DNA – a tall story

No other words for it – I’m excited! Part of my Christmas present was sending off my DNA kit to AncestryDNA and six weeks on, the final part of my Christmas present has been dropped into my email account – the results.

I’d no idea what to expect. Reports about DNA results for ancestry purposes have been on my radar for some time now. They were often negative, however, I chose to close my mind to any negativity and to have this self-indulgent adventure anyway.

Who would have thought a few years ago that one’s spit, a product of the vilest of insults to another, could actually be the key to so much, to life itself. It will take me some time to get to the bottom of all the information and to decide how I’m going to work with it, however, the initial surprise is that I’m far more European than British. I suspected that my great-grandfather’s native Germany might be something of an influence however, the inferences of 18% Scandinavian got me twitching with excitement. Perhaps this is why I love cold weather so much? I’m 62% Western Europe and only 10% British! Suddenly my heart and head that patriotically existed on the British side of the channel all my life are unapologetically tugging me across to the other side of that dividing watercourse.

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The ethnicity estimate was only part of the information they provided. I was informed I’d got 31 4th-8th cousins on AncestryDNA. How could they possibly be right? Yet what jazzed me even further was that some of the links to cousins carried ancestral names already known to me. I now had contact points for all these ‘cousins’, so I picked one of the names I knew from high on the probability matching score and fired off a message. Sure enough he came back to me and named a distant point where we were probably related. It was information I had already got via my genealogy work. I can’t explain it – the tingles and fizzy excitement at the thought of one couple getting together two hundred odd years ago and cascading their genes through time and space to here, now, strangers connected by DNA and technology.  I feel like I’m teetering on the edge of something life-changing.

Amongst the excitement, a few thoughts are stirring. I voted Brexit. Admittedly that was because I disagreed with the control the EU had but I was approaching this from a feeling I’m completely British and that I celebrate the different nationalities out there and want to preserve them, not dilute them. I don’t like the thought we’ll lose that and end up as one mishmash of people. I love the French, Germans, Italians, Dutch etc for what defines their wonderful unique countries. Now I know I’m more European than British it is a bit mind-numbing and I’m questioning who I am, who I want to be. The truth is there really isn’t such a thing as a pure race or nationality. We all are a cocktail so complex, so huge, so…. so related and inter-related. I AM a mishmash of people and can’t be defined by words, nor contained by labels.

It will cost me more money doing my research. The Ancestry website has the information sewn up in slick sections and there are payments to be made to access different information. I will be joining Ancestry.com/.co.uk because I need access to all the other family trees that exist on line already. I want to be part of the Ancestry community along with my other cousins.

And I need time – lots of it because I can feel this is going to take me over. I want to find living (and deceased) relatives and ancestral connections. I want to find out where my 6ft tall genes come from (although my bet is on my Scandinavian ancestry!). And I want to unearth stories; stories that I can’t even imagine today.

I suspect this will be the Christmas present that will just keep on giving…

 

 

Divided by a common language – us & US

What every traveller or communicator between the US and UK needs to know – the language differences… You could be forgiven for thinking that English is a one-size-fits-all.

When I was enjoying a front row seat unwittingly living the inspiration for what became Love Travels, we came across many terms that were alien to each country. It was a source of great amusement and entertainment. That was in a social setting but there are some I wouldn’t want to get wrong. We talked about creating our own version of what so many people have since published to ease relations between the countries.

I liked the one that found me today and reminded me of those fun exchanges; some of which are referred to along the way in Love Travels.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-4226540/63-differences-British-English-revealed.html

It isn’t just the language, it’s also the spellings. American spellings often have fewer characters. For example we say travellers, they say travelers. We say colour, they say color. Have you realised how many words there actually are?

This is a useful list: http://www.tysto.com/uk-us-spelling-list.html

Left me wondering how fewer printer cartridges the US uses simply because they use fewer letters in some common words? I suspect someone could actually measure that.

As someone who has battled through the hidden settings of US English spelling and grammar checkers, I wonder if one day in the future we may decide on a little more agreed commonality… The world seems to strive to make things easier but then there is often resistance to change. Brexit and Trump – say no more.

Text-speak of course took off with a life and language of its own. However that’s the young for you! I love languages, I love differences. And I’ll always have a soft spot for what the US and its ancestors have done with the English language.

 

Did I take a wrong turn in my career? Is a wrong turn ever reversible?

Back between the 1970s-90s I found it relatively straightforward to get employment. I lived in a big city, was young, and had a variety of roles from IT Training to database work. I was a happy bunny at work feeling like I was doing something useful and important; I revelled in meeting new people and sharing my rapidly expanding IT skills I had a smile for everyone. A couple of job roles during my late 20s saw me driving around in brand new company vehicles, although for me, carrying a briefcase was the ultimate status symbol.

