Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Looking Backwards

There has been little to report from the reserve this last couple of weeks, unlike the Dungeness area, where new spring migrants can be seen on a daily basis, here on Sheppey we're still trying to shrug off winter and spend every day hopeful that at least one Wheatear, etc. might suddenly pop up. The only real talking point, after a several weeks of cold and drying northerly or easterly winds and little rain, is of how dry large parts of the marshes are becoming. Every year we're always amazed at how a habitat so wet or water-logged for months can become bone hard in such a short time, but it does. However, the last few White-fronted Geese finally left for the far north last week and some Lapwings are nesting, so Spring must be close, just wish it would hurry up!

At the same time, I have been busy the last couple of weeks helping my girlfriend type up and complete a joint project that we begun a year ago. With both of us pretty much completing the investigating and writing up of our respective family histories it became clear that one Sheppey family and one person from that family in particular, loosely linked our two families. So we've set about writing a document, coupled with old photographs and stuff, that we will make available to interested family members. It has been an interesting journey and as the person and his family in question lived a good part of their lives on Elmley in the late 1800's/early 1900's, it has also enabled us to discover even more about the history of Elmley that we love so much.

However, as anyone that has researched family history will testify, it is nowhere as easy as TV programmes such as "Who do you think you are" make it look. It involves an awful lot of talking to relatives, visiting libraries and cemeteries, cross-checking minute details, wasting time following false trails and above all, purchasing many old Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates such as the one below, at £9.25 a time, (I have over £600's worth). They are though a very important part of the jigsaw and a way of finding old names, addresses and occupations of people. Note how the one below, from 1842, has simply been signed by the groom and a witness by leaving an X as their mark, because they didn't know how to write their names. (click on it once and it comes up clearer)

I guess when you get into your late 60's as I am, you do tend to find yourself looking backwards more than you do forward. there's much more to look at. I particularly like a quote from the sculptress Barbara Hepworth where she said, "perhaps what one wants to say is formed in childhood, and the rest of ones life is spent trying to say it". I can identify with that, I've never really achieved being able to explain or describe myself, even at this late age. Without doubt, the happiest times of my life were the years 1964 to 1970, and I have spent the rest of my life trying to equal that period of discovery and contentment and failing miserably, until possibly recently.
Wallowing in the mists of melancholia is not everybody's cup of tea but I've always tended to be happier hankering after what I've already experienced, what I can't get my head round is the fact that you have to keep going forward in order to create those memories.


  1. I may be a full ten years younger than you Derek, but I echo your sentiments.

  2. Thanks Steve, nice to know I'm not the only one that thinks that way.

  3. Good work on the family history project.

    With the exception of a couple of years in my early 20s (lost to a disastrous first marriage) and perhaps 5 years (semi-lost to uncontrolled migraines) in my late 40s early 50s, my best times have always been "right now!". How lucky is that? But, like you, I look back on key times in my young adulthood that were insanely wonderful and will never be recreated. Perhaps that is for the best - not sure I could survive them the second time around!

  4. I think that you maybe don't realise just how brilliantly you express yourself - I love reading your blog. It brings Sheppey back to life for me (an ex pat!) and your descriptions plus comments are wonderful.
    However, on the subject of ancestry I can agree with you! But isn't it wonderful to discover who your ancestors were, what they did and where they lived and also just how many of us descend from illegitimate relatives as in your example. I think I have yet to find a family without at least one case of illegitimacy!! It is nothing new.
    I, too, look back a lot but am becoming better at living in the moment and am more content (well, most of the time!).
    Look forward as ever to reading your next post.

  5. Wilma,
    Good to hear that you are so happy with "right now" and hopefully you will now go on in to older age with the same spirit as your mother did.

    The Editor,
    Well thanks so much for your kind comments, yes family ancestry is riveting and addictive when you get in to it fully, I've loved doing it.