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My trans-Atlantic Cousin Jacks, Part 1

Soon after I began delving into my Cornish connections – created by the marriage of Welsh cousin Charles Edwin Nicholas to Landewednack lass Sidonia Jose – I realised I had entered a genealogical maze.

That cliched phrase ‘a tight-knit community’ hardly did justice to this Lizard Peninsula clan. This was so tight-knit, and the Jose name so prolific, as to be akin to a skein of wool attacked by a basket of playful kittens. Unravelling it with any certainty would be a challenge like that faced by someone researching the surnames Smith, Brown or Jones.

Ahead lay a path strewn with doubts and uncertainties where obtaining conclusive proof the correct ancestor had been found would be almost impossible for many of them.

Like others of earlier times, the Joses bred large families and stayed close to home. Most of them stayed deeply entrenched within the sea-washed confines of the Lizard Peninsula which, even today, presents as a singular attachment to the rest of Cornwall, remote, cloistered and self-contained.

However, among the many stay-at homes. there were a few who broke loose and ventured far afield. Most went of their own accord but one or two were dispatched at the order of the courts. The majority remained in their new homelands and founded Jose dynasties, although a couple did make it back to English shores.

One of the youngest to quit the Lizard was cousin John Jose, determined to start a new life after some turbulent years at home. His father had died when John was only four-years-old and his sister, Elizabeth, had followed their father six months later after living only three months.

John’s mother, Elizabeth (nee Harry) had since formed a liaison with a Mr Secombe (or Seccombe, the most likely candidate being Thomas Seccombe, a married cordwainer from nearby Mawgan-in-Meneage) and given birth to an illegitimate daughter, Isabella, who lived for a mere six months.

But the biggest setback came in 1838 when his older brother, Richard, died at sea while aboard the Royal Navy brigantine Skylark. The ship, built in Pembroke (another Cornwall-Wales link) and commissioned in 1831, was stationed at Falmouth.

When John arrived in Quebec, Canada, at the end of the 1830s, he was barely out of his teens. At some stage of his journey – was this a shipboard romance? – he met Scottish lass Jane Vance, from Glen Luche, a place so far not found on any map but reliably mentioned in the family’s folklore.


 The record of Jane Jose’s birth in Quebec

On 7 May 1840, when Jane was still only sixteen years old, they were married at St John’s Presbyterian Church in Quebec City.

The newlyweds soon moved to Toronto where they lived to the end of their days with Jane’s death, at the age of ninety-two in July 1915, being reported in the local newspapers as that of ‘one of Toronto’s oldest residents’ who had settled in the city ‘before the coming of the railroads’.

In memory of John’s brother they named their first son Richard, who fittingly was a lone survivor among the couple’s early days of parenting.

Their first born, Elizabeth in 1844, lived less than three months but was remembered first in another Elizabeth, who lived barely two years from 1853 to 1855 and yet again on 25 August 1856 with Elizabeth Jane, who bucked the trend and lived to the age of eighty-seven.

Another early death was that of John, who survived for only six weeks from birth in January 1849 and was remembered a year later when another boy was born and given the name of John.

The family’s fortunes vastly improved from the birth of the third Elizabeth with most of the surviving seven children marrying, having children, and living to a ripe old age. The one setback was Sarah, born in 1866 and who married late at the age of thirty-nine but lived for only another four years.

And so, to the best of my knowledge, at least one twiglet on the Jose family tree has put down deep roots and continues to grow and thrive in Canada.

Sugged in by Joe and his YouTube antics

YouTube has a lot to answer for when more and more truly worthwhile causes are failing for lack of funds while a semi-literate 24-year-old accrues instant wealth from acting the idiot in his bedroom.

Like thousands of immature youths before him, Joe Sugg found it amusing to film his gawkish ramblings and upload them to YouTube.  A tidal wave of unthinking followers now replay his videos to such an extent that in next to no time he has become obscenely rich.

OK, it’s not YouTube’s direct fault that Sugg (who, you might well have asked) is raking in a fortune while thousands of far more genuinely deserving causes go penniless. But it is only through its existence that such skewing of society’s priorities has become possible.

In a matter of months, Sugg, a roof thatcher in an English village, has jumped from scraping by on an apprentice wage to estimated earnings of £500,000 a year. And that’s only for starters. The inevitable book deal, documentary and ticketed live appearances that accompany such nonentities ensure this is merely a base figure.

The foundation of Sugg’s obscene income (far more than the Prime Minister’s or that of innumerable people with taxing, responsible, even life-affecting jobs) is the revenue from the advertisements that accompany YouTube’s videos. With an estimated “audience” of  5.2 million he is creaming it – and so is YouTube.