At some point this was no longer enough. At some point it didn’t feel like progression and I wanted more – I wanted a role that meant I had to think rather than regurgitate my well-rehearsed performance. I was hankering after a role that made me feel clever as well as important. I worried the need for IT trainers would diminish as the schools were bringing children up to that level – it wasn’t the last time I’d be wrong.

In response to my gut nagging for me to reach for more, in the noughties I started a part-time OU degree (which took me almost a decade to complete). By 2012 I was officially clever – I’d arrived for the second time since buying that briefcase in the late 80s.

From the 2004 – 2009 I worked in a Project Management role and then I did something crazy; and wonder if I’ve been paying for it since. I moved area and took on the project management of a derelict house. My husband and I assumed the roles of bread-winner (he was also our civil engineer) and project manager respectively, until we had a brand-new home and were able to sell the caravan that had been our home for 9 months.

During the time I’d been occupied with builders, plumbers, electricians, planning officers, financial spreadsheets, kitchen fitters and trips to B&Q, a recession had got a grip. I’d emerged excited with my new-found experience to a world that wasn’t interested.

I was lucky on a few occasions to secure some temporary work but I needed to fall back on more generic, basic and transferable skills. I picked up an eclectic mix of non-contiguous, temporary, and usually part-time contracts which left me wondering who on earth I was in terms of an employable entity. My label had fallen off. And the more I did, the more I tried to capture the experiences, the more complex my CV became. Was I diluting my appeal by actually working at all?

I soon realised life in recruitment had changed. No longer could you walk into an agency and be listened to by wide interested eyes as the recruiter had a light bulb moment knowing where they’d place or promote you. No more did the recruiter place you in a temporary role so you could try it for size and be picked up by an impressed manager. Organisations didn’t trust recruiters. Recruiters didn’t trust candidates. Now you had to attend an interview to even become a temp. But the biggest shock was the rates were the same as I earned circa 1987 and often I wasn’t picked, trounced by someone younger! How low could I go?

Soon it was apparent that one size doesn’t always fit all. In my search, the talent of matching skills and experience had been drowned by an automated tick-box exercise. As a candidate who rode the wave of technology in the 80s, I was never out of work. What I was able to offer was in demand. A linear role. All they needed to know was ‘which software’? Now, having added a raft of experience from qualification project management to house renovation, I truly had no idea where I could fit.

So without a pigeon-holed label to guide me, I was left with clicking ‘one click apply’ buttons across a variety of job roles. I was filling up recruiters inboxes when all I’d have loved was a conversation with a talented recruiter who could see what I’m good at and with a human bent to thinking outside the box, understanding what the client  and industry wants and perhaps play more than a game of snap.

Eventually when a long contract came to an end, I made a decision. It was time to write the novel I’d had bouncing around my brain for ages. I sat down and started. It took me months and months, and months. During that time I also tried to become a useful house-person, cooking most evenings for my husband and attempting to look content with the ironing board out during an afternoon watching the Corrie omnibus.  I nearly lost my mind trying to assume two labels and although my husband was adamant I didn’t need to work – I realised I wanted to; for me. How else would I justify my Clinique skincare habit?

Putting one word in front of another, finally in January 2016 I self-published my first novel. I did the writing, editing, formatting, uploading and marketing myself. Approximately 80,000 books are published on Amazon every year. Without good marketing, it doesn’t matter how good you are, chances are your masterpiece will get buried under the others. Yet that is one herculean achievement! And those who’ve read it agree. Love Travels has received some lovely reviews. However, you need to sell an awful lot to make a living from it.

As fate would have it, I need to be looking for work again to support my husband as the company he worked for has unexpectedly gone into administration. We are waiting to see if redundancy and notice payments will appear and in that time, we both have to be job-seeking. I don’t know exactly what I’d like to do because I’d like to do something around the many skills I have that I’m good at and enjoy. Yet writing is pretty much all I’ve known for a few years. I don’t know how to translate my skills into a job role, largely because I’ve not been out in the big wide corporate world for years and don’t know or even understand what is out there. With the expectations of the Job Centre weighing on me, I have to play ball and look for work.

The search feels impossible. The job titles and descriptions that don’t match; the fields that only let you enter what they want to know and don’t allow for explanations. Eg are you prepared to relocate? Y/N and I’m expecting to move house later this year. How do I capture that in Yes or No terms? Job searching people deserve more sophisticated software than a one-size-fits-all approach. A large amount of energy will continue to be wasted (on both sides) and quality candidates will inevitably fall by the wayside without it.

Meanwhile I consider: am I washed up now I’m in my 50s? And with that thought, I will put my author label on again and continue throwing some words into my second novel.