Sunday, March 19, 2017

Who Am I?

My Great Aunt Joy (Auntie Joy to one and all) passed away two years ago. Her money was split between my Mum's generation. Her household effects were quickly sold. Her real treasure though, other than her cat who moved in with my Uncle Graham, was her collection of photos and family history which ended up in my loft.

We gave her no end of trouble over her constant demands for photos at even the most informal of family gatherings. She was the butt of many, albeit gentle, jokes. But her collections of 1000s of photos not only record her meticulous garden and her beloved pet cats from 1950 to 2015. It also records a nearly perfect timeline of our family over that same period. Babies are born. Waistlines grow. "Extras" appear (and disappear). It is wonderful to flick through.

I've taken the responsibility of "owning" these records very seriously and have begun scanning each album and every box of slides so I can keep a record online (first on Facebook but now also on a special website made by Jim) so every member of the family has the same access as I do.

Here I am at my Nan's 60th birthday in 1998. Despite this table being for the "outcasts" (my Grandad left my Nan in the late 70s and this was his first meeting with her since then) I made a bee-line for it as I was suffering a serious case of hero worship of my newly met Grandad (a very intelligent man who suffered from a total lack of focus) and also his son Uncle Derek (only 4 years older than me, he was thus the closest thing to an older brother I'd ever met) who I'd spent a week staying with the month before.

And we've not just got a record of "our" family but of the two generations before our family on Auntie Joy's side, my great and great great grandfamilies. Birthday books from the 1800s. Photos of weddings long forgotten. Trophies belonging to my great-grandad (a fantastic runner).

Here is my great grandparents, the Waters, wedding day in Upchurch, Kent with their parents, the Waters and Witherdens, and assorted family members in 1928.

All this work has spurred on my work on my family tree. I've taken an Ancestry DNA test which has helped me immediately move back on my Kay family branch. I've found the Kay family were a working class family from Darwen, Lancashire who appear to have been there for over a century prior to my great-great grandad Harold meeting his wife in South Africa (I assume he was there for the Boer War but how Nellie got there, I don't know) and getting dragged back to her home in Kent.

Despite my Ancestry results suggesting I'm only a mere 9% British, I've yet to find anything exciting in my trees. Agricultural labourers for the most part with moves into industry (especially paper mills both in Darwen and in Kent) once the industrial revolution had finished its work. And on the Witherden side an interesting but as yet unexplored reoccuring Royal Marines theme.

What's the point? I don't really know. It's a like a great game, a puzzle and each time I find a piece or put a face to a name I get a little thrill. And in the face of relentlessly idiotic nationalism it is nice to know that Europhiles like me have just as strong a claim to the British identity as those who want to pull up the drawbridge.

And the best thing I've seen is this... my family have always LOVED their pets. Carefully noted in each family album is the name of every pet. They are seen in almost every outdoors informal photo. And even one of the earliest formal photos of the Witherden family from before the First World War, there's the family dog and their cat too. Pets are our constant companions come what may...

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sometimes They Come Back

It has been a long time since I wrote to you, Dear Constant Reader. Too long. I'm sorry. You are the most patient of listeners, but I think I've pushed your patience to its limit this time. You've probably forgotten who I am!

So it is 2017. I'm 33. I still live with Jim in a barn in Eastry. I still work for TVW in Folkestone (and now often Hatfield). Mr Gibbs the Bearded Dragon has sadly passed away this month. Ayden the Tamaskan maintains his position on HIS sofa (unless Jeff or Bella want it...). Jeff the Maine Coon has quickly risen through the ranks and is now Supreme Overlord of Eastry, Woodnesborough and Worth. And there's a new pet added to the menagerie since last we chatted, Bella Wella. She's a rescue dog and she's the new deputy boss. No one can top Jeff for bossiness, Bella's tried but he has a remarkable ability to ignore her. She's definitely second in command now however.

Workwise I received another promotion last year. Major changes have been going on now since December last year and I think the stress of facing them each day has really not been good for me. Just as I allowed myself to be railroaded to University without deciding if that was what I really wanted, I've let myself be railroaded into positions over the last 3 years that haven't made me happy. I'm trying to change that now.

Country-wise, after Brexit, Trumpageddon and last night's abysmal Eurovision: You Decide, I've decided to simply pretend I'm German.

And, most importantly, Jim wise... after a wonderful Christmas break in Wales we returned home on a Thursday. On the Friday Jim had a heart attack. I'd tell you about how scary that experience was for me, but I suspect my feelings on the matter pale into insignificance in comparison with Jim's. The paramedics who came to his rescue and the staff at the William Harvey Hospital were fantastic and saved Jim's life that day. Without their assistance I'd have lost my entire world. I can't ever thank them enough. He has been resting up for the last three weeks at home and hopefully his recovery will continue without hiccups.

There's nothing like a sobering emergency to remind me of just how important Jim is.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Goodbye Auntie Joy

Auntie Joy passed away on the 23rd January 2015. She was my great-aunt, my maternal Nan's older sister, and a central member of our family. She was famous for her love of photography, gardening and cats. She especially loved mixing up those loves so as a child I, and my cousins, would be posed around the garden as she took huge numbers of photos of us. Avoiding Auntie Joy and her camera was a family sport at any gathering and one our pet cats turned into an art form but such attempts at escape were ultimately futile...

Both my Mum's generation and my own remember playing with Auntie Joy's button box, her viewfinders and attempting to avoid her very scary "room of dolls" (a room I had to go in on the day she passed away as we gathered up important paper work... it was still creepy...).

Thanks to Auntie Joy's extremely careful "tidy hoarding" (as my Nan was quoted as calling it in the eulogy today) our family has an extremely valuable (when measured in terms of "love" anyway) historical record... from her family tree research, through her labelled and organised photo albums dealing with every important event in our lives to things she'd kept that belonged to her parents, our great-grandparents, which are truly touching.

She has kept letters dating back to the 40s (mainly to famous people of the time, she was obviously a fan of many!), diaries for every year of the last 70 and one very big hole in all our lives.

The funeral was today at the Medway Crematorium. It was full of talk of Jesus and eternal life but the only bit that really had me slightly tearful was the description of her given by the rector, which summed her up so perfectly. A shy, intelligent and caring lady with staunch royalist heart and a devotion to cats and flowers. We'll always remember her.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Ayden The Tamaskan Turns 3!

Today is Ayden's birthday! 3 years old and still looking wolfy. I think he is one of the best purchases we've ever made, and has brought so much happiness into our lives. Here are just a few of my favourite Ayden photos.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A New Cat In Our Life

Yesterday we (Jim, Ian, Ayden and I) awoke early for what would be a very long day. After dropping Ayden off at New Romney with Chris and then dropping Ian home in Hemel Hempstead Jim and I headed up north to Preston. Our mission was to collect the latest addition to our household: Jefferson the Maine Coon.

Our mission was going very well until Keele service station when we got stuck behind a wide load leading to an hour and a half of traffic jams. It was unpleasant but we got to Preston just a little after 1pm. Jefferson's breeders had a house choke full of extremely beautiful and friendly Maine Coon's. Whilst he attempt to hide behind a sofa we made a fuss of his delightful Mum. When we moved to another room to see his Dad (a very handsome fellow), his Mum followed us, jumped up on a cat tree and gave me a quick swat on the back insisting I return to stroking her chin!

Jefferson was in the cat carrier without any issue and we headed home. He meowed for about 5 minutes before becoming the most well-behaved kitten or cat I've ever had in a car! He was an absolute angel. 

We stopped off at Mum's, Jefferson escaped and hid under a cabinet then we collected an unsuspecting Ayden from Chris'. Stopped off at the Golden Bowl in Hythe for a takeaway then we headed home. Tired and exhausted we stayed up a little while to keep an eye on an extremely nervous Jefferson!

This morning I came down and though he remained extremely wary he had used his litter tray (an awesome cat, I'm telling you!) He agreed to a few belly rubs on the sofa so I think he is coming round. His purring is tremendous!!!

