May 292016

In the United Kingdom (which, despite their best efforts, still includes Scotland, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland), we are in the midst of our second Bank Holiday weekend this month. Odd, if you ask me, but I am guessing that there must be some historic relevance as opposed to just providing the teaching profession (and others) with a much needed three-day weekend! In fact, teachers have a whole week off to catch up on marking and lesson planning this week…. Oh and all the other jobs they can’t find the time for normally.

From the comfort of my office in FWL Towers, I am pleased to report that the sun is indeed shining down on us today. The British like nothing more than discussing the weather, so the stereotype goes, and we regularly moan that on Bank Holiday weekends, you can almost guarantee rain, especially if there is a music festival as well. Radio 1 are holding their Big Weekend at Powderham Castle this weekend, near Exeter. Wow, that’s quite brave of the Courtenay family to host a music festival at their castle!

Several years ago, I met Lady Watney who was a Courtenay by birth – there is a Courtenay Society, don’t you know? The Society even has offices at Powderham, open three days a week! There are not many surname societies who can boast an office, let alone a castle in their family name…. It has been Society Sunday for me today, catching up on some secretarial and chairman-ly tasks for various groups I am involved with, as well as booking speakers for our 2017 lecture programme. Yesterday, more post entered and left FWL Towers in one day than we have seen in many months, several cases flew the nest to the Government offices and more enquiries came steaming in as a result of the TV show on Thursday. We are certainly not short of work here!

I had a social engagement planned for this evening but, in order to maintain our high standards, I am working as are several other members of the team. Gutted to miss the gathering but feeling satisfied that I have made lots of clients happy and the team feel less drowned with work! The see-saw of the work-life balance can swing back another time….

[N.B. Wishing FWL Towers wasn’t quite so close to residential properties. Small children squealing when they are enjoying themselves is fine. Over the top screaming is unnecessary and hinders progress but today’s rather eccentric dog woofing has driven us almost to distraction.]

May 262016

For years and years, I have studiously avoided being on the TV. I know some people would relish the opportunity but me, no. When I was a youngster, I wrote to Jimmy Savile and now, am mighty glad I never got anywhere near that particular television studio! My wish was to skate with Katarina Witt – that never happened and to be honest, I was never destined for greatness on the blades.

There have been a few opportunities in the past during my musical ‘career’ and during research projects in the past, but I have always maintained that I have “a great face for radio”. Today, that appears to have been altered. The filming for Family Finders was actually done several months ago. It has been ‘in the can’ and just waiting to be aired. Me being me, I declared early on in proceedings that I would not be watching the show live, despite various friends inviting me over to their homes to watch it with them. Eek – thanks but really, no! I envisaged having to hide behind the sofa (and still may do) and cringe at various ‘bad camera angles’ etc. Comments from friends and family have been fabulous but what I really honestly had not expected was that the telephone in the office would be ringing all day long! My wish (but nothing connected to Jimmy this time) is that in a short while, I may become an octopus and therefore can have five or so conversations all at the same time, with different people, about completely different projects. That sure would have helped today!

Several comments have really touched me. One potential client from Oxfordshire wrote “I saw Kirsty Gray on the program Family Finders today and found it touching and Kirsty wonderful!” Our conversation later in the day on the telephone was quite comical as, when I called her, I asked to speak to XXX and she knew instantly that it was me calling her, having heard my voice on the show in the morning. The stories I have heard and the future work it will bring to FWL is truly exciting and indeed, overwhelming. Those who know me well will know that I am not stunned or speechless very often. Nick and Debs story was totally unexpected when we began researching and Family Finders gave them a great opportunity to tell the world their story. Never in a million years did I expect to be on screen as much, nor did I imagine that the show would generate new business for us.

Thank you Ricochet for giving our story a platform – BBC1, who’d have thought it?

May 232016

BodgeItWhen we moved in 2011, the office premises (now known as FWL Towers) left a little to be desired in places and hence, we did not quite meet the asking price but knocked a few tens of thousands off before we agreed our purchase. One of the issues was the windows. Yes, the windows were double glazed but the frames were wooden. “Oh yes, we sand them down every few years and re-paint them”, announced the previous owner. “Really?”… rather incredulously, I mulled over this possibility. Number 1: the window frames didn’t look like they had been painted in more years than the previous owner had owned the place and Number 2: there was not a cat in hell’s chance of us doing that, EVER! So, part of the reduction in price was so that the windows could be replaced. Half tick…. fronts have been done and now, to replace the back ones.

