Gypsy in my blood

I’ve been researching my family tree again to try and find out more about my Gypsy heritage. We heard after my mother’s death that her real father was a fairground worker and the man my grandmother subsequently married was not my maternal grandfather.

My Brother and sister-in-law had a child who died soon after birth. He had Fraser Syndrome, which is extremely rare and the genes usually occur in Romany Gypsys or when 2 people who are related and have the same gene defect have a child together. As my brother and sister-in-law were not related, this seems to support the story about my maternal grandmother’s affair.

There are other complications; I have found a record on Family that indicates my grandmother married a man in 1929, about two weeks before my mother was born and that she married again in 1931 – to the man who would father my mother’s siblings. I cannot find any other record of the original marriage.

Part of the story we heard about my grandmother was that she was jilted at the altar. Was that in 1929 and the marriage didn’t actually go ahead, or is it that they married and he left shortly after?

In looking into Gypsy/Romany culture I have been struck by the continuing discrimination against them, even today. There’s a wonderful video on Vimeo about 3 Gypsys; one who works as a political leader in Germany trying to change the discrimination against Gypsys by the state (yes, it continues even after everything that happened in the Second World War), one who works as an unpaid teacher in Romania, and a traditional storyteller in Hungary. There is no documentary, just film following these individuals lives and providing insight into their culture, traditions and their daily realities.

The Shock of the Fall

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

Nathan writes with a keen sense of observation, that make a person, a situation, an emotion, real. He manages to focus on the tiny details, both internal and external, that often seem inconsequential but become an important part of the experiencing of the character. At the beginning of the story our protagonist ends up on the ground with a girl he has just met, falling on top of her while reaching out to comfort her. He describes her turning her head and one of her hairs trailing across his lips and tongue. It is that kind of simplicity that puts flesh on the bones of the people in the story.

The writing is both delicate and substantial; putting things very simply at times, yet very powerfully. His sensitivity in describing mental illness shines through and, by the time I was most of the way through the book, I felt I had some understanding of what the central character was experiencing.

This felt like a story written from the heart. The author used to be a mental health nurse and manages to put across some very poignant points about the treatment of people with mental illness. He describes the hospital ward office and all the mugs, clocks, mouse mats, and pens that are adorned with the names of the medication the patients hate. Drug reps may have a job to do but it implies an insensitivity on the part of hospital staff that they allow the clinical aspect to creep insidiously into the treatment place. Patients have enough to remind them of their illness without emblazoning the day-to-day and the ordinary with more reminders.

I started this book mid-morning and couldn’t put it down. I had to stop to do other things otherwise I might have read it all in one go. As it is I picked it up the following day and finished it in one more sitting – in tears by the end.

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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

A delicately and masterfully crafted book. Unbelievable that this is Anthony Marra’s first novel. His writing hooked me in from the beginning and immersed me in his character’s lives effortlessly. The attention to life’s details is extraordinary and the reality he creates leaps from the page in a picture more vivid than I have read for some time. He manages to convey much with very few words. Not a sentence is wasted and it shows throughout the entire book.

I felt I had been through an emotional wringer by the time I finished reading and I’m glad I took the journey. The story is at once heartbreaking and uplifting and I defy you not to cry at the closing lines.

Why it didn’t win the National Book Award I’ll never know. Anthony Marra deserves to win prizes for his writing. He has far to go and I, for one, will be keeping track of him to see what wonders he comes up with next.

Dicewords app for iPhone, iPad and iPod

If you love word games, this is for you. Dicewords.

9 alphabetic dice, over 10 million word combinations…

Often unpredictable and always great fun, this compelling word game can be played by 1 to 8 players at all skill levels. Includes excellent Dicewords-based puzzle too.

Stephen has taken about a year to make this. It is the first app involving a game he has produced and it’s now finally live on the app store. It took a lot of learning on his part. Well done.

You can see more of Stephen’s work on his website – Black Tablet.

Dicewords┬áis produced in collaboration with Graham Lipscomb, of Graham’s Games.

Wild Mushrooms

Not a sign you see every day.

We were in Brighton yesterday and this was propped in the door of a shop.

I wonder how many Wild Mushroom workshops there are nationally?