My Grandfather’s Nose

I’m the sum of many parts, as are we all, but I’ve always considered myself English through and through. However, there has always been a vague suspicion in our family that the name Goodman, my maternal grandfather’s name, spoke of possible Jewish connections.

Grandad’s nose was seen as a dead giveaway. I inherited it, to my chagrin, and have been teased mercilessly about it all my life. It caused embarrassing problems with those first tentative teenage kisses – I mean where do you put a nose like that – and precedes me wherever I go.  I don’t know who the lady in the photo with the equally challenging accoutrement is, but she was awarding Grandad a retirement certificate at Mobbs and Lewis Last Factory in Kettering – it must have been in the late nineteen-fifties.

Grandad Mobbs and Lewis.jpg

My uncle managed to trace the Goodman family back to the 1600s in Thorpe Malsor, Northamptonshire – one of my favourite villages – when the name disappeared. He was intrigued by the fact that immediately predating this, a Jewish name, very similar to Goodman arrived in Thorpe Malsor.  It begged the question was this a family of Jews that anglicised their name? Were we immigrants for whatever social, religious, economic, or political reason?

However, the trail ran cold at this point and nothing further could be ascertained, until fairly recently when my interest in the subject was re-aroused. About eight years ago, my husband had major heart surgery, and as a part of his recovery programme, we attended a cardiac rehab class. It was in a leisure-centre room with mirrored walls, and the exercises gave time for a bit of clandestine people watching. That was the first time I’d noticed that my skin tone was very slightly different from the ‘pink’ of those around me. I was definitely a yellower/browner tone. It made me rethink my Englishness and made me wonder again about the family suspicions. However, I did nothing more about researching the puzzle.

My husband had always been interested in his ethnicity, so for his birthday this year, I bought him a DNA test kit. I’d always thought he looked Scandinavian – tall with fair hair and blue eyes, so his 40% Viking heritage didn’t come as a surprise. He was also largely English, with Scottish,  Welsh, and Irish, and a tiny bit of Italian, and African. A mongrel, as are we all. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I decided to test myself as well. What was I expecting? A tiny bit of Middle Eastern, maybe, with a majority of English mongrel, and the African everyone must have in them somewhere.

Not so. This morning I got the results. I am not who I thought I was.

I am 35% Scottish, Irish, and Welsh – that’s quite a hefty lump – both legs at least. And the rest of me, all 65%, is Western European, as in France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and maybe stretching as far as Northern Italy, Switzerland and Denmark. Not an English bone in my body – not even a meta-tarsal.

This was bit of a shock.

However, it does lend credence to the suspicions of Jewish ancestry, as Goodman could well be an anglicisation of Guttman, Gottman, Godman, or any number of other German names, and there was a large population of Jews in Germany. It’s fascinating to ponder what might have happened to bring my mother’s ancestors from Europe to England’s shores. And maybe I have a little Italian to account for my more ‘olive’ skin tone. My family has already provided novel fodder in the guise of ‘For Their Country’s Good‘ and ‘The Dandelion Clock‘, perhaps there’s another story to be told here?

What’s perplexing me now, though, is my father’s family. Baker seems an inherently English name – what could be more obvious than a baker – and he was proboscisally challenged as well, by the way, so I had no chance in the nose stakes. Baker was a name that has always anchored me deeply and comfortably in my ancient Englishness, so where was your family from, Dad? Scotland, Wales, or Ireland?

I may never know, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. I am a sum of their many parts. I am me – nose and all.

I wonder who you are?




A Date With . . . Penny Luker

Well worth reading. meet Penny Luker, passionate author.

Frank Parker's author site

My latest date is with a former head teacher who has written children’s stories, a young adult novel, poems, and short stories for adults. She is a resident of Cheshire and a member of her local writers’ group. I began by asking her to tell me about the town and its environs.

“I taught in Nantwich and Delamere in Cheshire and have lived in this area for twenty five years. It is a beautiful place to live. There are lots of amazing places to visit; lakes, castles, canals and cities such as Manchester and Liverpool, not to mention Chester. The people here are so friendly and the children I taught were great fun. Originally though I came from Kent, which is also a lovely part of the country. I visit often because I still have family there.”

She loves writing poetry and goes to a monthly class with John Lindley…

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Here is my interview with Rebecca Bryn

Thank you, Fiona, for a lovely interview, and on my birthday, too.


Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.

Hi, Fiona.

Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?

I write as Rebecca Bryn, and I’ve just, today, used up by three score years and ten.

Fiona: Where are you from?

I was born and brought up in Kettering, Northamptonshire, UK, but I now live in West Wales.

Fiona: A little about your self (ie,  your education, family life, etc.).

I was educated to GCE O level, skipped university to get married, have been married twice to fabulous men, and have two wonderful sons, six lovely grandchildren, and a very loopy dog. Despite the inevitable heartbreak, I’ve been very lucky.

Fiona: Tell us your latest news.

