Thursday, March 17, 2011

Intriguing ancestors are a distraction

The last while, besides feasting my eyes on the cricket and rugby being shown on the telly, I've become completely consumed with delving into the past lives of my ancestors.  While some sip cappuccinos at Starbucks-equivalents, I was spending my time at the Cape Archives shaking off the dust from some ancient tome or other.  Absolutely fascinating, that's all I can say.  I discovered you have to start with yourself and work backwards, rather than start with the oldest relative you know.  At one stage I was convinced I was descended from Nicolaas van den Heuvel who arrived at the Cape of Good Hope  at either the end of the 1600s or beginning of the 1700s.  I even managed to hold in my hot grubby hands, the original will he wrote in 1719, not a copy, the original handwritten on that thick parchment they used then.  Unfortunately, old Nick proved to be a red herring leading me on a wild goose chase - although it was kind of cool holding that old will in my hands.  The poor blighter had only one son who died young and hordes of daughters, so that line died out with him.  My ancestor, Louis van den Heuvel, only arrived in the Cape from Amsterdam in 1868.  To find out more about his ancestors might prove tricky, as van den Heuvel is one of the most common surnames in the Netherlands  He was a trader and died when he was randomly struck by lightning.
But, my most interesting ancestor is proving to be my mother's grandfather, Sydney Joseph Fowler, who appeared to have had many wives or liuasons, burying two wives in the same grave, and outliving them all!  Other than his wive's death notices, he seems to have kept himself out of radar as he doesn't appear on passenger lists of ships from England, no marriage register entries and no record of him dying anywhere and being buried.  He simply vanished, or maybe turned into a vampire.  And, how did he manage to outlive about five wives?  Intriguing.
The days in the archives were followed by a day clambering over dead graves and getting dead people sand between the toes of our sandals.  Of course, I was actually supposed to be working on one of my three book projects I'm currently busy with.  Silly me to have forgotten what I was supposed to do when recuperating after my operation in Cape Town.  The book projects were shelved for the week as I let my current obsession take over and totally distract me.  Sometimes I wonder if I fit into the Autistic Spectrum.
Well, after 3 different flights I finally made it back to Tanzania with, surprise surprise, my big blue suitcase containing all my clothes lost along the way.  I seem to have developed a habit for losing my luggage!  Now back in Tanzania, with my new boob slowly adjusting to the speed bumps on the roads, I can no longer delve into my intriguing ancestors lives and be completely distracted from my writing.  I can focus on getting these three books finished.  The one is close just the final editing, the other two have still a lot to be done.  So maybe this blog post should turn into a pep talk for Cindy, "Hey Cindy, hey Cindy, you can do it Cindy, get those books written and edited Cindy!"
I have to be honest though, Cape Town gets more and more appealing each visit, and it gets more and more difficult to climb onto that plane and leave.  My dream that I want to put out into the universe, is to write full-time, live in a cottage near the sea, and play lawn bowls every Wednesday.  To achieve that, for the time being I need to forget about those ancestors who keep on distracting me!
Have a great weekend!

No comments: