About Me/Us/This Blog

I’ve started this blog in order to combine two other blogs, one about my writing and the other about my gardening exploits, and to also put a bit out there about the historical research I do and ,well, life in general.

But why a blog? Well, as far as the gardening goes it acts like a diary, so I can look back at the year and see what I did and when and whether it worked or not, and also to share techniques and ideas. The writing side of it keeps me motivated and the research, which I do voluntarily for the local library, as well as my own genealogy endeavours, is something that needs sharing. The voluntary research is all about the men, and a few women, from my local town of Beverley, in East Yorkshire, who served in the first world war. There are quite a few volunteers, and quite a lot of men to research. Interesting things get turned up all the time, some sad and some quite shocking.

A blog also helps me remember things. I have a terrible memory due to suffering from PTSD, caused by the traumatic loss of first my youngest daughter who took her own life in 2012 at the age of fourteen and then, less than a year later, my wife who passed away suddenly.

I suppose I also want people to see what I am up to, and in doing so that I am coping. Not long after my wife passed away I met someone else and eventually remarried. Unfortunately that relationship was formed when I was in a bad place and turned out to be a big mistake. Thankfully I was given a course of a brilliant treatment called EMDR, and all the horrible stuff in my head is under control. In fact, since my second wife and I split, I feel physically and emotionally better than I have in years.

So here I am, single dad to a grown up daughter and young son. We have a dog, half a dozen chickens, a large garden with a polytunnel, fruit trees and bushes and a full sized allotment. Life, as they say, is looking up.

As well as the research, writing and gardening, I love to read, mostly fantasy and science fiction, bake, cook and preserve, preferably with home grown produce, forage, walk, play computer games (I love Elder Scrolls and Fallout), and watch DVD box sets accompanied by dark chocolate and a glass or two of red wine or real ale.

About the Gardening

Gardening will be a big part of this blog. Not only do I have a large garden and polytunnel, I also have a large allotment. This means that, for the most part, the vast majority of our vegetables are home grown and for most of the year, thanks to having chickens, we don’t buy any eggs. I also have a couple of apple trees and plans to put more fruit into the garden.

At the moment of writing this, early January, I have in the storage shed (an 8ft x 6ft shed), apples, potatoes, squash, garlic and onions and a huge quantity of jams and preserves (mostly pickled beetroot). The potatoes won’t quite see us through to the next crop, nor will the apples, but the onions and garlic definitely will and I doubt I’ll ever buy a jar of jam again. By the time the growing season is out we’ll have been eating any standard type of vegetable you can think of (within reason) and a few unusual ones too and the storage shed will, hopefully, be bursting at the seams.

It saves a fortune on the shopping bill, especially as I try to grow as much as I can from seed and tend to either buy as cheap as I can or get it for free.

Coming projects on the gardening front will be creating a new herb bed in the garden and putting more fruit trees and bushes in, making the front garden low maintenance with the planting of shrubs and growing some ground cover and experimenting with grow lights. Though I can guarantee I’ll come up with plenty of other things to try out as well as the usual digging and planting.

About the Writing

I’ve been writing, both short stories and novels, since I was a kid. I got a typewriter when I was about 17 and an Amstrad PCW, running Locoscript, at about 19. These days I use a nice free program called Jarte and write in .RTF files, have written a piece of mapping software to help me worldbuild and have a website devoted to all my self published titles (see link above, somewhere).

I write, for the most part, fantasy and, occasionally, science fiction. I submit to magazines and several novels have done the rounds of agents and publishers, but it’s a hard business to get into and so all of my work, so far, is self published. Not that that stops me from trying and I’m sending work out all the time.

Any blog posts concerned with writing will be pretty general in nature. I won’t discuss specific plots or update on progress on a particular piece over much, as I’ll be busy writing it.

About the Research

The research is both fun and fascinating and comes in two parts, for me. The first part, and the most personal, is genealogy, or family history. Up to now the vast majority of my ancestors seem to have come from the East Riding (I am very much a Yorkshireman), with a few connections to Wiltshire and Norfolk, and so spend a lot of time in the local archives. I also utilise Ancestry.com and Find My Past a great deal. Ancestry is great for recording everything I find, census searches and military records, and Find My Past is brilliant for newspaper searches, parish records, education records and, for some reason, anything military that eludes Ancestry, such as WW1 service records, can often turn up there.

The second part is the research of WW1 lives, those local men who fought in the Great War. These men all appeared in a publication called Green’s Almanac, which in turn took photographs of men that had been printed in local newspapers. For our research we are given a simple photograph and perhaps a caption that might give their name and rank, sometimes their regiment, sometimes whether they were wounded, captured or killed, and now and then the street they lived on and perhaps their next of kin.

Using this snippet of information we have to research as much about these men as we possibly can. This usually involves much of the work I would do when studying family history, searching Commonwealth War Graves, census records, finding births and baptisms, looking at marriages and so on. Many service records were destroyed during the second world war but some do turn up, as do medal rolls and sometimes obituaries, war diaries, newspaper articles and monumental inscriptions (headstones). These all serve to give a picture of the person’s family and early life, what they did in the war and, if they managed to survive the horror of the trenches, what they did afterwards. Now and then a life will give rise to another who didn’t appear in Green’s Almanac. I once research a soldier and found that not only he was in the war, but also four of his brothers and his father. All six of them survived by some miracle.

Once complete the research is made publicly available and, with any luck, their descendants will be able to see what these men and women did and went through. I’ll also start posting my findings on this blog.

Any Questions?

If you have any, then drop me a line or leave a comment. I like to talk about gardening and writing and would love to hear from fellow genealogists. I don’t mind talking about the PTSD either if anyone feels the need, or even my wife and daughter, but it makes for uncomfortable conversation if you’ve not been there.