Call for stories of childhood games

I’m working on a zine (or maybe a small book) of people’s stories of games they made up as children. This can be a simple story or paragraph or two — or you can go into more detail.

Examples — in one vignette, I describe the rules of a game my sister and I would play that we called “Animal Wrestling”. In another, we get a true confession of what 4 year old me was pretending while in a bubble bath (alien planet; dome cities).

Email me your stories of home-brewed games – whether played solely in your imagination or with siblings/friends!

Jenifa taught me

While researching my family tree I have come across some interesting characters. From just a few records over the years, I try to construct a picture of someone’s life two hundred years ago. I look up the siblings, look up the neighbors, speculate, write emails to random 4th cousins, and bring it all together with solid sources.

My grandmother Esther’s parents emigrated as teenagers with their parents and siblings around 1911, all from a very specific area of Lancashire. I’ve done some work researching each branch of her family.

Here’s a chart that shows an overview of the people I’m going to write about in my next few posts.

tree showing esther's parents and grandparents

Here’s as much as I can tell about Jenny Cumpsty, one of my 4th great-grandmothers, and her daughter Jennet, tracing them and their descendents down to people in living memory. They’re the great-grandmother & grandmother of Caroline Crane from the chart above.

From studying Jenny’s family a bit further back and further onwards, it’s clear she was right on the cusp of the family’s transition from a life of agricultural labor, out in the sticks, to one of industrial work centered around growing urban areas.

For many generations, this branch of the family lived in The Fylde – an area just north of Preston, east of Blackpool, and west of Garstang – This is north of what is now Greater Manchester, south of Morecambe Bay. The land is mostly a peat bog, a lot of it below sea level.

old map of the fylde

relief map of The Fylde

Most of this branch of family were from Pilling and Stalmine. There was not even a road to Pilling until 1806. Just to set the scene, let’s read a bit about the famous Bog Burst of 1745 and the general feeling of this area of The Fylde, north of the Wyre River — Cockerham Moss.

The Pilling Moss Bog Burst of 1745 involved the eruption of the raised mire now known as Rawcliffe Moss, following a period of exceptional rain, but was probably also due to human activity, both from long-term peat-digging and also because of more recent land drainage and improvement for agriculture. More than 40 hectares of farmland were inundated, in places covered in peat up to five metres deep. Property was damaged, but no casualties were reported. Enclosure and drainage after 1830 have ensured that nothing similar can happen again.

The mosses, mosslands or raised mires of lowland Lancashire have always been a noteworthy aspect of the local landscape, in the literature often carrying more than a hint of menace. Thus William Camden [in 1637] wrote of the presence in Lancashire of ‘certaine moist places and unwholsome called Mosses’
– from The Pilling Moss Bog Burst of 1745, William D. Shannon, Contrebis 2018 v36.

Charles de Rance, a geologist, reported in the 1870s that a local proverb said, ‘Pilling Moss, like God’s grace, is boundless’. He adds, ‘this area is very thinly inhabited, and those who live in the area are, I am informed, often subject to idiotcy and rheumatism’.

The folk of Pilling, near Cockersand Abbey, had the legal right for many centuries to take stone from an outcropping in the sands just offshore, Wet Arse Scar; this right came into dispute in 1808.

Histories of the area north of the Wyre are mostly lists of the architectural features of its churches, and heraldry of the families who owned the land on which my ancestors were hapless peasants grubbing in the mud in their clogs and smocks.

Jenny was born in May 1804 in Mains in the parish of Kirkham to James, a husbandman, and his wife Sarah Kea (Key, or Kaye). (Perhaps a distant relative of John Kay who invented the flying shuttle!) Jenny was christened 17 Jun 1804 in the parish church at Poulton le Fylde (St. Chad’s).

Her father was born in Stalmine, and her mother in Hambleton. Mains, (or Maynes, or Means) Hall was a manor in Singleton which had been owned by the Hesketh family. It is in Kirkham parish, just west of Singleton and east of Poulton-le-Feeylde — right across the Wyre river from Hambleton. Jenny’s family may have been tenants on Hesketh land. Oats, barley, potatoes, and wheat were grown in this area; there were also dairy cows and sheep.

The following paragraph is from a history of a village a few miles south, on the Ribble River, describing farming families overlooking a busy road on the weekend. Though the area is not exactly correct — a more populated towns south of the Wyre — and there wasn’t a major road near Jenny’s family, I like the picture it draws of the farmers of the Fylde in their aprons and clogs.