And it all comes from acting like a right dick and mouthing the sort of unthinking, random thoughts that tend to fester so many young heads.  Plus the equally unthinking support of millions just like him.

If only all this support – and, more especially, money – could be channelled into some meaningful, useful, deserving, positive purpose.  Every day there comes news of an individual, an organisation, a cause, a project that is facing failure or closure (even death) through lack of funding.

Many such would welcome even as little as one per cent of Sugg’s income in order to struggle on, to survive.

There is, however, little hope of that happening.  After all, this cynically dressed and groomed peacock has an admirable example to emulate in the form of his slightly older sister, Zoe, who is categorised as “an internet sensation” famously known – like so many instant identities – by a single moniker: Zoella.

Big sister is even more ridiculously rich for doing little that contributes an iota of benefit to the welfare or wellbeing of our  impoverished society.

One cannot help but think society is being suckered (or is it Suggered?) by Joe, Zoe, their imitators and their followers.

Sadly, there is no answer; no remedy. Unless, of course, these mindless parasites have a Eureka moment and decide to turn all their preening and prancing to some philanthropic and purposeful use.

And, yes, pigs might one day fly.



Is there anyone out there?

Time and again we read reports of the decomposing body of some poor soul being discovered in the house where they have lived for ever and a day.

Shock, horror. “How could this happen in this modern day and age?” goes the cry.

Why the surprised reaction? Rather than express shock that such events could ever occur we should be treating them as the norm; they are becoming an almost daily occurrence.

And I see why. As a solitary soul, happy in his own company, there are many periods when I have scant contact on a personal basis with other human beings – certainly not within my own domain. There are no neighbours knocking on the door for whatever reason; there are no friends dropping in for a chat, coffee or a glass of vino. The postman needing a signature on a package can be my sole contact with the outside world.

My realm is that state of mind and body known as “splendid isolation.” Which suits me fine.

But what if, as one of advancing years whose many contemporaries are now resting six feet under, I was to suffer one of those “attacks” that can occur so suddenly?  I have been close to, and  sharply aware of, numerous such events in recent times. And they are becoming ever more frequent.

What, I wonder, if I was to succumb to such an event?  It would require immediate, urgent, knowledgeable action … or else.

Yet it could be hours, days even, before anyone was aware that I was not up and about as usual. The newsagent might notice I hadn’t been in for my daily paper – but would think I’d gone away for a while rather than permanently. Who else? Contact with friends and relatives these days is predominantly by email and Facebook.  A day without a post or a message would not be unusual – there can be weeks between  such communications.

In common with the majority of the populace, I have many Facebook “friends” but true friends are few.

We have long lost the personal touch. Never off the phone, ceaselessly sending texts, iPads and iPhones our constant companions, so busy, so many contacts … and yet it is all at arm’s length. We are hired, fired, congratulated, commiserated, engaged, divorced, befriended, unfriended, cheered and chided, slandered, praised and variously ordered and informed by remote electronic means.

Not a touch, a smile, a wink, a caress, a grimace, laugh or semblance of humanity intervenes. Never have we been so much in touch with those around us, and around the world.

And yet we never speak to our neighbours, or even to our so-called friends. Or knock on their door.

So be not surprised that if you do happen to knock, there is no answer. Your call came too late.






About time

Wonder of wonders: the Brits have decided to test all 11-year-olds on the proper use of verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs as well as prepositions and conjunctions. They are also to be taught to use punctuation marks correctly with a focus on full stops, question marks, commas, inverted commas and the dreaded apostrophe.
One would have thought all this would have formed the basics of any educational system. But it is evident from much that is written these days that such teachings have become considered passe and unnecessary. It is staggering to think that only now is such an idea being canvassed but, even worse, that it is being opposed by teaching unions.

Rebus returns

Thanks goodness the Scots have decided to raise the retirement age for their police force. It means Ian Rankin can bring irascible old Rebus back to the mean streets of Edinburgh. Standing in Another Man’s Grave is already completed and due for release in November. It not only resurrects Rebus 25 years after he first appeared, but it also sees him up against the adversary of his later years, the dour and dutiful Malcolm Fox. Orion is the publisher.

