Tuesday 22 August 2023

In which I acquire a sister...

 Back again after a most interesting fortnight....

I'll go back to the start of the first week when we returned from Ireland. The garden was like a jungle; all the rain had made everything grow with wild abandon; there were also quite a few plant casualties; including both window boxes at the front. It's back to its normal state now I'm pleased to say, after quite a lot of hard work mostly by OH but some by me. The hibiscus tree was in full bloom and the courgette plant Lynne from the food bank gave me from her allotment, produced 2 courgettes. We also brought back with us courgettes, beetroot, scallions and rhubarb all grown in different Irish cousin's gardens. We also managed to find a Lidl veg box whilst in Ireland...

Monday was warm and sunny. I bought 2 'new to me' dresses in the Children's Society before I left for Ireland, so I gave one of them an airing. Made of linen it was a good choice for such a warm day. I also treated myself to a NEW pair of sandals in the Monsoon sale whilst I was in Ireland and they were delivered and collected for me by my daughter-in-law. They were very comfortable. All jewellery pre-loved.

It was a busy morning at Barnardo's with many, many donations. We had  stopped CD and DVD donations on a permanent basis as no one buys them anymore; the shop tried giving them away but no one wanted them! Everything can now be streamed or watched/listened to on phones and laptops, I suppose. We also stopped book donations on a temporary basis on Monday; until we could make room for some more. The latest thing is we  will no longer be able to sell are single use plastic items which is a good thing. We don't really get much donated single use plastic items, anyway. There's a lot of chopping and changing from week to week in the charity retail sector. Also, our shop manager loves to rearrange the shop and does it beautifully, but it means I have to re-orientate myself each week to know where things are...

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will know that in the last 10 years I have acquired a half-brother (Julian) from my mum's side and a first cousin (Marian) also from my mum's side. We met Julian in 2013 for the first time having been totally unaware of his existence until then; and met Marian in 2019 also for the first time; also unaware of her existence. I knew that my father had an affair when I was a child and that the liaison resulted in a child. Hoping to find that half-sibling; I joined Ancestry DNA UK three years ago and sent my DNA off. I wrote about the results  HERE.  I was surprised to find that quite a lot of my DNA was from Malta and Italy.  Ancestry DNA now breaks down your DNA ethnicity inheritance into maternal and paternal DNA. In fact, my latest DNA  estimate is that 30% of my 50% paternal DNA is made up of 17% from Malta; and 13% from Italy. Almost all of my Irish ancestry is from my maternal side.

So back to the cafe in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal on the first day of August 2023. In the middle of eating a club sandwich I received an email message via Ancestry from a woman who believed she was related to me on my paternal side;  and proceeded to give me lots of details about my dad. We messaged back and forth that afternoon; then I called her. Her father was clearly my father - all the information added up.  I now have a half-sister called Amanda (Mandy) and I've always wanted a sister!

Meet Mandy!
She lives in Hertfordshire with her husband Paul and has two adult children; Dan and Chloe - a new niece and nephew for me!

Still back in Ireland, on Wednesday, I had a much longer conversation with Mandy when she revealed that the DNA ethnicity results from her paternal DNA were 50% Irish. (Her mother was also Irish). That immediately made alarm bells ring for me as mine was so different and I spent all day thinking about it; until I came to the conclusion that we couldn't have shared a father -  or our paternal DNA ethnicity results would have been similar. I was very upset to think that the man who had provided for me; parented me; and loved me may not have been my biological father.  It would mean my brothers were my half brothers and that Mandy wasn't even my half sister. Eventually, after even more thought I realised that it changed nothing; my Dad would always be my dad; my brothers would always be my brothers and Mandy would always be my sister. My brain hurt by that point! 

Mandy and I agreed to meet up in person on the following Wednesday when I was back in the UK and what I'm wearing in the above photos was my outfit that day.  The dress was the second pre-loved one from the Children's Society.  We met at Harpenden station; which was a mid way point for us both and bonded straight away. Mandy said she 'claimed' me as her sister even if we weren't related by blood; which I thought was lovely and it was reciprocated. I had also decided by then that for my own peace of mind I needed to know if my dad was my biological dad or not; and in order to know that my brothers and I would take a DNA test to test for paternity.

