Thursday, 31 March 2022


T gave me a lovely present. A DNA testing kit. It was simple to use. I put a small amount of my saliva into a test tube. Added the blue stabilizing fluid. Screwed the top onto the tube, put it into a sealed bag and sent it away. After that, all I had to do was to register my details on the Ancestry website and wait. They said the results could take six weeks. At first I began to ponder what sort of old git I might be. Then I promptly forgot about it. Until I received the email telling me to log on and find the results.

My ethnic origins were traced back for 1000 years. England and NW Europe counted for 60%. The remainder was Scotland 15%, Wales 11%, Sweden & Denmark 6%, Ireland 5% and Germanic Europe 3%.

These results were very intriguing. Especially as there are no Danish, German, Scottish or Swedish connections in my family within living memory. But these make up 24% of my DNA. So how did this come about?

Stories of journeys, encounters and intermarriage are the stuff of living memory that is spoken of by Grannies and Granddads at family gatherings. What my DNA test shows is that this has always been true. My forebears moved around in search of better circumstances and interbred. Then they settled for a while, until the next move took place, however many generations later.

This is what has made me a mongrel. But I’m not exceptional. The other people on these islands are going to be mongrels too. These islands have been inhabited for around 30,000-40,000 years. And until 8000 years ago Britain was joined to Europe by land. So to move somewhere new and intermarry, all you needed to do was walk. And after that, our forebears became good at building boats.

The other thing it shows is that there is no such thing as ethnic purity. This means that national identity is a social construct (and not a biological one). So whatever flags we may choose to wave. Underneath we are all mongrels. And we have much more in common with one another than we have differences.


Friday, 11 March 2022

The Verdict

Early last week I got a letter from the Cancer Centre giving me a telephone appointment with my oncologist. Finally I was going to get the result of my cancer surveillance scan. But just a couple of hours before the appointment, I got a call from the secretary cancelling it. And then I really began to worry. Because exactly the same process had happened six years ago, when I had a recurrence of my cancer. The review appointment was cancelled at short notice to give the oncology team time to consider what action to take. Then a further appointment was made to tell me the bad news and what they were going to do about it. In a terrible rerun, another letter from the Cancer Centre duly arrived making a new appointment for this week. Our anxiety levels went sky high and remained there, day and night.

At last, the day of the appointment came. The letter said they would speak to me at 1.30 pm. I sat in my office beside the telephone, trying to stay calm. I was desperate to be put out of my misery, but I was so very fearful of what they were going to say. I found myself flicking to newsfeeds from the war in Ukraine. An hour passed and no-one called. Then another. And another. I was beginning to think that they’d forgotten to tell me the appointment was postponed again. Or even worse, that they weren’t going to call at all.

At around 4.30 pm the phone rang. I picked up the handset and pressed the button. Although the phone was ringing, no-one was on the line. I shouted to T, ‘There’s something wrong with the phone.’ She ran down the hallway towards the kitchen for the other handset. In her haste, she tripped over and went flying. But she still managed to crawl into the kitchen. As T grasped the handset, the ringing stopped.

I helped her up. She had bruised her elbow and grazed a knee. She was badly shaken. The phone began to ring again. It was my mobile. I ran down the hallway to my office and answered it. T hobbled after me. It was the Registrar. After asking me how I was feeling, he said, ‘I expect you want to know the result of your scan.’ My heart was going nineteen to the dozen. ‘It’s fine,’ he said. ‘No real change from the last time.’ T, leaning on my shoulder, began to cry.