Farming families used to stand en masse in their fields, adjoining the main road, getting their entertainment from the constant stream of traffic passing through the village at weekends, dressed in their hessian ‘Brats’ (sacking aprons) and clogs. The ‘grannies’ wore beautifully made cotton sun bonnets, intricately tucked, generally heliotrope colour and most becoming!

Another history of village life in The Fylde says,

The flat Fylde landscape was a desolate and remote area in early history and remained visited by few outsiders until the arrival of the railway. There are still vivid memories among the older inhabitants of collies sent north by rail from Welsh farms to start work on the Fylde and of calves wrapped in sacks with just their head protruding and bearing a forwarding address label.

The River Wyre, which dissects the Fylde, was a barrier between the communities of this small piece of coastal flatland but occasionally families did move across the river boundary.

During Mr Lee’s research he heard of a family who made every effort to ensure their children were safe during the hazardous journey across the tidal reaches of the River Wyre.

“They put their children into milk churns to make sure they were sufficiently immobilised to keep them safe and prevent them from falling overboard!” says Mr Lee.

Mains, Kirkham Parish

Back to our young family and Jenny’s birth in 1804 in Mains.

Jenny was the third of eight children. It seems likely she was named after her mother’s mother, Jennet Walker of Hambleton. Her name is sometimes listed as Jane, Jain, Jennet, or Jenny; surname Cumpsty, Compsty, or Compstive. In the image of her christening record below, you can find Jenny listed on the right, 5th entry down.

christening records, 1804

The British Census began in 1801, but all I have currently are birth, marriage, and death records for the early years of Jenny’s life. Still, we can construct something of a picture of her home life from her siblings’ births, and imagine her growing up as part of this large farming family.

In 1810, Jenny was 6 years old. Her older brother John was 11; her sister Alice was 8. Younger siblings were Richard, 4, and Peggy, the baby.

In 1816, Jenny was 12. John was 17, Alice, 14. Her younger siblings were Richard, 10; Peggy, 6; Sarah, 3; and James, the baby.

Hambleton

In 1820 Jenny was 16 years old. Her younger siblings were Richard, 14; Peggy, 10; Sarah, 7, James, 4, and Henry, the baby. The older children were born in Mains, while Henry was born in Hambleton.

It looks to me as if the family all moved to Hambleton between 1816 and 1820, perhaps to be near Jenny’s mother, Sarah Key’s, family. Enclosure was starting to affect more of The Fylde as landowners drained, fenced, and marled the peat bogs. But I don’t know why they left Mains. If I look look at which of their relatives were in Hambleton at that time, from birth, christening, marriage, and burial records, it may give clues, so I’ll try that later.

A little tidbit about Hambleton:

Dr. Charles Leigh of Singleton, writing about 1700, states that the River Wyre ‘affords us a pearl fishing, which are frequently found in large mussels, called by the inhabitants Hambleton Hookins, from their manner of taking them, which is done by plucking them from their skeers or beds with hooks.

detail map showing mains

In 1821 her oldest brother John married Nancy Green. They had a son, Richard, in 1823.

In 1824-1825, Peggy, James, and Henry died in Hambleton. Perhaps it was cholera. Whatever happened with the family that moved them across the Wyre to Hambleton, it may not have been a positive change, since within 5 years of their move, several of the younger children died. It must have been a grim time for 20 year old Jenny Cumpsty, spinster. And when she is called a spinster, it seems likely she literally was spinning by hand since the region was known for its textile production.

Stalmine

In June 1825, at age 25, Jenny married William Dobson of Stalmine, Moss Side. Stalmine was (and is) a small village on the Wyre river just north of Hambleton. The “moss side” was to the east of the village, away from the river and the port, and closer to the wild lands of the peat bog — here, the Pilling Moss. In the 1820s, enclosure and drainage of the Moss continued, which meant that more and more of the land & its resources that had been in common use by nearby villagers was now owned, managed, and rented as private property.

A local detail: “A curious wooden track of split oak trees laid on birchwood scrub, known as Kate’s Pad or the Dane’s Pad, crosses the moss. Pollen tests have established that it pre-dates Roman times. Farmers have dug up trees of 50 ft in length.”

stalmine map detail

Jenny and William’s marriage was in Kirkham parish (not sure exactly where). Grace Compstive was a witness, likely one of Jenny’s relatives. The other witness was William Fairclough. Neither Jenny nor William could write their names – same with their witnesses – you can see their names are all in the curate’s handwriting, with “X – his mark” or “X – her mark”.