Ayden is being very good around him but Jefferson is not so sure about Ayden. I'm sure he'll grow to tolerate him in time.

Nearly 10 years since I left my home and my Angel cat (who at 15 is still pottering around Lympne flitting between families!). Finally, I have a cat again. Or a cat has me anyway. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

13 Years Of Blogging... Yes It Is Another Blogaversary

My oh my Dearest Constant Reader. We've been together for 13 years now! Sheesh... tempus fugit and all that rubbish.

It all started here. We've had a few adventures since then haven't we?

There was the post about my first, and last, game of "Nervous" at university. Remember that time I nearly killed myself in Italy? My first dumping (at a fairly decent age though considering my naughty history). Then there was the time my first date with Jim just got an "also ran" mention on my Livejournal. Then there was the time Jim made me chase after some sex workers in Prague and I fell in love with him. Then came a crazy period from 2005 - 2008 of living in London, working at Euroffice and having the time of my life with Jim (Prague again, Warsaw, San Francisco, Bangkok and Thailand twice) (summarised as part of my "2000 Posts" celebration)

And what about popular posts? My oddly popular Brent Corrigan post, my blog on the Oak Island Money Pit, the surprisingly influential look at the differences between marriage and civil partnerships, my look at the first few issues of DC's New 52, the time I was all proud of my sexuality and the real winner... Giant Spiders which was written in seconds (and you can tell) but got tens of thousands of hits.

My blogs have somehow got themselves into letter pages, newspapers, a boost from WWE when people were encouraged to search for "Randy Orton gay" and have waxed and waned over the years.

But, Dear Constant Reader, I always return here. My personal blog may not get many posts any more but I tend to find that there is a direct inverse correlation between number of blog posts and my mental well-being. Thanks for being there when I needed you, and I know you'll be there in the future too.  

Now on to the obligatory Charles Dera pic... Traditions must be kept!!

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Been A Long Time

Life is... different.

I'm a manager now at TVW, with my own team of people. I no longer live in Folkestone. Jim and I have a hot tub. Things are getting very domestic (in the good way not the boring way). It is very odd.

My promotion remains a little over wealming 5 months on. I'm sure I'll get used to it eventually but sheesh there is a lot to do!

Moving from Folkestone was not as painful as I thought. Folkestone is not only my place of work and the place I grew up. It is the "literal" place of my dreams. My whole life my dreams have always dwelt on the places around Folkestone I know best. Moving away again and having to return to commuting was a daunting, but necessary, prospect. But it has not only be less painful that I imagined but it has been pretty damn awesome. Eastry is a beautiful place. Seeing birds and animals I've not seen in years (and in the case of the green woodpeckers who are besotted by the ants in our garden, I've never seen!), being able to take nice long walks with Ayden and just having a house surrounded by orchards; it is a fantastic village.

And the commute is far less annoying that I imagined. The worst bit is the 10 minute wait for the bus on the way home in Sandwich. Doesn't even compare in terms of awfulness to the old Greenwich to Hammersmith commute in London.

And our house is worth any commute. A converted barn with plenty of space and a large drive and patio area with only two neighbours. We have a hot tub outside our front room which Jim spent two weeks bringing back into service (he's also now done a fab job with our outside lights).

It is pretty mind-blowing to have gone from living in the middle of Folkestone above a shop with no garden to living in the middle of the countryside with plenty of space and a hot tub to relax in after work. I'm sure none of us expected this Dear Constant Reader!!  


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Jae's Eurovision 2014 Faves

Oh Dear Constant Reader, I've been very lax about Eurovision (and about keeping you updated, sorry!).

I was pretty saddened by the results of the semi-finals with many of my faves missing out to some truly appalling entries *cough* Poland *cough*. But perhaps there is a silver lining in that this means this year's UK entry has less intense competition!

And for once, excusing Scooch who I had to love because... well... they were Scooch, the UK entry is officially my favourite song of the contest!

Molly's "Children of the Universe" 

I also liked Finland's entry. Very pop.