Pre-loved dress by Next; sandals by Doc Martens. All jewellery pre-loved.

I walked with my group on Friday; a lovely 6.3 miles in the rolling Bedfordshire countryside around Keysoe. We stopped at the Equestrian Centre for coffee and cake. I then went to Kettering after the walk and we all did our DNA tests (using buccal (cheek) smears). I posted the tests off on Saturday morning on my way to the station..

Saturday was the Ramblers 12 London Bridges walk across the Thames. We met at Wandsworth Town station and walked across, or by 12 different London Bridges; heading south to east of London. I didn't make all 12 bridges stopping at the 11th bridge, London Bridge; as my feet were killing me and caught the train home from London Bridge station having walked 12 miles by that point. The final bridge was Tower bridge and I'd walked across it before - several times. The bridges, in the order we crossed them were:


Some things that caught my eye on the walk:

This was in the Alma Hotel just outside Wandsworth Town station - (I just popped in for a wee...)

Albert Bridge.

What was Battersea Power Station but is now a shopping complex.

Lambeth Bridge with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in the distance.

International Maritime Organisation headquarters.

Buxton Memorial Fountain. Victoria Tower Gardens, Millbank.

'The Burghers of Calais' by Auguste Rodin. Victoria Tower Gardens, Millbank. They look so miserable as they were about to become hostages...

This very blurry photo is on the Embankment opposite the Houses of Parliament. The red splodges are hearts and commemorate the many people who lost their lives during the Covid 19 pandemic.

I made friends with this very tame squirrel whilst eating my lunch in Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank. After eating and caching the nuts I gave him; he transferred his attention to another woman who proceeded to give him bits of sandwich from her sandwich package.  Rather than wait to be fed; he hopped up onto her arm and climbed into the package and helped himself!

Seen on the South Bank

The Millenium Bridge. I had never walked across this bridge before. St. Paul's in the background.

The Golden Hinde; a replica of Sir Francis Drake's ship in Southwark.

We were lucky with the weather; it remained dry and warm although cloudy and the torrential rain kindly waited until I was on the train home.

I wore this pre-loved White Stuff dress on Sunday; when middle grandson and I went to spend the day with my son. This dress has been relegated to the donations bag as it gaped across the front  - the way it did in this photo. I didn't realise until I saw the photo and it was lucky I wore a camisole underneath because it happened several times throughout the day. Retail sandals and pre-loved jacket. All jewellery pre-loved.

Back to Barnardo's on Monday. Pre-loved Joules dress; denim jacket as before; pre-loved bag and retail sandals from Sainsbury's. All jewellery pre-loved.

So many donations came in and despite working solidly for 3.5 hours processing them; it appeared to make no difference to the huge pile that had accumulated throughout the morning...

In the afternoon I went into town and ran some errands. Cousin Marian became a grandma again and I sent her son and his partner a gift card for the new arrival; posted off an Irish scenes calendar for ex mum-in-law and got my eyebrows done. There were leftovers from the chicken curry OH made on Sunday so no cooking; although I did make a salad and some coleslaw to go with the curry.

This Tuesday and last Tuesday my usual colleagues at the food bank were away so I made up food parcels. I was helped by the warehouse manager's daughter this week and between us we did everything on the list. I like the feeling of achievement when that happens. I wore sensible footwear and changed into sandals when I got back but not for long as I went for a walk in the countryside in the afternoon; donning walking trousers, boots and socks to do so. What I'm wearing in the photo was all pre-loved with the exception of the sandals from J. D Williams; skirt by M&S from Belfast charity shop BNWT: tee shirt very old also M&S; jacket by Primarni.
All jewellery pre-loved. Did you notice I didn't wear any earrings? It's very rare I go without earrings. It wasn't deliberate but I didn't even notice until I was on my walk. It was a great day to walk; warm and dry with lots of sunshine.

On my 5.25 mile afternoon walk I took a foot path that runs beside a construction site in Ravensden; where they're building a new estate which will adjoin the one where my daughter lives. The foot path had not been used very much; and as it was so overgrown in one part I had to admit defeat and battle through a hedge to get to an adjacent field. When I'd extricated myself from the hedge; I checked my ears to make sure I hadn't lost an earring in the process and realised I hadn't got any on! I was covered in nettle stings and my hair was full of the little balls that are part of that sticky, annoying plant called 'cleavers.' Once home I brushed out the 'cleavers' and  chilled out catching up with blogs and blogging before making dinner.