Jenny and William had three children, John, James, and William. They lived in Stalmine Moss Side. I have not found any evidence of William’s profession.

In April 1835, Jenny’s husband William died. She was left widowed with an infant and two small children under age 6.

In October 1837, banns were read for Jenny’s marriage to John Charnley, a 40 year old lath cleaver — and widower — in Stalmine. However, John and Jenny did not marry. Jenny was born 9 months after the initial banns were read, and her sister Sarah 18 months later.

Four months after Sarah’s birth, in 1841, John Charnley married Nancy Wilson. What a cad!

Later in their lives, both Sarah and Jenny used William Dobson’s last name, like their older siblings.

Jenny Cumpsty was listed in the 1841 Census under her birth name, as a 35 year widow living in Hambleton with her 5 small children, John, James, William, Jennet, and Sarah. Jenny’s occupation is simply listed as “Pauper”.

Notice in the census record that she lived near to James Roskell and his family. And William Fairclough, who witnessed her first marriage, was another neighbor.

Out Rawcliffe

detail map rawcliffe

In 1850 Jenny married John Roskell, older brother of her neighbor James. John was a widower with children, a blacksmith in Out Rawcliffe. He also owned a small farm, and could write his name.

We can see Jenny in the 1851 Census, now married, living in Out Rawcliffe with her husband the blacksmith, her stepson Robart, 15 and an apprentice to his father; her new 5 month old baby John; her youngest daughter Sarah Dobson (really daughter of John Charnley and born out of wedlock.)

In 1851, Jenny’s older daughter Jennet Dobson, my 3rd great-grandmother, was 12, working as a house servant for a family in Nether Wyresdale. We’ll come back to Jennet, but for now let’s stick with her mother.

In 1861, Jenny and her husband John Roskell the blacksmith were now 60 and 57 years old, still lived in Out Rawcliffe. Sarah, Jenny’s daughter, still lived with them at age 20, along with her half brother John, age 10, still in school. Jenny’s mother Sarah Cumpsty, age 87, also lived with them.

Now it gets upsetting. In Feb. 1862, John Roskell was imprisoned in Preston for 9 months for “carnally knowing a girl above the age of 10 years and below the age of 12 years”. He died in 1862.

What did Jenny do to survive? What happened to Sarah, and to John Roskell junior, still a child?

(I looked – And John worked as an agricultural laborer on nearby farms until his marriage in 1877 – his daughter Elizabeth gone in 1881 to live with her uncle, Jenny Cumpsty’s son William Dobson – and I see John Roskell in the 1901 census back on a farm as an unmarried servant, a cattleman. Because of his father’s imprisonment and death, he didn’t have the chance to become a blacksmith like his older brothers did.)

Jenny’s mother Sarah Cumpsty died in 1864, age 90.

In 1868 Jenny married Sylvester Tomlinson in Garstang. Clearly, she could get it. She died shortly after, aged 64.

I see her as a tough survivor of tough times.

Jennet

Back to Jenny’s daughter Jennet Dobson, my 3rd great-grandmother.

Jennet must have had a difficult childhood, as an illegitimate daughter of an impoverished widow in a small village. When her mother remarried in 1850, Jennet was 11 or 12, and she may have already been in service.

By 1851, at age 12, Jennet Dobson was in service for a farm family in Nether Wyresdale. That was probably a good thing, since her new stepdad John Roskell ended up convicted of being a child molester. The household where Jennet worked (Burn’s Farm) consisted of John Burn, 41, farmer of 104 acres; Ellenore Burn, 36; John Walker, 18, farm servant; Jane Dobson, 12, house servant; Ann Burn, 5, scholar; Jane Burn, 9 months. I picture them as a modestly well off small family with two young children, able to hire and support two extra workers in their household.

Ten years later, Jennet is working for what looks like a more wealthy family, the Heskeths of Upper Rawcliffe With Tarnacre, at Tarnacre Lane. That household was Thomas Hesketh, 74, “Farmer”; his son James, 33 and wife Emma, and their two young daughters. They had 4 servants, Jennet as the “house servant”, two 19 year old men and a 14 year old boy.

In 1863, Jennet married William Crane, a tailor, in Garstang. I’d like to see the parish record of that marriage to find out who stood up as witnesses for the young couple. That may give some clue to how they met.