Softengine - "Something Better"

Though Austria's entry, very popular on Twitter, didn't do it for me on the night of the 2nd semi-final those songs I much preferred were mostly eliminated and thus the fact it was well sung wins it some brownie points.

Conchita Wurst - "Rise Like A Phoenix"

I am generally a big fan of Ukraine's Eurovision songs. This year is no different, the stage act seems to reuse a set piece from "Be My Valentine!"

Maria Yaremchuk - "Tick - Tock"

She wasn't my pick from Melodifestivalen but Sanna Nielsen's "Undo" has grown on me. One of the best songs at this year's contest.

Sanna Nielsen - "Undo" 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Year Of Grown-Up Things Continues

Well... Jim, Ayden, Mr Gibbs and I are moving. This month we (well Jim and I, Ayden stayed in the car and we thought taking Mr Gibbs would be overkill) paid a visit to a gorgeous barn conversion in Eastry (quite a bit north of Folkestone and Dover but NOT Thanet) and fell in love with it. It is absolutely lovely and we said we wanted to rent it as soon as the tour had finished. We will likely be moving away from Folkestone around 28th March.

The 4 years in Folkestone town centre have been good. After I got my old job back at TVW my commute was reduced to a 25 minute walk each way which was perfect for my anti-social side and for listening to podcasts/audiobooks. Being close to Sainsbury's and other shops were also awesomely convenient but we never really settled here. Folkestone is, and always will be, my home town. But hopefully Eastry will be a good move for us.

I have concerns, such as a rather longer and more "weather dependent" commute, but the new house is so nice that a little reduction in my quality of life is more than acceptable.

The move will also allow us to get a cat! We're looking to get a Maine Coon, fingers crossed we find one soonish!

My new position at work is going well so far. It is a little stressful but worthwhile. I'm looking after a lovely team of people and hopefully we can achieve great things together. Though some of them are making me feel OLD.

Speaking of which... with the packing begun I've already begun unearthy artifacts from the early days of this blog. Newspaper clippings, old diaries, the keys to Block 33, tickets to France and many other nostalgic things. And with today being the 15th anniversary of Queer as Folk and my 16th Gayaversary being on Thursday it is turning into a right trip down memory lane in my head right now. Why else do you think I'm here, Dear Constant Reader?

I suppose I could turn over a new leaf when I move and start updating you a bit more regularly on the goings on in my life. This year is the 13th year of blogging here. 13 years!!! Absolutely mad.

Ooo... Eurovision countdown can start now I suppose. I'll take a look at the current entries and see whether it is worth it...

Saturday, January 04, 2014

2014: The Year Of Grown-Up Things

As you know, Dear Constant Reader, I'm basically a 6'8" child. I'm rubbish at serious relationships (how Jim has put up with me for what will be 10 years this year, I don't know), think getting toys as presents is still cool and I read comic books. In public places. 

Here I am, 30 years old and this year is already shaping up to be that long awaited year where GROWN-UP THINGS loom. The inevitability of this moment doesn't take away from the deeply upsetting feelings it creates. I don't want to grow up! 

In February I start a new role at the ol'TVW. With responsibilities and a more than occasional need for a serious face. Meanwhile our landlords will be putting our house up for sale this month and we want to be the successful buyers. Not only is buying a house and getting a mortgage definitely a GROWN-UP THING but hey-ho there may be some serious conversations with people that I need to have that I don't really want to have to make this actually happen. 

And then comes the big question... the one thing I didn't really think about when pushing for this whole same-sex marriage thing because, hey, it was never really going to happen right? Well happen it did and GROWN-THINGS are the inevitable consequence (yes GROWN-UP things and not incest as some of our more imaginative conservative friends thought). 

And yet I still feel no urge not to read comic books, no diminishing of my child-like glee at prospect of Jurassic World in 2015 and no shame at still being a 6'8" child. Perhaps this is a win/win sort of a deal. Or maybe I'm just abnormal (hush down there at the back!).  

Anyway... here's to another year.... 13 years of the blog! 10 years of Jim! 2 years of AYDEN!