Dec 192014

Do you ever get to Christmas feeling fully prepared? Well this year, I have a confession. It is December 19th and I, so far, have managed to purchase TWO presents. I have produced dozens (in the way of family history binders, gifts etc.) but, in my ‘Christmas present drawer’ under the bed, I have TWO presents. In all honesty, the Christmas present buying process has not been made easy by the various people who I am attempting to purchase presents for, as most have said ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t mind’ when asked if there is anything in particular they want/need, or waited until this week to ‘surprise’ me with their list of requirements (cheers Ma & Pa FWL!).

I still have a mammoth Christmas card writing list to wade through and – clearly – quite a lot of Christmas shopping to do. Thankfully (dare I say that), I am heading to Bath tomorrow afternoon so, with some luck and the proverbial following wind, my dear ‘family and other animals’ may have the odd present to open over the festive season (odd being the operative word!).


Is it just me, or are you sometimes left wondering why we go through all this rigmarole once a year? How did Christmas become what it is today? No…. I don’t need to know why we celebrate Christmas. I get that bit. Once upon a time, everyone used to send Christmas cards by post. Now, some people don’t even ‘do’ Christmas cards, preferring to donate money to a charity of their choice. I get that. In years gone by, it was traditional for ‘the whole family’ (whatever that constitutes) to get together at Christmas. Now, people often opt to fly to far flung places to get away from work and relax. I get that too.

So, what is Christmas nowadays? In the run-up to the big event, we spend too much money, get more post/mail than normal and exhaust ourselves at work, safe in the knowledge we have time off. But for many people, it means days that you have to have off work, whether you actually would choose to or not. There are some bonuses though as it is a time when it is usually easier to get about on the roads (after the rush of people who have decided to travel to see their relations) and you get some presents, hopefully things you really want!


This is, by no means, the last day in the FWL office today but we would just like to take the opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and we hope that you have a splendid festive season, whatever you have chosen to do!

[Now that we are well past ‘the hump’ of December, who has spotted the hidden message in the titles of FWL blogs? Well done to those who have already worked it out – there are quite a few of you! – but please keep emailing us if you think you know, so as not to spoil it for others!]

Dec 182014


…. well, it’s a frequently used phrase, as so many people ask such odd questions! Like, how much does it cost to trace my family history? Or, how long will it take to track him down? Or, how much is the intestate estate worth?

We usually come back with a few questions rather than plumping straight for the string connection but seriously….? How much does it cost to trace your family history….?

Well, how many generations would you like to go back? Do you want all the birth, marriage and death certificates for each person on the main trunk of the tree, or are you happy with just the quarter and year the event was registered in (for England and Wales)? Do you want all the census documentation we can find? Do you want to go back as far as parish registers? Where were your family living in the 1700-1800s? The list of questions is endless….

How long will it take to track someone down? How do we know…. until we try! If the person you are trying to find owes you money or has done something ‘wrong’, they will be creative at covering their tracks. That doesn’t mean we can’t find them but how can we even estimate how long finding them will take, until we get started?

And, ‘how much money are we talking about?‘ is the most frequently asked question when we contact potential beneficiaries in intestate cases. We don’t know…. If we did, we would all (surely) just pick the larger value cases!? That information is not disclosed until a fully documented claim has been submitted and accepted by the Treasury. ‘How long will it take to receive my share?‘ …. well that all depends on so many variables that aren’t influenced by us, that we could not possibly estimate it!

So, before you ask someone a question – no matter what trade or profession – consider whether it is likely to be possible for them to sensibly answer it!

[Don’t forget to keep an eye out over the course of December for the hidden message in the titles of FWL blogs…. When you think you know, email us so as not to spoil it for others!]

Dec 172014

Many years ago, in a land not so far, far from here, I was a GCSE student. Yes, I am young enough not to have done ‘O-levels’ … however, I am also young enough to have endured the ludicrous Key Stage 3 National Pilot in 1992 (which lasted for donkeys years), as well as other cognitive ability tests.

Growing up in Dorset, I went through a first, middle and secondary school system, changing schools at age 9 and 13. Throughout my middle school years (aged 9 to 13), I did either Richmond Tests of Basic Skills or Cognitive Abilities Tests (CAT) every year, being scored on a scale of 1 to 9, with the results proving whether I was average, above average or below the National average in England. Having located my CAT scores in Year 7 (when I was 11 or 12), it would appear that I was – surprisingly – considered to be in the top 4% of the National sample. The Richmond Test scores make more interesting reading with NINES across the board (from punctuation, use of capital letters, use of language and more) apart from reading comprehension which deteriorated from a SIX at aged 9 to a FIVE at aged 13. English was never going to be my strongest subject and clearly, the tests did not serve to highlight this and provide more support where it was needed!

