That was restful

Quite a few people have contacted the Facebook page asking about me. They’d noticed that I hadn’t written anything for a few weeks and wanted to check that I was OK. That was really nice of them (they know who they are) and I want to thank them for their concern. I’m grateful to my colleagues at EBF for responding to them in my absence to put their minds at rest.

The truth is, I’ve been on holiday. Hubby and I took the girls off to my hometown, a beautiful cathedral city in the East Midlands for Christmas. We visited relatives and friends and even got to take our beautiful daughters to local sites and museums describing our shared heritage from the past. They’re getting to be old enough to appreciate that stuff now.
The city still bears the evidence of Roman and Viking settlements, of Saxons and Normans, of Jewish traders and of more modern influxes of people like the Poles and other East Europeans who fled occupied Europe during World War 2.

Roman 1

And as we went around these places it struck me just how ridiculous it is for any modern British citizen to argue about race, religion or national identity as though it’s something we can isolate and separate from the rest of the world. So I bought myself a little exercise book and I took notes. There was a blog forming in my head.

Britain First pretends that it’s easy to tell who is who. The Biffers pretend that ‘ethnic English’ is actually a thing when in truth we all bear the historical hallmarks of regional and international influences.
The black African auxiliaries who fought with the Roman armies left their mark alongside the Anglo-Saxons who settled here from Germany. Vikings from Scandinavia spread across the continent and settled in the North and East of the country. Apparently there’s more Viking blood in this neck of the woods than there is in any other part of England.

The main shopping centre in my home city is built on the site where a Viking longship used to lie buried in the mud. I can still remember my dad showing me photographs of it when I was just a little girl. I didn’t understand why he was so excited about it at the time. I do now.

Other parts of the country have different influences. The South West has almost no Viking at all so in the racial purity stakes I have to wonder what would happen to the good people of Somerset and Cornwall. Would they be with us or against us? More to the point – who the Hell are ‘us’?

Middle-Eastern Jews came here fleeing persecution from the Christian crusaders who didn’t quite know who they were supposed to be fighting. That didn’t work out too well for them. Within a couple of hundred years their flourishing community was persecuted by the locals alongside their relatives in more famous massacres like that in York. But not before they’d left their mark on the gene pool.

On the top of the hill, the only proper hill in town, stands the magnificent Norman castle. It’s a testament to the French invaders who beat back the earlier German invaders to make this land their home. They had a big influence on the gene pool too. Across a little courtyard is a three-arched gateway called Exchequergate. That leads to the Norman cathedral where Christians went to pray. They still do.

It’s where believers go to meet, to practice their faith and to hear sermons about peace, love, charity and remember stories of God’s grace like that parable of The Good Samaritan – you know – the one who helped a foreigner even though he was himself persecuted. This is where they learn about the biblical instruction to love thy neighbour – something that Biffers like Jim Dowson try to distort into a grotesque version of selfish, cruel, hateful barbarism.

I remember attending services there myself on occasion. I’m not a Christian myself, more of an agnostic but I still used to enjoy the midnight service at the Cathedral. The whole, huge interior seemed to flood with feelings of love and peace, kindness and goodwill to our fellow humans. We took the girls this year to hear the Bishop give a sermon. I was moved as usual – I think my little princesses’ experience was more a combination of boredom and exhaustion. They had just spent the day being told how much they’d grown by a very long succession of friends and relatives as we went house to house throughout the city. I’m not sure what Hubby took from it. The religion he grew up with is different and although he feels just as much at home in a Christian Cathedral I’m sure there were things he thought a little strange. He doesn’t talk much about religion though so I haven’t asked. Perhaps he’ll tell me once he’s read this blog.

Morning chapelWe travelled home yesterday. It was about time. But before we did I managed to steal an hour for myself and rekindled an old habit of mine. Yesterday I went back to that beautiful Norman cathedral and sat quietly in the little ‘Morning chapel’, just off the main body of the Cathedral. It’s always been a place of calm and quiet for me, not for religious reasons – just because it is. There’s something reassuring about that place. It lets me clear my head and ‘find myself’. It always has.

I sat there in my old bolt hole and reviewed my life, what’s important to me and what I should be doing with my life right now. Family matters. Especially the girls. But beyond those I love the most I experienced an intense feeling of purpose about what we’re doing here at EBF. I won’t say I’ve never felt anything like that before but I will say it’s not something I’ve experienced often. I don’t know if it was the Morning Chapel itself that brought it on, the effect of having a couple of weeks break from the blog I’ve been writing for almost constantly since last Spring or something more spiritual. I’ve really no idea. But I do know that the hour I spent in my favourite spot recharged my batteries for another round of fash-fighting.

Come on 2016, let’s do this! I’m a woman with a purpose!

