Thursday, 1 September 2011

Making a connection

Last night I settled down to watch 'Who Do You Think You Are' on BBC One. I love this series – it's always an entertaining and informative mix of history lesson, practical advice on how to find ancestors, following the trail around the globe, and, of course, seeing 'celebrities' in a different light.
This week it was the actor Larry Lamb. And what a story! He came from a family of well-known showmen and wild beast menagerie owners. One great-great uncle, called James Day, was a lion tamer known as Jimmy Wildbeast (see pic), while his other, more famous great-great uncle was Thomas Day, alias Martini Bartlett – king of the lion tamers. Fantastic! But alongside the surprising characters, was the rather sad story of Larry's mum who had been adopted and always hoped to see her birth mother again. Unfortunately, she never did.
In every episode I've watched over the years, there is always a moment where even the seemingly 'hardened' celebrities start to get emotional. Jeremy Paxman being a case in point. Sometimes it's because they feel sorry for ancestors who have suffered or fallen on hard times. Or perhaps they have met up with relatives they never knew existed. But last night, Larry Lamb became very emotional as he realised he had more in common with his ancestors than just looks or characteristics. After explaining he had found strength from knowing who his grandparents were, he wanted to say something else, but had to take a moment to compose himself. When he did, he said "Because you're just a part of the journey yourself".
I thought his strong reaction to this notion was both interesting and very moving. Like many people, I've attempted to trace my family tree and, alongside the thrill of making a connection to certain people in a certain place during a certain point in history, is the realisation that, like them, we are born, live, love, laugh, cry... and die. Here one moment, gone the next. That is our connection. It's the same journey, just different outfits.


  1. I love the programme too. I didn't see it last night but will watch it on iplayer later (I loved the J K Rowling prog. I thought she was fabulous!). I have been thinking alot about that "journey" recently. Maybe it's an age you get to, an age when you realise you are not immortal and that my life will end at some point, later rather than sooner hopefully! I think knowing this helps me enjoy life more and not dwell on insignificant things too much.

  2. Hello RR and thanks for stopping by...
    Yes, JK Rowling was very enthusiastic wasn't she? Lovely story too. Even though I understand what we mean in terms of 'journey', I sometimes struggle with the concept. I think that's because the word implies getting somewhere. And I'm just not sure where that might be!
    But you are so right - death gives life meaning. Perhaps suggesting it is a gift is an idea too far. But nothing else can make you so grateful for life, that's for sure! xx

  3. Saw it too. And wasn't that a fantastic moment! He became aware that he was just a point on a continuum. His whole conception of his mortality and of himself were altered. It was just completely brilliant.

    Coming as I do from a completely dysfunctional immediate family I have never had an urge to delve into my genetic history. But they can't all be bonkers. There must be someone I can look up to. One of these days I may even...

  4. I think we have to use the word "journey" loosely as I don't think we ever arrive anywhere. Life always throws up unexpected things doesn't it and then you are thrown off your path? I love the quote "It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive". Bon Voyage. x

  5. Lovely quote RR - Bon Voyage to you! x

    Yes Charles, it was a really special TV moment we witnessed there. And DO delve into your family history. I'm sure there will be some corkers!