Agent_Woman 11th May 2015 / 7:36 pm

    Sounds like a really interesting event. But I’m so sorry about your pup – it’s so hard to watch them decline like that.

  9. genjiscorner 30th May 2015 / 12:37 pm

    Oh, Jeffie. Hang in there. Oh, I hate it when hotels or airlines overbook.

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