EBF PAW copy

Dear Jayda

BF Jayda Dudley speeches 3We’re really grateful to this follower who also happens to be something of an expert in ancestry research. There has been much speculation about Jayda “Dutchy” Fransen’s roots over the last year or so. There has been much speculation about her heritage – her degree of ‘Britishness’, if you like. There has been much speculation about the possibility that she may be an immigrant or hail from a family of recent immigrants to our fine, welcoming, multicultural society. Now we can all stop speculating and start ‘knowing’, thanks to the painstaking research of one of EBF’s dedicated followers.

So, without further ado we invite you to boil the kettle, make a nice hot cup of tea, put your feet up and read this wonderful open letter to Miss Jayda Fransen, a British citizen of distinctly foreign heritage…

Dear Jayda

You don’t deserve this. You don’t deserve my time, my energy or this gift. But I am going to give this to you anyway because as the adage goes; you don’t always get what you deserve.

I am a family history enthusiast. I am an amateur but after 10 years enjoying this hobby, I’m pretty good at it. I started following Exposing Britain First about a year ago and something struck me. Your surname. I’ve been studying family history now for long enough to suspect that you aren’t completely British. Fransen is not a British name. So I decided to have a little dig around. All the records I researched are in the public domain. You can look for yourself if you like.

Your family history is rich and I have to confess I am jealous. So far in my ancestry I have found no-one (and my “tree” is over one thousand people strong) who isn’t English. I am the product of an endless stream of Agricultural Labourers. I remember finding a shop-keeper once – and dancing round the room in delight. I am unremittingly English, through ten generations. Your family history on the other hand is exciting and shows tremendous courage and vibrancy. It is rooted in the East End of London. As now, the East End has always been a melting pot of cultures, religions and immigrants. It’s where people new to this country often start their lives.

Let’s start with your paternal grandparents; John Joseph Fransen, or rather Jan Jozef Wynand Fransen. Born in the Netherlands in 1927, Jan came to England with the Dutch Naval fleet. 26710 Leading writer Fransen was in the Royal Netherlands Navy and based in London during the Second World War, fighting the Nazis when most of the Netherlands was occupied or destroyed. The name Jan Jozef would have been a difficult one to live with during and after the Second World War; anything the least bit Germanic sounding was not something to be flaunted or advertised. So he changed it to John Joseph, the name you probably knew him by when he died in 1999.

BF compassion EBFWhilst here, he met and married your grandmother, Elizabeth Mary Cotter. They married in the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady in Lisson Grove. I can find no record of Elizabeth being born in the UK. Most likely, both she and her father, John William Cotter were born in Ireland.

John William Cotter joined the Royal Leinster Regiment in 1913, intending perhaps to have a career in the Army. He was discharged before the beginning of the First World War for misconduct. From the records it appears that he was incessantly drunk and insubordinate. I can’t find out how he made it to London but there are records that appear to show him in the Fulham Road Workhouse in 1922. The workhouse was the somewhat barbaric “benefits” system of the day; where those too sick or without work were forced to go in order to survive. Your ancestor was not alone; throughout your family history there are frequent examples of your family receiving support in this most degrading and undiginified fashion.

On your maternal grandparent’s side of the family, the history is equally fascinating. Your great-grandfather is recorded in prison in the 1901 census. His crime isn’t mentioned and the records are currently sealed but wait a few years and you’ll be able to find out. And then there’s his surname; Silver. The Silver family were highly skilled workers, polishers and cabinet-makers. Why would they marry “beneath” their skill or financial status continually throughout the 19th Century. Speculating, the Silver’s had Jewish ancestry and even in the 19th Century, even though they were surrounded by other immigrants and those struggling with poverty, being Jewish or of Jewish ancestry wasn’t considered to be an asset. Silver is an extremely common anglicised surname, usually from Silber. I’ll keep searching, not for your benefit but for mine. You have no idea how exciting and interesting from an intellectual perspective it is to research such a diverse family history.

Immigrant ancestry Jayda BF EBFI imagine you would rather this was not your family history. I would give my “eye-teeth” to swap your ancestry for mine; endless farm workers get a little boring after a while. I am very, very English. You, on the other hand, are not. You are a melting pot of Dutch, Irish and Jewish roots. So I wonder, not “Who do you think you are?” but “What on earth do you think you are doing?” Your grandfather John (Jan Jozef) came to this country to fight for freedom and settled here. Your great-grandfather, an Irish immigrant was supported by the English “benefits” system, harsh though it was despite being an immigrant. And the Silvers? The highly skilled workers who married beneath them, integrated into English society so that their children and their children’s children, leading right to you could be part of this country and its culture, what would they say to you if they could. Probably much the same as the good, decent people of Exposing Britain First do now.

I’m sorry if this has upset you and I am sure you will want to deny it. But stop. It’s time to grow up and start representing your incredible family, your diverse, culturally rich ancestry like most British people do. With pride. This is who you are.