27 February 2017

GP Surgery Blues (or Yellows)

Sitting in the GP's surgery is not a barrel of laughs. My local surgery has four doctors and one nurse, so at any one time there is usually at least eight or ten patients (with or without family members) waiting to be seen. Most avoid eye contact and, because they are generally unwell, they have a world-weary look about them that suggests they are on their last. The silence is  only perforated by the ring of the telephones and the two receptionists' whispered comments to the caller.

The only entertainment  is a handful of well-thumbed magazines (vintage 2015) and an electronic wall screen reminding you to switch off your mobile phone, how to recognise the signs of  meningitis, how to treat a loved one with dementia or avoid malaria if going abroad. Like I say, not a barrel of laughs.

Of course, the wall screen has the main function of flashing up the patient's name and directing you to the right consulting room, but in between, the list of dreary reminders about dementia, malaria and meningitis pop up on continuous loop. God knows why, but I always make a point of getting to  the surgery far too early  - about 10 or even 15 minutes before my appointment. I don't like to be late for anything and the wait allows me to compose myself and get my brain into gear. But even once I've seen the adverts, turned off my mobile, taken stock of who I think is ahead of me in the queue, I've still got time to fry an omelette.

Image result for doctors waiting room
courtesy of gponline.com

This morning was different. Entertainment-wise, that is. There was a young woman with a little girl around the age of two or possibly three with an adorable face and her long hair scraped back into two jaunty bunches. They sat down in the row in front of me. The ads continued to flash on the screen. 

"It's my name," said the little girl pointing quite excitedly.

"No," said the mother "it's an advert. That's not your name."

The screen flashed to another ad.

"It's my name now," said the little one again, jumping up and down on her seat and pointing animatedly. 

"No, it's not," said the mother with a world-weary tone.

"It's my name now," shouted the little girl, as the screen changed yet again.

"Look," said the mum, "when the doctor calls you it's black writing on a yellow  background. Look out for the yellow." 

A few people smirked. Just then, a blue and white screen gave advice on how to stop smoking.

"It's my name" said the little girl, pointing vigorously.

By now a few people in the room were trying very hard to smile without moving their face muscles.

"I told you to look for the yellow background with black writing. Is that yellow?"

The little girl looked sternly as if she was trying to visualise yellow.

Then the screen showed the meningitis ad again - on a yellow background.


The whole waiting erupted into giggles. 

I tell you, the surgery ought to employ that little girl. She brought a smile to everyone's face and best of all got every  body talking!

16 February 2017

Branching Out

I rarely make new year's resolutions but this year I was determined to make this the year I stop saying I haven't got time to do things. One of those things is to research the family tree. So in the first week of January, to give me an incentive, I signed up to and paid for two online ancestry websites and started to beaver away into the Alcoholic Daze family history. It has been labour-intensive but fascinating. On at least two whole days for every week since I have been glued to the internet researching.

I have a box full of some rough paperwork I have gathered over the years - jottings of conversations with  close relatives, photos with captions on the back, addresses, letters - all in a muddle and a heap. I systematically started to divide it all up into my side of the family and my husband's side. Then for each side I subdivided material into maternal side and paternal side.

I started with my mother's side. I have a lot of information on this part of the family and still have my mother around to ask any questions, if need be - or so I thought. However my 93-year-old mum now has lapses in her memory, it seems, and cannot even recall the name of the hospital I was born in, so obviously she is no longer a reliable source for anything or anyone even further back in history.

My paternal side will need a bit more thought as those records stem from Germany. Maybe I need to go out there for a holiday to research them. Yes, I shall book a flight some time.

My first realisation is that the material available online is not totally reliable. For example my maternal grandmother was called Elsie but the census online shows her as Elni. I knew I had the right person because all the parents' and sibling details on the census are correct. However, when I compared the original hand-written census where her name was clearly "Elsie" with the later typed-up version, it had become "Elni". Another relative who has the name Armstrong as a middle was clearly shown as Armstrong in the handwritten version but shown in the typed version as Arabella. I am sure HE would not have been happy about that! My daughter reckons they use electronic readers to transpose the handwritten versions into typed versions and the electronics go a bit haywire sometimes. You're not kidding. 

Another problem is finding the correct dates. For relatives I know well, I may know the exact date of their birth but even this is not straightforward. My mother-in-law, for example, was born in late 1925, but her birth was not registered until 1926, so in researching ancestors back in the 1800s, I am not entirely sure I have found the right birth or death dates or even the right person as there can be hundreds of John Smiths and surprisingly as many Edith Hedleys (which you would think much rarer). How to know for sure that you have the right one? It is only recently that mothers' maiden names have been added to the birth certificates, so before that there is no way of being sure you have the right John Smith unless you cough up £10 each time to receive a copy of the actual certificate. It can get quite expensive.

The last few weeks I have concentrated on Greg's side of the family, as I was invited up to my sister-in-law for a special occasion last weekend and wanted to take some f my research to show them. I have found some interesting things and interesting professions on their side of the family.Even two sets of cousins marrying over two generations. I've gone as far back as the late 1700s and am now working out how to go further back still.

I am getting a lot of fun out of this and it will be something to leave the next generation. The sad thing is that when we are young, we don't really give a toss about our ancestors and it is only when living relatives pass away, that we wish we had asked more. I intend to leave plenty of records so that Kay and her cousins can have this information to hand, when they feel ready to ask those questions.

Look up this link to a video clip from BBC's Who Do You Think You Are when actor Danny Dyer (who plays pub landlord in  our long-running soap Eastenders) finds out who his ancestor is. The look on his face is priceless.