#14 – Research my family genealogy.

In my constant quest to get good post I sent away for a DNA Collection Kit from 23AndMe. I don’t know much about my family history. My paternal grandfather was born and raised in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. He never really shared a lot about what happened to him understandably. I know it was quite a hard thing to go through. He never spoke to us directly about it but he did eventually write about it. He was my last surviving grandparent so when he passed away, it left me with all these questions about where I came from. I thought I would eventually get round to addressing this.
I was actually contacted a year ago by a distant cousin, based in Holland. She had a lot of history on the family and was able to share pictures of my great great-grandfather and the Schiernecker family from the 1920s and earlier.
I have an ongoing conversation with my brothers about Britishness and what it means to be British. I describe myself as being a mongrel child of Europe. My brother is quite set in thinking he is British, which is ridiculous. Nobody is British, especially us.

The kit consists of a small pot that at first I thought meant I had to give myself a blood test. I had to go thirty minutes without food or drink which was a struggle as I had celebrated opening the box by eating a pack of Hula Hoops. I had to spit to the fill line, which they advise is two to six minutes of spitting. I then had to ship the box back, ironically, to the Netherlands.

They then send you a test result back with a percentage breakdown for each country. Before I start, I would guess that I am a quarter Dutch and there’s some Germany in there. On my paternal grandmother’s side they are English but I’ve recently been told there is some Jewish heritage in there. My mum’s family is Jewish so I guess there are eastern European links there, maybe something Israeli originally. I think it’ll be a real hotchpotch of stuff in there.

So, five weeks later I got my results through. This was following a weird incident where I took the spit speciment out to a fancy London bar and had my bag checked. I digress.

It’s quite interesting looking at what I said before and what the results showed:

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-13-35-48 screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-13-35-36Now I’m going to assume that the 17.8% Broadly Northwestern European is going to be Dutch based on what I know of my family history.

I had to look up Ashkenazi Jewish. It’s basically the Eastern European Jewish community who spoke Hebrew and Yiddish. It’s cool to see because I’ve always been interested in my ancestry, particularly my Jewish heritage. More than anything else that’s what I am composed of. I think my father’s side is the split and my mother’s is just Jew. Jew down the line.

I also got a list of famous people who are in the same Haplogroup on my mother’s side:
screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-13-39-33Imagine them at a dinner party.
It would explain some of the bumbling nonsense that comes out of my family that we are related to Prince Philip I guess.

There are also family traits:
screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-13-41-37This is all above board. I can confirm my ear wax is wet.
My eye colour changes. It’s sort of blue and green and grey. A lovely little Spirograph.
I also have <1% chance of having red hair and am likely to smoke more if I am a smoker.

I am 2.5% neanderthal which is lower than the average of 2.7%. This makes sense as I have a higher brow, narrow shoulders, taller than average.

So I guess the point of all this is that’s what makes up me and my brothers. If you go back then that’s who my dad is and on the other side, the Jewish side, is my mum. I would be interested to get both of them to do it to see what they have given me, aside from being pretty awesome parents.

Just remember, when we are threatening to leave Europe, that we are all from Europe, or further afield and there’s nothing wrong with that. We can all exist together. There’s not some ulterior motive in people that makes them want to be here. We have it pretty good. We are pretty fucking lucky. You’re talking about people who are related to you. You’re talking about people who are only split off from yourself by a couple of generations.
People say that charity begins at home. What is closer to home than the planet we inhabit?

Lovely nostalgia.

What a weekend of lovely nostalgia.

I was lucky enough to have two of my childhood fantasy universes descend before my eyes. I am talking of course about the wizarding world of Harry Potter and a galaxy far, far away.

Now before I continue, I am going to offer up a warning and the chance for people to run for the hills if they are worried I am about to spoil anything. I hate having films ruined for me and do what I can to make sure they are not ruined for others. I’m trying to write with a broad brush in order to sugest some of the things I am excited at without directly ruining it ahead of a good viewing.

On Saturday I saw Rogue One with my fellow gentlemen George and Benjy. We met first for brunch which was basically lunch as it was after twelve. I need to give a shout out to Kelsey for a free meal.
We took the backseat of the cinema so we could all feel one another up in the joyous dark side and then the lights descended. The first thing I noted is that the upcoming feature from Illumination, Sing, looks like the worst pile of shit I’ve ever had the discomfort of sitting through. And that’s really saying something because I’ve seen Frozen. The Batman Lego movie on the other hand looks brilliant and I am hoping my godsons want to see it so I have a cover for going to see it.

Now, Star Wars.
So good.
So many feels.
There’s a part of me that is filled with a stomach-flipping childlike joy whenever I see the words “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”, It just gets me. It makes me feel.

The characters are all developed and rogueish which is fitting for the title. There are loads of lovely little nods to the original trilogy, there are cameos aplenty and the mixture of real effects and CGI works really nicely. The story is entirely separate from anything covered in the Skywalker character-led films but obviously leads into A New Hope. It’s just a well-crafted and fun film. I couldn’t have asked for anything else.

Like a lot of people, I had concerns when Disney took over the franchise but if it means they will be bringing me a new film in the Star Wars universe once a year then I am all for it. Marvel are following a similar model and absolutely smashing it so why not do the same with Star Wars.