I’ve just completed my third historical novel (six if you count all the books in a series) called The Dandelion Clock about…

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Free 1st to 3rd April at – Mistaken beliefs and an evil tyrant.WHD Holy cow free tweet

I don’t know where to begin in praising this book – there is so much that is good about it. It is a post-apocalypse saga of epic proportions. Worthy of the mistresses of the genre, Margaret Attwood and Ursula LeGuin, the story and the world Rebecca Bryn has created is utterly convincing.
Be prepared to endure with the cast of characters with whom she has peopled that world as they travel over mountains and desert, voyage the sea, witness gruesome rituals and bloody battles on a journey to protect the Gift of prophecy.
Rebecca Bryn is a mistress of the art of revealing emotions: anger, horror, fear, revulsion and, towering above them, love and forgiveness. In her exploration of the Nazi death camps, Touching the Wire, she deployed those skills to great effect. Here she uses the same techniques to bring to life a small primitive community surviving in medieval conditions, contending with a trio of mistaken beliefs and an evil tyrant.
As in Touching the Wire, the character who first appears as the epitome of evil learns, through love to shun violence and is transformed into the hero who saves the community from the tyrant, upon whom he inflicts the most gruesome punishment imaginable. That was a scene that made me wonder if Ms Bryn has a subconscious need to punish men in general. It is undoubtedly the women who come out on top in this thought provoking saga.
At the end Ms Bryn presents us with an account of how the apocalypse came about. It includes a thoroughly researched and well presented account of the science of climate change which goes well beyond the current obsession with the effect of carbon emissions to explain past and possible future fluctuations in climate over millennia.
I am a slow reader and limit my book reading time to around one hour a day. It took me a couple of weeks to get through this book but every minute was a joy.‘ – Frank Parker, author of ‘Strongbow’s Wife’ and ‘A Purgatory of Misery’ – Irish history.

Forgiveness – what, who, when, or if?

‘Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.’ As an atheist, I view forgiveness on a personal scale, and I admire those who through faith can forgive what seem to me to be unforgiveable acts. Certainly, if you can rid yourself of the eroding and destructive feelings of anger or injustice that eat at your well-being and happiness, then that ‘unforgiveable’ act has no power over you, and you are no longer a victim, so in that respect forgiveness is healthy and to be encouraged.

For some, Good Friday is a religious day of great importance when they ponder forgiveness, for others it’s a chance to have a day off work and eat Easter eggs, for me it brings heartbreaking memories and a sadness that has plagued me for over thirty years. Whilst I never blamed one party, for my own blame would have to be too deeply inspected if I did that, how do I forgive the other the premeditated destruction of three families, mine among them.

I won’t go into details, they’re personal and would bore you – this has happened to thousands of families and mine isn’t a special case. It isn’t the hand you’re dealt, but how you play it? Not well, in my case, or not for a long while, but my personal traumas have stood me in good stead, made me stronger and more self-reliant, given me a deeper understanding of myself and the human condition, and have provided inspiration for plots, depth for my characters, and clothing for the bones of my stories.

Common themes run through my tales almost subconsciously, and the feelings I’ve experienced in life: the joy, the pain, the guilt, fear, and anger are manifested in my characters. Loss, guilt, bad choices, cowardice and courage, hope and despair, faith and the lack of it, promises kept and broken are all explored, but strongest of them all, is the narrative of unbreakable love.

Loss, that desire to find my way back to something unattainable, appears to be a central theme, and questions are raised about forgiveness, hatred, guilt, faith, and life choices.

In Where Hope Dares, an epic ‘post-apocalyptic’ adventure set far in our future, Kiya is kidnapped, and Raphel her husband sets out on a 1000-mile journey to bring her home. Such is the strength of their love, and that strength and their ‘pagan’ faith is needed to overcome the disasters that befall them both.

In The Silence of the Stones, a contemporary mystery set in West Wales, Alana, having faith in nothing but her ‘small gods’, leaves Tony, her lover, when she becomes pregnant by another man and the truth would destroy Tony, but it’s him she always desires, and she struggles to love the child that separates them. In taking her own personal journey to ‘find herself’ she is able to accept who she is and let him back into her life.

In Touching the Wire, where forgiveness and faith is tested to breaking point and beyond, Walt loses Miriam, his wife, in the death camp of Auschwitz/Birkenhau in Poland in 1944. Guilt and remorse haunt him, promises are not kept, and self-forgiveness is not possible, yet love prevails.

In ‘For Their Country’s Good’ a trilogy set in 1840s England, Ella is forced by family and social/religioius mores into marrying against her will, while Jem, the man she loves is transported to Van Diemen’s Land for murder. But her love for Jem makes her unstoppable, and she determines to find him, whatever the cost. Bad decisions and guilt haunt her journey and the question of self-forgiveness raises its head once again.

In The Dandelion Clock, Walt and Florrie are torn apart by the Great War and again, faith during wartime is questioned. Promises are made, but war changes people, so the question that arises is should promises made under such difficult circumstances be kept? The Dandelion Clock will be published later in 2018.

Where Hope Dares will be free as a birthday gift to my readers from 1st April to 3rd April inclusive. I hope you pick it up at One reviewer called it ‘The best epic dystopian saga you’re likely to read.’.

Read a frank interview with Frank Parker here

Previews of my books can be read here

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