So far this week had been warm and sunny everyday. I like wearing cotton/linen dresses when the weather is like this as they're so easy to grab and go. This dress pre-loved by Next and no jacket required! Just seen retail black sandals bought locally; all jewellery pre-loved; I didn't forget my earrings this time!

I've just realised that back in June when we that hot spell I wore the same three maxi dresses within the same week...

There was a group walk in Milton Keynes but I didn't go as I spent much of the day researching on Ancestry. I'd been having conversations with a couple of distant relatives who live in Australia and they pointed me to various names that were linked to my paternal DNA - the search for the Maltese connection continued....I did a wash and hung it outside to dry which it did in double quick time; went to Aldi for the weekly items I buy there and made dinner for OH and I.

On Sunday evening we started watching this Irish TV series 'Clean Sweep' on BBC i Player and finished watching it on Wednesday. Highly recommended. OH was disappointed with the ending; I wasn't!

Back to swimming on Thursday morning. I had swum the previous Tuesday afternoon but Thursday and Sunday mornings are my regular swimming slots and I am a creature of habit. I managed 45 lengths so I'm almost back to my usual distance. I really wish we could have longer sessions;  I'd like to see how far I could swim before I had to give up but that is most unlikely as the swimming timetable is full; everyday of the week.

The lovely weather continued. Top; linen type kimono and jewellery pre-loved; trousers bought in a Primark sale; sandals; Monsoon sale. I found the top in Barnardo's on Monday. I didn't have many tops in red.

I put on a towels wash and went to do the weekly Lidl shop. Although it's the summer holidays there's still basketball practice for the youngest grandson and after dinner I dropped him off. Middle grandson got his 'A' level results on Thursday morning and was disappointed. He passed all 3 but not at the grades he wanted. He had said to me after the exams were finished he didn't feel he did well enough in the exams; not well enough to apply for the university of his choice. He had already planned to re-sit his 'A' levels next year and is looking for a job in the meantime. That's life isn't it? You take the disappointments and move on...

Would you believe there was another London walk on Friday? This time it was the unofficial bus walk and although there should have been 8 of us walking; 2 members dropped out. I phoned my friend Bernie to see if she would be be able to come and she did. I waited for her at London Bridge Station and we met up with the others at Bexleyheath where we walked from the station to the 'Red House'. Home of William and Jane Morris for 5 years.

Now owned by the National Trust; the Red House was very interesting but strangely bare. Most of the Morris furnishings were removed when William Morris sold the house (at a loss; even the Victorians had negative equity!) and much more can be seen in Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire; the home of William and Jane Morris from 1871 - 1896. The Red House was the only house William Morris designed, commissioned and bought; he rented all the remaining houses he lived in. We had a guided tour around the house from a very informative and enthusiastic guide.

The dining room - hard to take photos without people getting in the way...

Rear passage to garden.

Painted ceiling at top of the stairs - hand painted and 'pricked' to make a design. Several other rooms had hand pricked ceilings.

Window on top landing. 

In William and Jane's bedroom - it didn't look as if it would give out much heat!

The drawing room - where all the fun and games happened; including apple fights. This huge dresser has a 'Minstrels Gallery' at the top and the doors behind (just seen at the top of the photo) conceal an apple store.

Living room fireplace. You can just see on the left a little alcove filled with windows; the panelling was originally gold leaf and the light must have been wonderful. This was where Jane and friends gathered to make  embroidered  wall hangings.

Murals in the drawing room on the left hand side of the huge dresser.

Rear of the house and below part of the gardens which were very naturalistic. There was also a small orchard.

 From there we walked to Danson House and Park.  Danson House (below) is a Grade I listed Palladian villa now used as a registry office. There was a wedding taking place when we arrived

We stopped here for tea and scones; the cafe being at the rear of the house with views over the parkland and lake; before catching a bus to Hall Place and gardens. 

Hall Place is a Grade I listed country house built in 1537 and is described as 'one of the South East's best kept secrets:

'In the 18th century Hall Place came into the ownership of the Dashwood family. Sir Francis Dashwood was a politician and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1762–1763, but he was also a known rake and founder of the secret and immoral Hellfire ClubThe last tenant of Hall Place was Lady Limerick who lived in the house alone from 1917 – 1943. She added a number of mock-Tudor features including beams and fireplaces. Lady Limerick and the house appeared in a 1922 edition of County Life Magazine'. You can read more about the house and gardens HERE.

Hall Place

We didn't visit the house as it needed to be pre-booked and one house tour was enough I'd say...

The gardens were lovely and the estate runs to 63 hectares including a river and a miniature railway!

Everlasting flowers.

The Queen's Beasts. Topiary designed for the 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Bernie and I. The last time I wore this pre-loved top was when I met cousin Marian and her daughter in 2019!

From Hall Place and gardens we walked part of the London Loop back to Bexley station. Bernie and I parted company at London Bridge and we both had a brilliant day out. By the time I returned home I'd only walked 7 miles but it felt longer. Friday was the day I thought I'd receive my DNA results but it wasn't to be...

Saturday was an extra special day. I dressed up a bit. I found this Zara dress/long tunic in the 3:16 charity shop before I went to Ireland and wore pre-loved M&S black linen trousers underneath. Monsoon sandals as before.

All jewellery pre-loved.

Saturday was the day my brothers got to meet their other sister and her husband for the first time! Here we all are; Mandy and husband Paul are at the end of the table and you've met everyone else before. What a lovely, joyful occasion it was. We sat in the garden for ages after the meal; drinking and chatting and enjoying the warm sunshine.

 After such an exciting Saturday; Sunday was a day of calming routine. Swimming first thing in the morning and I managed my usual 46 laps. Then home for breakfast, housework and cooking dinner. We had spent the remainder of the week in the evenings catching up with the most recent series of 'Beck' on BBC i Player and thoroughly enjoyed it. Beck seemed to be ageing in front of our eyes and I don't know if that was the superb acting in the series or not.

Everything pre-loved; top by Wallis; cropped trousers by the shop that sells frumpy older women's clothes which I won't name; these polyester trousers with the elasticated waist (yes, I've finally succumbed) are very comfortable; very easy to whip off and on in the pool changing room and look quite smart. Be warned you'll be seeing more of them.... sandals retail and all jewellery pre-loved.

Well, I can't complain about the weather. Monday saw us enter a second week of warm sunshine; not too hot between 23/24 degrees C and just perfect for me.

It was stocktaking (again) at Barnardo's. After counting gift bags, I decoded the women's section; which is, of course, the largest section. I filled 4 blue sacks with decoded items and I only got as far as half way down the back wall of the shop. The decoded items will go to other shops  in the area. I like decoding as it's a good way to have a really close look at what is on the rails and there were lots of great clothes, but as you know  I have too many so resisted the temptation to buy more. I did buy a pair of earrings and 2 velvet cushions for the sitting room sofa.

All jewellery pre-loved. Pre-loved tunic by Vanilla Moon; navy M&S linen trousers; Doc Martens sandals; retail.

The garden continues to provide us with blooms although a lot is now going over or dying off...
The begonias above were bought at the plant sale in Risely a few months back. We have several sunflowers now; thanks to the birds dropping the seeds; on my garden chair the impatiens are blooming well.

No food bank for me on Tuesday, I had lots to do at home and we were back to full staffing, anyway. I made time to go for a walk of 4.5 miles in the afternoon; once again in warm, sunny weather. Anyone would think it was summer!

This was the first time I'd worn this cotton, pre-loved 'Made in India' finely pleated skirt. I think I found it in a Belfast charity shop last Easter. Tee shirt by F&F; jacket as before. Pre-loved Dune sandals. All jewellery pre-loved.

So that was my fortnight. 
I'm still awaiting DNA test results and should have more to tell you in my next post. Let's hope the good weather continues, too.

Fine weather, flea markets and funerals.

Hello and welcome! Posting a day later than usual; if you want to know why - do read on... (Pre-hair cut of course!) Wednesday was a lovely ...