Yesterday I saw Fantastic Beasts which has already been out for a month but shows no sign of being pulled from my local picture house.
It’s set in the wizarding world but some seventy years before Harry Potter and his little mates were fooling around round the back of the owl sheds. Instead it follows the adorable Newt Scamander as he gets a ship over to New York for some reason.
The film does well to not talk down or oversell the idea and again there are a number of cute nods to everything we knew and loved about the seven books and eight films which made The Boy Who Lived a bearable character. I’m pretty sure Newt was wearing a Hufflepuff scarf.

The fantastic beasts themselves were cute or terrifying in equal ,measures and a lot was done to establish them in the way they were featured in Newt’s book, as published several years ago by Rowling for Comic Relief. The idea that the series is going to be extended over five films is interesting given the thin volume that was the original source material but In JK We Trust.
The important thing to take from this is that it is important to cultivate your childish joy in life. Both Harry potter and Star Wars were key to my development into the fine young man you see before you. I will always have a place for them in my heart and it is good to see them being so well cared for.

Pixies | Live in Brixton

Not that you asked, and I’mma let you finish, but Doolittle is one of the greatest albums of all time. It can probably only be topped, to my mind, by Revolver, I’m Wide Awake and Transformer. It’s amazing. I was settled on the fact I would never get to hear the songs of Doolittle, or see Pixies live, until last night.

Before I go any further, it’s important to mention that I am currently recovering from a hernia operation I had last week. I was told on a number of occasions that I shouldn’t go to the gig because I could pop my stitches. What a rock ‘n’ roll way to go though. I stood at the back with the dads.

I went to see Pixies with my friend James, who as it turns out, isn’t very good at London. I had to go and collect him from Bank and see him safely through to Brixton so we could see the band. We got there just in time for the main act and shouldered our way through the bald patches and paunches in order to watch the band come on.

I love going to gigs with James. He absolutely loves music and you can see the joy on his face as a band launch into the songs he had been waiting on. To our right were two men who looked like the bullies from Hocus Pocus who take Max’s shoes. They took a lot of drugs.

Ahead of us were a group of dads who were reliving their youth. One of them looked dangerously old. When he backed out through the crowd, they parted like a sea and he road a Stannah stairlift to the toilets. He looked like Scorsese.

The band were absolutely phenomenal. We got so excited each time they played something from Doolittle. Obviously everything else is great but Doolittle live. Boom!

Pixies were one of the few remaining bands on my To See list who aren’t actually dead. It made me very happy to catch them. 

Pixies played:
Bone Machine
Monkey Gone To Heaven
Bel Esprit
Something Against You
Broken Face
Might As Well Be Gone
Gouge Away
Isla De Encanta
Um Chagga Lagga
Where Is My Mind?
All The Saints
Wave Of Mutilation
Gouge Away
La La Love You
All I Think About Now
Classic Masher
Tenement Song
Magdalena 318
No. 13 Baby
Rock Music
Baal’s Back
Crackity Jones
Into The White



The first rule of book club is…

In a weird twist of fate, I was asked a couple of months ago how I felt about a book group selecting one of my books to read. Understandably, I said I would be delighted. As the group was purely women I suggested Yallah! as being my most open and appropriate book for the audience. My other stuff is a bit too male-led and hideous in places. I was invited initially by Gina, a friend and colleague who is also a writer. I will often drop by her desk for a chat about books, mental health and anything else we feel like discussing.The group leader, Suzanne, read the opening chapter and said she would love for them to not only read the book but to also have me as a special guest at their meet up to discuss it.
The best part was I wouldn’t even need to put in for the lunchtime buffet they were ordering.

It was still with some trepidation that I headed off to the meeting with both Gina and Michelle, who had also picked up Yallah and decided to join the group. I felt nervous as we entered the pub and walked straight through to the back room, wondering if I should get a drink first. The room was full of women. They were everywhere. As soon as we walked in, their collective gaze turned and I was terrified and enthralled all at once.

We started with food while Suzanne waxed lyrical about my writing style and the content of Yallah. She had purposely brought hummus to make me feel more comfortable. Every step of the way I was surprised by how much they knew about me. It made sense because they had read a book about me and my thoughts on my experiences. It still felt strange.

After we had dined on fine vegetarian cuisine the questions started coming. They wanted to know more about the trip and the people I had trekked with. They wanted to know more about Alan the camel. They wanted to know if Saaid and Omar were as much fun as they had seemed. If the food had been as good as I had made it out to be in the book. What it had been like to walk so far in such heat. I started to relax and in the end I had a really good time.

I was amazed with the way they connected with my writing. I originally wrote Yallah to serve as a reminder of the first trek I ever took part in. The idea of it being accessible outside of that group amazed me.

We posed for photographs together and they said they would be interested in reading more of my work. I felt like a celebrity. They told me I was an old soul and we had a number of deep conversations about spirituality.

I cannot tell you how incredible it was to sit with them and talk to them about what we went through in the Sahara. It was an incredible and surreal experience and one I will never forget. I would like to thank the Wormettes for taking the time to read my work and for inviting me to join them.

They are total sweethearts.