The same previous owner seemed to give DIY a shot but really, should have kept the lid of the tool box firmly shut. The fencing around the outside of the property separating us from neighbouring pastures included panels which were not the correct size to actually meet with the posts and hence, with a strong gust of wind or two (common occurrence in these parts), the panels and posts parted company in rather spectacular fashion (replaced in 2014).

Now, attention has turned to the interior and this last weekend, Mr FWL and I decided that one particular ‘floating shelf’ was, quite frankly, surplus to requirements (in fact, it always had been and was a particular artefact from yester-owner which both I and others despise). And so, I began the straightforward removal of the shelf, or so I thought. After removing the shelf from the bracket, I started work on the eight screws holding the bracket to the wall. Slowly but surely, parts of the wall began to disintegrate. For some unaccountable reason, said ‘DIY expert’ had decided to use somewhat inappropriate fixings with screws deeper than the wall cavity. What on earth….!? So, of eight screws, only four extracted themselves without removing wall parts at the same time and we were left with a rather substantial hole in the wall. What should have been a simple task (I know, Pa FWL, you always say that no task is simple on the DIY front and you are right!) took a trip to B&Q plus a raid of Mr FWL’s garage to locate the appropriate fixing kit.

On a positive note, a trip to IKEA means that we have two new swish shelving units for the office and all the previously homeless items are now more efficiently stored. What a successful weekend….

May 212016

FamilyFindersAt FWL, we often say that ‘We find people and change lives‘. This week, we are on BBC1 doing exactly that. Sadly, I was not given six month’s notice to get back into the ‘right’ size trousers (pants for those of you on the western side of the pond) but hey ho! It’s all about the story, not about me (I hope).

Filmed back in December 2015 and researched earlier the same year, the story is pretty awesome, even by our standards. Whilst we don’t want to give the game away, there are certain parts of the story which won’t spoil it …. oh, and by the way, it’s on Thursday 26th May 2016 at 11am BST on BBC1. As the BBC website says, “Classic car enthusiast Nick Morgan … was adopted as a baby. It was only when he became a father himself that Nick felt an urge to try and find his biological family. Initial searches didn’t yield any results, so Nick employed a genealogist.” That’s us! “On the journey to discover more about the mother he never knew, Nick was delighted to find he had a sister, complete with family of her own. Now, Nick is meeting Deborah’s grown-up children Gemma and Daniel for the very first time.”

I met Nick at a networking meeting and he was pretty convinced when he handed over ‘Mission Impossible’ that he was going to smash our 100% crack rate. He didn’t tell us that until much later, however! There are conversations in the story which we’ll never ever forget and the outcome has been truly amazing for Nick and his family. From a random meeting that neither of us would normally attend, what a fantastic outcome – well, you can see it for yourself on Thursday!

Also, Nick will be interviewed on Radio Somerset on Monday morning at 8:30am so do listen in if you can.

May 202016

life-is-like-a-box-of-chocolatesThat’s what Mama always said, according to Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump. And Mama was right: “You never know what you’re gonna get!” Today has certainly been a day of change and unexpectedly, in the most part. New team members joining FWL and others departed (or will soon depart)…. many accepted cases returned from the Government Legal Department (GLD) and so much work coming in….  it’s really exciting!

Just when you think you have the system sussed though, the GLD has recently changed the guidance on referring a deceased’s persons estate. Just when the banks knew what they were doing with intestate estate claims…. ugh. Back to square one again! 

According to the GOV.UK website, “BVD [Bonavacantia Division] is changing its practice for handling claims to recently advertised, un-administered, estates. Under the new practice, BVD will aim to advertise such estates within five working days of receipt and will include details of the informant on the list subject to our responsibilities under the DPA (Data Protection Act). Once evidence has been provided that there is no Crown interest in the estate, they will return all the papers to whoever referred the estate. Details of who ultimately administers the estate will neither be requested nor held by BVD.”

In many ways, this makes sense. However, I wonder what will happen when several companies act for beneficiaries in a given estate. Is it left up to the person who referred the estate to sort it all out? Seems a bit of a back step, in my opinion, and the process for each individual referrer will cause headaches all round, I am quite sure.

There is a phrase, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!” and that is so true. The old system worked, in a manner of speaking. However, the issue/s has/ve been identified (one case officer mentioned to me that BV have no ‘right’ to ask who the administrator is, or indeed recognise their appointment, merely to recognise that the Crown has no further interest) and changes have been made.

Is everything hunky dory now? Is it ever? But this box of chocolates is pretty varied… and we never know what we are going to get! Today has been an ‘odd’ but good day. Roll on the weekend, eh folks?

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