10 years later, in the 1871 census, Jennet, 32, is listed as a tailoress, so likely worked with her husband. Caroline, 7, and John J., 5, are in school and they have a 1 year old sister Jane E. (I have seen her in some family trees as June Elizabeth). They lived in Barrow-on-Furness.

Caroline and John were born in Garstang, while Jane was born in Barrow-on-Furness. In 1871, the family had three lodgers, Richard (Houdan), 20, laborer; Isaac Ireland, 19; and John Eastham, 31.

Jennet died of smallpox later in 1871, leaving three children under 10.

This information about smallpox comes from my 4th cousin & fellow researcher Janette from Farnworth, who found it on Jennet’s death certificate. She also adds that William and Jennet moved to Barrow-in-Furness shortly after the railway was built across Morecambe Bay, enabling relatively easy transport. Thanks Janette!

I hope Jennet Dobson Crane had a happy life as a young wife, mother, and tailoress from 1863-1871, after her difficult youth. She got the hell out of the Moss lands of Over Wyre, a place that sounded entirely too Moist, even if now the little bits of it that remain are lovely nature preserves. Good work Jennet, rest in peace!

It is hard to picture what would then have happened to Jennet’s young children, including Caroline. Maybe they went to live with their grandfather or other relatives – a few years later she is living with her father’s sister. This crisis may have motivated changes that meant a year later William has moved to a bigger town (Farnworth) and is working as a brickmaker. He and his sons worked in coal mines and Caroline in the cotton mills around Farnworth and Darcy Lever. As I’ll trace in my next post, Caroline and family came to the U.S. to work in the cotton mills of Rhode Island.

There is a lot to say about the mid-1850s cotton mill industry in Lancashire, and the coal mines – I hope to go into some of those details!

Caroline was my grandmother’s grandmother and though she died before I was born, it’s interesting to trace these echoes of her past.

Here she is in 1942 with her son James Hutchinson, her granddaughter (my great-aunt Gladys), and a great-grandson. They came a long way from their ancestral lands of The Fylde!

caroline crane

Beach farm time

Our fridge is still broken. I kept going down to the bottom of the hill today to see if the appliance repair place had unbolted its door to no avail. Later in the afternoon I ran into the owner and he said his wife had been sick and he would try to come tomorrow – and that it is not the rona. I hope she will be ok – she often sits outside the shop in the sun on a folding chair and we say hello though we don’t know each others’ names.

my drawing of some shops

As I was establishing this with the repair guy on the sidewalk outside his shop I ran into Annalee and Jesse – which was hugely cheering – oh how nice it will be to really get to see friends again.

I cleaned out the shed today and put some more stuff up in the Buy Nothing group – Played Stardew Valley 1.5 with a new beach farm – I am starting to hit some new things like Willy’s new plot line.

I wrote a little in my notebook in the morning, which seems like a good sign.

Reading Walter Moseley books, one after the other, very quickly – in the middle of that binge, somewhere, John Le Carre died. I realized I’d never read his latest book so I plowed through that (barely remembering who Guillam was though it started coming back to me). Last week I also had an odd interlude for several L.M. Montgomery books – not the Anne ones but the other popular one – Emily of New Moon. Then a long after prequel about Marilla which was more successful and interesting than I had hoped – maybe showing her as just a bit non neurotypical in some way – And certainly sympathetic. (Spoiler – she helps with the Canada end of the Underground Railroad.)

We went up to the top of Bernal Hill and had a look at Jupiter and Saturn in the early evening yesterday. They were very close! Saturn looked sort of oblong through binoculars, so I guess that was the rings – I could not see Jupiter’s moons as it wasn’t dark enough and the air was kind of misty & my binocs maybe aren’t powerful enough. We took photos through a little tiny scope that clips onto your cameraphone.

Just as the sun was setting I felt comfortable. As it got darker it felt like people got louder and more excited- the crowd on the hill grew – no one crowding us and yet just the sight of everyone looking too close together and the hubbub noise turning to nonsense in my lack of auditory processing started to freak me out.

Increasingly, people I know have a relative or friend ill with COVID-19 and some people are going through having it. Several people I know (health care workers mostly) have gotten vaccinated.

I wrote up a summary of the year for the APAzine I’m part of but didn’t do the proper thing and catch up and respond to each other person’s previous zine pages. Resolving to do it better next time and really catch up after my year long hiatus.

