Monday, 23 March 2009

Family Tree

I met a Genealogist in Cambodia. As we chatted together she became fascinated with my family history. She feels it is important for us to know and understand where we come from in order to know and understand who we are. Why we are like we are. Maggie lectures and studies Genealogy professionally and  lives in Beijing.

I gave her two family names. One was my Grandfather's name. This is Luder - my birthname. The other was my Grandmother's name. This is Bluestone. 

My Paternal Grandparents were Polish and Russian. Maggie has since discovered passenger lists on the Aquitania leaving Southampton, destination New York, naming Harry Bluestone born in a town called Plock in Poland, aged sixteen in 1911 and my Grandmother's younger brother,  as a passenger off to seek a new life. 

The Luder family seem easier to track. I know my Grandfather came from a town, in what is now The Ukraine, called Gorodok. 

Sometimes family stories can be Urban Myths. Embellished to make them more interesting. More compelling. This family story is fact.

Around 1905 a young man was murdered in the town of Gorodok in the Ukraine. The officials of the town declared a Jew was probably the killer  and that it was alright for any Jew to be killed for no other reason other than revenge. 

My Grandfather, just a boy, along with his younger brothers and sisters, hid in the cellar of their home in Gorodok as an attacker with a sword aimed to kill them all. He took pity on them and instead  killed their cat and spread the blood around the house tricking any other intruders to believe The Jews had been killed. 

That's when The Luder family left and took refuge in the UK. 

I'm not much of  a family person beyond who matters to me in a close and a now way. My dear Mum, my daughter, my grandsons matter more than anything. Beyond first cousins would be too much for me as I am more interested in why and how or what strength of charactor and survival allowed my Luder and my Bluestone Grandparents  to make that journey to the UK with no money, belongings, no language and start again. 

I already knew and felt these strengths before I met Maggie the Genealogist from Beijing but somehow seeing all these facts trailed back, my own researching on the Interweb discovering the history of the towns where they were born and the horrors they escaped from have reinforced my belief in myself. Why I am like I am. Why I feel like I feel. 

Then, there is a startling fact that emerges from all of this. So far, all the towns, such as Plock, where they were all born or lived are on rivers. 

My favourite travel experiences are always on rivers. I love canals as well. I see there's a river trip along the Vistula where Leah Bluestone was born and her brother Harry.

I can sense one coming on.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Good Nosh

This was my first course in a lively new restaurant called Fennel at Whaley Bridge in The High Peaks in Derbyshire. It was a bit unusual because it was smoked, poached haddock with grilled  parmesan on a crumpet. I can imagine the kitchen was using the smoked salmon with cream cheese on a blini theme. It worked OK. Although crumpets should be served piping hot with loads of melting butter and perhaps doesn't lend itself to this sort of presentation as the crumpet was a bit soggy from the smoked haddock juices. Top marks for being inventive.
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Here's my main course. Rack of lamb on a bed of crushed potatoes with a good gravy. I always order lamb when I'm in The Peaks because there are thousands of sheep roaming and grazing the hills and I expected it to taste good and it certainly did.

It was a great evening spent with Our Friends From The North. Lively. Plenty to talk and laugh about.

Fennel's has a sixteen -seater bus and it picks up and takes home diners whenever they want at no extra charge. Taxis are a bit dodgy around here as they often tend to charge for the journey to pick you up then add on your actual fare. Then they charge again for driving back to take you home and then again for your actual journey. I can't make sense of this at all. One weekend spent in The Peaks we were charged almost thirty pounds for a return journey to a restaurant in the next village - a fare that would have cost us a tenner here in Dorset.  

So it was wonderful to be picked up at the canal-side pub we were staying in overnight by the Fennel bus (beautifuly painted in Fennel Green) at 7.30 and then six of us taken to eat and drink as much as we wanted and then driven back home again. 

Well done Fennel.

Friday, 13 March 2009


I've often heard people who have been to India say they felt guilty as they traveled in luxury and saw the poverty that surrounded them. I have never experienced those feelings of guilt until Cambodia. Above is a picture of our cabin window and our wicker chairs on the deck. A private and luxurious place to sit and watch The Mekong as we sailed along.

These are the houses families live in along The Mekong Delta. In the rainy season the Mekong rises and the stilts are hidden under water. I didn't feel too guilty as there's not much I can do about our contrasting lives. I did buy as many locally made souvenirs as I could. I did take all the toiletries supplied in the bathroom on the boat and give them to the local women every day.

During our three day stay in a hotel in Seam Reap while we explored Angkor Wat my very cheap New Look watch strap broke. I chucked the strap into the bin in our hotel room and kept the watch face on my bedside table.

I went into our room while the girl was cleaning it. I apologised for disturbing her and said I'd come back later. She called me back and excitedly showed me my watch. She'd seen the strap in the bin, got some glue and mended the strap, fixed it to the face so the watch looked as new.

I can only hope she thought I'd accidently thrown the strap away. Not that I thought it was a cheap, throw-away item. Then I really did feel guilty.
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Saturday, 7 March 2009

Jenni Didn't Titter

Did anyone else hear Jenni Murray interviewing Sir Bob on Womans Hour, Friday 6th March at ten in the morning?

She said to Gedorf,

'I hear Iran has an erection coming up soon.'

I waited for a Giggle Explosion but there wasn't one. Sir Bob replied as if she'd said 'Election' and Jenni continued the interview. I assumed it wasn't live and must have been edited out because it was so funny and the sort of gaffe that would have had the studio cracking up with laughter.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

I Am Being Frivolous

I imagine as we all get older we have a Bucket List. Things we must do Before We Die. My Bucket List doesn't include travel because I've done that and still doing it and if I had to stop now I wouldn't be saying 'I wish I'd been to China, Cuba, Africa, Russia' and so on because I have. If I had to spend future holidays in a hotel in Torquay gazing over Torbay waiting for somebody to bring me my medication my memories would be with the exotic destinations I have visited. Those memories will keep me going.

But, I've never owned a designer handbag. I have always scorned those with a desire to own a designer handbag. I do have a cupboard full of handbags bought from the high street. Not a designer handbag amongst them. Not until in a Mad Menopausal Moment at Heathrow on our last holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia when I found myself handing over a fistful of sterling to a disinterested sales-person in the Mulberry Outlet. I felt faint. What was I doing? I love my Mulberry bag. I don't need anybody else to recognise it as An Expensive Designer Handbag. Owning one is in my Bucket List. So that's ticked off.

Then there's a Manicure. When I owned my first Hairdressing Salon I sent one of my apprentices to Revlon in London for a one week training course. It was an expensive week for me as I had to pay her, her travelling expenses and the training, and a temp to fill her space, but her new skills lifted my business and my weekly takings went up. She was so busy there was never enough time for me to have a manicure. Why do my nails when she could have a paying customer.

This afternoon I ticked off another Bucket List item. I've had something wonderful done to my nails at Beauty & Beyond in my local High Street. The charming Amanda worked on my nails for one hour and transformed my fingertips with tips and gels into things of beauty. I can use my keyboard in comfort. My hands look and feel elegant. I shall have them Filled in two weeks time and that'll take half an hour. Half an hour every two weeks is a lot less than I've spent in the past fussing about them. Buying nail products that haven't worked. Chipped nail colour and dodgy cuticles.

So what next on the List? I'm going to buy something from this wonderful Scandinavian clothes catalogue. These are clothes way out of my comfort zone. As well as my price zone. They are organic and artistic. Soft and fluid.

I'll let you know.
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Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Would You Drink These?

Three Christmases ago I bought this evil Vodka. Those things inside the bottle are Infernally Hot Peppers. We all had a shot glass of it and none of us could speak for hours. It is truly horrendous.

So when I saw this bottle of spirits in a shop in Cambodia complete with a dead snake inside I thought of my bottle of Inferno and pondered - if I was forced to drink from one of these bottles which would I choose.

I hope I never have to choose.
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