DickensWhen it came to English Literature, I found an unusual friend in Charles Dickens. He seemed to speak the same language as me, whereas poetry made no sense and trying to read what William Golding actually meant when he wrote certain things in Lord of the Flies was beyond me. I remember asking over and over again for new essay titles from my English teacher in an attempt to improve my grade and oh, how I begged to be allowed to use Great Expectations or David Copperfield for my exam text and not Macbeth and Lord of the Flies. Sadly, it was not possible and I blathered on about some darned thing in the exam, wondering how I was ever going to achieve the grade I wanted in English Literature. Hard work paid off and I achieved an A grade which, quite frankly, I still can’t quite believe is right to this day!

On many occasions, I have considered contacting my secondary school English teacher, Paul Benham, but I haven’t to date. I am sure he would be stunned to know that I am a published author – he probably would want proof as he would scarcely be able to comprehend that it was possible! Maybe I will in 2015….

Over the years and over the festive seasons, Charles and I have remained on good terms though I have less time to spend with him these days than I would like. I am grateful to him for his friendship though and his full set of novels – including my favourites Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol – are sitting in pride of place in the bookcase in the living room/lounge/sitting room, constantly smiling at me and tempting me to take one from the shelf. Soon, Uncle Pumblechook …. you are ahead of Mr Fezziwig!

[Don’t forget to keep an eye out over the course of December for the hidden message in the titles of FWL blogs…. When you think you know, email us so as not to spoil it for others!]

Dec 162014

Events across the globe are certainly making unpleasant listening/reading over the last 48 hours. Sydney, Pennsylvania and now Pakistan…. Why can we not all live together, without weapons, and just agree that we have different beliefs, different opinions, different cultures etc. and just get on with it in harmony, so long as we aren’t harming anyone…. is that such a ridiculous concept?


132 people, mostly children, turned up at school this morning in Peshawar and are now in coffins. Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old barrister and mother-of-two who worked in Sydney’s central business district and Tori Johnson, a 34-year-old café manager, were killed in their attempts to protect others in Martin Place, Sydney. Six people have been shot dead and at least one other wounded in three locations near Philadelphia….What kind of world do we live in for this to be a regular feature on our news bulletins? How can we – the general public – change society to ensure that this doesn’t keep happening?

Sadly, I don’t have an answer. Even if I did, I don’t think that one person could change the world. You only live once and whatever positive difference you can make, at whatever level, is enormously valuable to the world at large. I could list hundreds of thousands of ways to make a positive difference and I would still miss hundreds of thousands more. If you think back on 2014, how have you made a difference? What could you do in 2015?

Let’s not forget our own personal dreams either…. What have you always wanted to do in your life? Well, don’t leave it any longer – plan it! Do it! As one of my friends said in a Christmas card, ‘we must get together in 2015 – let’s not leave it too late!’ This year, I have said goodbye to far too many friends and family members with several currently struggling with illness.

You only live once…. As Mae West said, ‘ You only live once but if you do it right, once is enough.’ Whatever doing it right looks like, I’m certainly going to give a damn good try.

[Don’t forget to keep an eye out over the course of December for the hidden message in the titles of FWL blogs…. When you think you know, email us so as not to spoil it for others!]

Dec 152014

Tomorrow, I’ll think of some other way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind (1936)

Did you know that on 15 December 1939, the première of Gone with the Wind took place at Loew’s Grand Theater (sorry, it’s in America and they spell Theatre in their own way) in Atlanta, Georgia. The best-selling novel by Atlanta-born Margaret Mitchell was adapted by screenwriter Sidney Howard and was an epic drama set against the backdrop of the American Civil War (and its aftermath). The film starred Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, who loves and leaves Scarlet with the immortal line, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.’ Sidney Howard added in ‘frankly’ …. it was not in Margaret’s original novel.

Trivialpursuit_TokenBreaking records at the Academy Awards as well as at the box office, Gone with the Wind won Oscars for Best Actress (Vivien Leigh), Best Director (Victor Fleming) and Best Supporting Actress (Hattie Daniel) amongst others…. Hattie made history as the first African-American to win an Academy Award.

Forty years on, Trivial Pursuit was invented by Canadians Chris Haney, a photo editor for Montreal’s The Gazette, and Scott Abbott, a sports editor for The Canadian Press. Apparently, they had pieces missing from their Scrabble game and so decided to create their own game (as you do!). With the help of John Haney and Ed Werner, they completed the development of the game in two years and it was released in 1982.

And today, no premières and no inventions that I can see from the news as it is sadly filled with unpleasant news from Down Under. Thoughts are with the families of those who have been lost today, those injured and those who have been scarred by their experience in Lindt Cafe, Sydney. I am not one to ‘get on my high horse’ about these issues but seriously folks, this has to stop. ‘Frankly, my dear ….’, we do give a damn. Too many lives have been lost this year under the name of certain groups/religions. Enough is enough.

[Don’t forget to keep an eye out over the course of December for the hidden message in the titles of FWL blogs…. When you think you know, email us so as not to spoil it for others!]

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