Domestic engineering holiday

A rare occasion – I have two weeks off work, am not travelling anywhere and my mobility is really good. And yet, maybe from the pandemic or maybe general burnout, I have not had much creative drive this year. Little sparks here and there but nothing sustained. So I’m going to do house and garden projects, mostly massive decluttering and organizing. I feel a little boring and sad. Of course I’m relieved not to have gotten the rona so far — with the vaccine now in sight. Maybe some of the zine ideas in progress will start coming together. And I will try to write a post every day during the vacation, no matter how mundane my nattering!

On the weekend I cleaned out our closet. Things are now sorted nicely on the hangers. Some stuff was donated or put in boxes or into the shed. My active pairs of shoes are organized: blue jafa boots, identical red jafa boots that I hand dyed on a low bookshelf; tall jafa boots at the top of the closet with things in them to keep them upright; non-ugly sandals with some kind of orthopedic cork action in the sole; and my house crocs with arch supports stuck into them with masking tape. I still have my adorable purple brass-button-front boots (newly conditioned and polished) but haven’t tried them to see if my (always painful) feet can tolerate them again. The best shoes for horrible foot and ankle pain so far have been Naots (with Shell sole) and Jafa – pro tip – much much better than the standard rec people give (Danskos). Still in the shed: My derby fluevog boots which I can’t quite bear to get rid of, in hopes I can wear them again someday.

Yesterday I put up an extra little shelf and some hooks high up in the bathroom. My nicer silk opera scarves and ties are hanging there now, with woolly or fluffier scarves still on the back of the bedroom door. There is now a sort of extra scarf ball (like a ball of mating rattlesnakes) stuffed into a bin under the bed. It is very satisfying to get out my drill, stud finder, boxes of screws and anchor thingies, stepladder, etc. — feeling handy around the house to the point of smug.

bathroom wall

Then I noticed that the fridge broke.

Then Stardew Valley 1.5 came out.

Sooooo other than cleaning out the entire fridge and folding a load of laundry with one more to go, I might not do much today other than play Stardew! The fridge repair guy is coming from the appliance shop just down the street, tomorrow morning to take a look. At the door as we discussed this he said he’d come by and I asked stupidly if he knows the address. Duh he knows where I live, we are a block away (I can see the store from our porch) and his crew has been up here 3 times already this year when the first fridge broke; plus, I am fairly memorable, as is our weird little witch house!

My beach farm is cute as hell. Laptop has some keys that stick and I cannot get Danny’s game controllers to work with it so I am starting to use some of the CJB Cheats just to spare my hands.

Please wish me luck in having anything creative come back to me at all – it’s so depressing – Dossie sent me a poem and I had absolutely nothing to send back. Will write a letter.

Festival of the battling bugs

My dad has been uploading photos from his mother’s albums and there is an interesting page of a religious festival in San Francisco de Yare in Venezuela. I vaguely remember him telling me stories about that or something similar and we made terrifying paper maché masks for some occasion (Maybe just for something fun to do).

A photo from my dad’s slides that I digitized some years ago:
devil dancer

And here are some of the pics with captions from my grandma’s album.
dancing devils festival

I believe we should have not only fabulous monuments to the Internet and other technical achievements but we should have amazing festivals. As I read out the description of the devils approaching the church, singing décimas and then kneeling in submission, Danny suggested a ceremonial Battle of the Bugs. Noisebridge could host a giant parade where we enact open source bugs (the demons) and the developers defeating them. I can picture different contingents acting out their particular dramas. I bet it would be easy to get companies as well as open source projects to participate.

I just love secular festivals and while I would not advocate stealing anything specific from this Venezuelan folkloric tradition it would be very cool to create some new festivals that are more like a giant participatory play, with dramas enacted, than a parade where we just walk around.

Suddenly imagining the Internet Drama play of the Content Moderators. Wow! It would be amazing!!!!

The mysterious aircar

By reading several locked room mysteries that refer to other locked room mysteries I have gone from The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo, to The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux, to John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man, to Anna Katherine Green‘s Initials Only.

Initials Only is quite a trip. The murder victim, Edith Challoner, is a fancy society lady with a heart of gold. Unfortunately a heart pierced by a mysterious unfindable weapon though I am pretty sure I know what it is. No one even noticed the wound at first, since she was wearing a giant bouquet of poinsetta flowers pinned to her bosom. There was no blood – then after a few minutes…BLOOD. HMMMMMM. I leave you to imagine the bosom which could pull off a giant poinsetta arrangement.

An inventor, Orlando Brotherson — who is also a skilled, respected anarchist organizer and orator — is in love with Edith, but was scorned and may have sent her a threatening letter. Meanwhile there are some letters he wrote to her, and letters she wrote to someone but never sent, and some entirely different letters from someone else with the initials O.B. who turns out to be Oswald Brotherson, Orlando’s brother, who manages a mill or foundry or something.