Suchalot laughalot

It’s completely mad, totally ridiculous and one of the best evenings of sheer fun you will have in many a night at the theatre. It is, of course, the zany psuedo musical comedy Spamalot, playing all this week at the Hall for Cornwall.
Created by Eric Idle it is, as the programme proudly states, a show “lovingly ripped off from Monty Python and the Holy Grail” which, as Idle informs us, became the “endearingly silly” film upon which much of this creation is based. For many it will be highly familiar territory enjoyably revisted as they journey with King Arthur and his shambolic knights on their search for the holy grail. All the known hazards are there – the grotesque French, the killer rabbit, the knights who say …. and the brave foe to whom the loss of legs and arms is just a flesh wound.
The dancing is hilariously energetic; the songs are zestful and laugh-along funny. And the many send-ups of the musical comedy genre fire several accurate barbs at pop divas and the numbers they scream across the footlights.
It is an ensemble show in which everyone excels but special mention has to be made of showbiz legends Bonnie Langford as The Lady of the Lake and Todd Carty as the loyally loveable Patsy, as well as multi-talented comedian Marcus Brigstocke as King Arthur.
They and they rest of the cast had the audience totally on side from beginning to end, sharing many a laugh with them along the way.
It’s a rollicking, uproarious fun night out that Tuesday night’s audience so clearly enjoyed and needed no prompting to join in singing the moment that Patsy launched into that song.

Oh dear pussy

You’ve gotta laugh. No really, you do. You can’t help yourself. The show now running at the Hall for Cornwall is ridiculous, self-indulgent, nonsensical, lacking any point or reason and totally inane – but it provides as good an evening’s entertainment as we’ve had for quite some time.
Four members of the notoriously idiotic Spymonkey collective transform Oedipus, the greatest tragedy of all time, into two hours of high farce and slapstick. The jokes begin with its title, Oedipussy – a nod in the direction of the Bond movies – and they don’t get any better. In fact some of them are downright painful.
It is broad, knockabout comedy direct from the school of Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy and pantomime dames. Yet for all its faults and weaknesses it manages at least to entertain and raise many a laugh. It is raucous, rude, rustic and Rabelaisian, full-on and in-your-face and mostly succeeds thanks to the energy, comedic skills and sheer physical staying power of its four performers. And I’m sure the young man in the front row will long remember his night out and his confrontation with the female form.
Some judicial pruning wouldn’t go amiss and one or two flatter moments need improving or cutting.
It’s certainly not deep and meaningful but for a mostly hilarious evening it’s hard to beat.
Treat yourself to a chuckle or two. There are still two more nights to go.
Go on, you’ve gotta laugh … and you certainly will.

One-stop editing

Love the story from publisher/writer Anthony Horowitz who records the editor of his 205,000-word Oblivion suggesting he change the voice from third person to first person.
Her “simple” idea was that this could be achieved by using the find/replace dropdown in Word.
But, as Horowitz rightly comments, the reality was “it would mean totally rewriting the whole bloody thing.”
As a result he is no longer speaking to her or, more accurately, “Anthony is no longer speaking to Jane”.

Routine is normal

As esteemed US novelist John Irving explains in a recent interview there is nothing more frustrating than the interferences that interrupt his routine. His day begins with an early rising, a walk with the dog, boiling eggs for breakfast and then into the office until he emerges in late afternoon for a session on his home gym. After 90 minutes of that he cooks dinner and spends time with his wife.
No matter where he is, the routine doesn’t vary.
Boring? Yes, to some. But essential if one is to truly concentrate on the writing task.
Any impatience he demonstrates comes from “an acute awareness of having limited time left to devote to what he feels needs his attention most – his writing and his family”.
And he is a mere youngster at 70.
Time is indeed a limited resource and writers have to use it to their fullest advantage. And before it seeps away.

A bitch of a play

They don’t make them like that any more. Movie stars. I mean. Today’s so-called celebrities couldn’t hold a candle to the two grand dames of the silver screen who are portrayed bitching their way through life in a sublime two-hander at the Hall for Cornwall all this week.
Anita Dobson as Joan Crawford and Greta Scacchi as Bette Davis spar with barbs and scathing one-liners in Bette and Joan, a re-creation of what supposedly occurred on the backlot of Warner Bros studios in Hollywood as the two fading film stars came together in 1962 to reawaken their careers with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.
The occasion is cleverly crafted by playwright Anton Burge to encapsulate these two tempestuous careers and the shattering collision of their ego-driven personalities.
The dialogue is sharp and witty as the spotlight shifts between these two abrasive characters – one always determined to be a lady and the other claiming that her acting comes before all else; and each forever plotting to undermine the other.
In a way, both are sad and tragic figures yet they are survivors – two of a kind yet distinctly different. The triumph of the piece is that we laugh with them, rather than at them, as they relish their petty triumphs and recognise their failures and failings.
Another winner for HfC as proved by the rousing first night reception.