No one knew in 1911 how comical this would sound since there is a brand of tampon called O.B. — Bless their hearts.

Sweetwater, the detective, is hot on the anarchist’s trail, becomes his neighbor while working as a skilled carpenter, and spies on him through a hole bored in the wall.

Oswald collapsed from typhoid fever on the same day as Edith’s murder – nearly dies — is nursed back to health by Doris, an 17 year old small town beauty – And Orlando shows up on his doorstep with truckloads of supplies to build his invention in a giant shed.

The invention turns out to be a helicopter (this is 1911, were there actual helicopters yet?!) which for no good reason at all they launch in a hurricane.

BTW I am not done but am pretty sure the inventor killed Edith with a gun that fired an icicle. Just out of arrogance? I mean, he decided just before he went up in the helicopter that really he never loved Edith anyway and 17 year old Doris is his real true love.

Huge props to this book for the poinsettas, dangerous anarchists, helicopter, and icicle gun (will update if that is really what the weapon was!)

Just realized I have no idea what O.B. stands for (the tampon brand) and so looked it up. “The product was named by the gynecologist Judith Esser-Mittag who also developed it. The initials “o.b.” are an abbreviation of the German phrase “ohne Binde.”

p.s. On helicopters: In July 1901, the maiden flight of Hermann Ganswindt’s helicopter took place in Berlin-Schöneberg; this was probably the first heavier-than-air motor-driven flight carrying humans. A movie covering the event was taken by Max Skladanowsky, but it remains lost.”

I miss the Before Times

For months I think of posting and then turn instead to a book or a game, Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley, endless fantasy and science fiction, mystery and romance novels. How to capture any of this? The feeling of the slide to fascism along with climate crisis after crisis. I’ve always said that my hope in life is to avoid living in a country with an active war going on around me, with a side bonus of continuing to have drinkable running water and electricity. Am I going to get to live out my life with those hopes fulfilled or what? The uncertainty on those points continues to grow. Are these, actually, still the Before Times, when we used to have it good, and we don’t know it yet? Horrors.

Work gave us an extra day off last Friday, just because of the stress of the pandemic and the wildfires and bad air. Since the air is so bad, more or less everywhere we could reach, and it was also 100 degrees out (no exaggeration) we spent the 4 day weekend opening the windows any time the air was either cooled off or below 50 on the air quality index, then shutting windows again and running all the air filters. I’m feeling my asthma all the time now with the tight chest and tense, anxious feeling that goes with it. Checking PurpleAir and various fire maps, checking my handheld air quality monitor many times a day inside and outside, taking more showers and cold baths, mopping the floor by skating around with bare feet on wet dishclothes to cool off the room.

I spent a day and a half doing geneology reserach and writing up a narrative of the lives of a great great great grandfather William and his family and then the same for his daughter, my great great grandmother Caroline Crane. You can see the family go from the early 1800s agricultural laborers in a very peaty, marshy bit of Lancashire near Garstang, to William in 1851 getting to go to school till around age 8, then being apprenticed a bit later to a tailor. He was moving on up; he was literate enough to write his name, while his father and grandfather were not. I traced his movements through 3 marriages; he lost his tailoring business and ended up in a brickyard, then as a navvy in a coal mine at Darcy Lever, where his oldest daughter married a collier, James Hutchinson.

This branch of the family was full of examples of both collier and spinner/weaver/comber/whatever in the mills. Whether mines or mills, some patterns emerged. Maybe some schooling up to age 8 or 9, gradually increasing to age 11 or 12 if you were lucky later in the century. A relatively idyllic looking time as a young adult in your own household with a family of young children — if anyone was in school, and if the woman of the house wasn’t in a mill, you were doing GREAT. Then relatives either start moving in as they age or their spouses or parents die, then a couple of decades later you are living in some other 30 year old relative’s house.

I was able to follow James and Caroline’s life in Lancashire for a while. Then in 1911 45 year old James was out of work, and emigrated to the U.S. along with a neighbor. They ended up in Rhode Island where a bunch of my family is from. James and Caroline brought up a great-aunt who I know, so they don’t feel very distant, though they both died before I was born.

After my historical journey I read a book from 1931 called Boy, by James Hanley, about a Lancashire dockworker’s son who is forced to leave school at age 13 by his family to be a dockworker himself. The jobs are horrible and the other teenage workers abusive. (SPOILER ALERT) He then stows away on a seagoing vessel where he becomes basically a slave of the crew, who mostly try to rape him or push him around. He agonizes about his future. Cheerily, he then get syphilis in Alexandria. The captain murders him and throws his body overboard. It was an amazingly written book and I’d say, emotionally stunning. New vow to read everything by James Hanley. But I felt the weekend of 100+ heat and no good air to breathe might be better faced with a more formulaic series….I then plowed through all eight romance novels about the Bridgerton siblings (one book per sibling) by Julia Quinn. They are too mainstream heterosexual for me to be honest but I can “bracket” that by rolling my eyes or some sort of mental magic and they were funny and cute enough to be fun to read. I would also like to complain about how this sort of sex scene is written but there’s no point, let’s just know that it’s completely alien to me and I feel deeply grateful that is so. Nearly ready now to return to the land of war, the ocean, gritty, miserable generational poverty and abuse, etc that James Hanley shall bring me.

Still playing Animal Crossing, and still at the end stage of Spiritfarer, with only Buck and Elena on my enormous boat now, more or less ready to have Stella and Daffodil go through the Everdoor, not without crying I’m sure.

Justice for George Floyd rally, San Francisco

Home again after being at today’s rally at City Hall. I went out in support of the protests across the US right now calling for justice in the brazen police murder of George Floyd but also so many other police murders. If you are looking for information or a way to support have a look at the Black Disability Collective, donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund or one of the orgs they recommend. One more quick note please be aware a huge number of police murders are of disabled people and specifically of black and indigenous disabled people of color. Read up on it!!!!! Essential part of understanding disability justice!!!!

On to my report on the rally and march.

BART and bus were not crowded. I wore a cloth mask over my n95. Hit the Civic Center farmers market, got flowers and some cherries, and then was hanging on the lawn, people on the grass reading or also eating their farmers market cherries. As the rally started, I blocked the street on one side of City Hall with a few others (I’m a very effective traffic stopper). A large amount of police transport vans and white prison buses were gathered along the other end of City Hall, and I spotted a lot of cops as lookouts on top of the buildings surrounding us.There were speeches from the steps fo City Hall and then some chanting. Then I sat with this guy Hollywood as an enormous line of hundreds of cops quick-marked in lockstep across the center of the park, half splitting off to the other side and half coming to our side, where they assumed another formation half looking outward and half looking inward to the rally. They were in light vest armor with huge batons.

political march in downtown sf

This group took off marching down Market Street around 3:30pm, with maybe 50 cops in front and 50-100 in back. I ran into Yoz and Mikki and marched with them a while. I went from there to Embarcadero, slowly, then back along Market where I fell in with TWO different giant multi-thousand person marches. It was a lovely afternoon and there was great goodwill through the crowds, people handing out water bottles, the chants not being pointless, had some good conversations every time I paused to hang out with another wheelchair user. People’s signs were also really sweet and touching. There is just a lot of good fellow feeling as well as shared pain, anger, fear, determination.

marchers on market street

As I went back looking for an open BART station, Market Street was starting to be lined with cops in full riot gear. I would pause every half block or so if there was a group of them together and try to talk to them. Man what are you doing. You’re guarding this Old Navy rather than helping people in a difficult time. You don’t have to be a cop. You could get another job, you could do something better with your life, it is not too late. You’re young, you’re healthy! You can do anything with your life! You don’t have to do this, even right now. You could quit. You could join us and try to build a better world.

Well, it made me feel better, and no one beat me up for it, so. I actually felt anguish for them as they stood their in their storm trooper armor. They will beat someone tonight, they will throw tear gas or shoot rubber bullets, they’ll put out someone’s eye, either just because they’re amped up, because they think they have to defend a fucking MALL SHOP, or because they are full of hate and violence, to show off for each other how tough they are, and it will do damage to their own selves in the process, as well as to living people and to the fabric of our society. I felt a sort of motherly pain for them. I’m sorry that sounds cheesy but it’s true I felt like an old crone looking at fresh-faced evil not unable to be redeemed.

Many people took pictures of me from the sidewalk as I marched, as they were doing video or snapshots of the crowd I could see them start at the sight of me (I’m really something!!) and zero in and then just follow me trying to get the right shot of the wheelchair lady. I don’t mind, I’m representing.

Then home via BART. Take note if you are downtown that Powell and Civic Center BART are now closed, and I heard but didn’t verify that Embarcadero was closed. I am worried about the amount of people who may get trapped in downtown with riot cops ready to mix it up. It is going to be scary tonight.

Despite everyone telling me to stay safe I felt it was important for my own conscience to go out into the street and put my body and health on the line for black, indigenous, and other people of color, for their safety and freedom and health. We need to defend our communities. None of us are safe if we are not all safe.

The last few days I’ve been just donating to bail funds but that has a horrible feel of “Like Uber, but for activism” in that I stay home because it’s “not safe” for me, (risk factors of the rona, or from some fear of being disabled in a riot, and definitely the fear of being shackled ot a hospital bed which seems to be what happens to wheelchair users who are arrested) when it’s actually not safe for anyone and the whole idea I get to opt in to be “safe” while tweeting revolutionary thoughts like a vanguardist while others risk their lives and they I pay them, is too gross for me to deal with. At least get my ass out there for one day. I’m not even missing work. Over and out!

liz with protest sign

Pokétears

Logged into Pokémon today to send gifts to my friends’ kids. It isn’t so much fun to play it when I’m not out running around town, getting interesting pokestop gifts to send, catching weird creatures, and hatching eggs. As I then used up the rest of my hoard of gifts on other friends I felt weepy. I miss riding the bus all over town, I miss the J Church, I miss BART, feeling free & intermeshed with the map and all the people of the city.

Sent a gift to some random neighbor whose name I don’t remember but who is a tech journalist and travels around a lot (good gifts from other countries!). We met on the street as I caught him and his partner battling a gym (at the library). Sent another to my pal “yeetrio”, a young man who approached me on the platform at BART since he spotted me playing – we’re ultra friends and nearly to “best friends” months later. I saw him go to Costa Rica and then come back again! Sent one to my dad who is my top Lucky Friend. I can tell he has gone out to do his rounds in the back of Huntwick (Huntwick Stump Bear!) and Meyer Park in Houston.

It is always sweet when someone sends me an obviously cool gift (I’m looking at you Denise and Tarrant but also whoever keeps sending me “Midnight Rollergirl”.

Animal Crossing continues – today I made nearly 1 million on the stalk market by selling my turnips on someone’s island from a discord channel. The fellowship on there is very sweet as well. Sumana and Leonard and I keep visiting each other’s islands to admire the decor and flowers and trade tips.

Feeling sentimental about games – I need to gear up to work on my big game again but it has obviously taken on a different feeling now. It is set in the Before Times, but it’s actually about history and time travel and change as the Traveller deepens their knowledge of the time and place they’re in (and goes back & forward in time as well.) So, I guess that’s where my feelings about the pandemic and our city will go.

On my toes

I have a small but nice thing to report. For the first time in 10 years, I can stand on my toes.

The thing that has done the trick is a simple pull-up bar which is mounted in a doorway. I saw this in my friend Erica’s house & bought one for something like 25 bucks back in January. It’s mounted in the bedroom closet doorway, the only one in the house that has room since I took the doors off the closet.

So, every day at least once or twice I stand there and do 20 or 30 half-pullup, half toe stands. With my “bad” leg, I have to think very carefully about where the weight is balanced and concentrate on the ball of the foot. It’s also good to keep my stomach muscles engaged.

There’s no way I can do an actual pull up, and I certainly couldn’t stand on my toes, but with the combined support I can do a weird hybrid. Bonus side effect, it straightens out my mid and upper spine amazingly so now I’m doing this so that my back will crack.

Last night there were bins of clothes in front of the closet. I was too tired to put them away. But I kind of wondered… could I stand on my toes without holding onto anything?

Tried it first holding onto a bookshelf and was able to do it. AMAZING. Then …. balance difficult… bad leg freaking out and slightly-less-bad leg screeching in protest . . . I did it unsupported and held the position. Showed this off to Danny and then quit as I don’t want to be unable to walk at all the next day!

10 years ago I couldn’t place my feet flat on the ground! Fixing that took me a year!!!!

I’d like to also say that therabands drive me up the wall, not sure why, a combination of factors. I’ve never really mastered them. Probably I need the kind with handles (the elastic hurts my hands). The closet bar has been so much more helpful and less painful.

I’m also doing the world’s tiniest weight lifting project with 2 lb weights, straight up, then straight up with arms rotated, then a “tree hug” type of move. At least once a day. It is also helping my neck and upper spine.

Well, that’s all — it’s just a lovely feeling that I can make this small change through easy and gradual habits.