Of cats and dogs and DNA

I’ve had a few days off during the past week, but I don’t seem to be feeling the benefit of it. There are a few reasons for this….

Danny the dog

Danny the dog

To be fair, it isn’t entirely his fault that he came to stay again or that I feel tired. Actually as dogs go he is quite relaxed and even sleeps for long spells at a time, either between me and the door, as previously mentioned, or on the door-mat in the middle of the night. I don’t think his instinct is to guard the house, as he would make a terrible guard dog for the same reasons as he is a very nice dog to have around. Even Jacques became fairly relaxed around him after a while

Jacques the cat

Jacques the cat

Having thought through things a bit more I realise that my feeling of exhaustion can probably be attributed to two other things. One is that I took part in a meeting the other afternoon that lasted for around four and three-quarter hours. Of course this is much too long for any meeting, though fortunately I had guessed it would last a while so I had set aside the whole afternoon for it and had fortified myself beforehand with a cappuccino and a cheese and tomato toastie. The idea of letting it drag on for so long was mainly to prevent us from taking so long over the next meeting which is due to take place on Monday evening. The last time we had a meeting on Monday evening it lasted three hours and I had to take time off work the following afternoon to sleep.

The other main reason for feeling tired is that I’ve been spending too long at the computer. The end is almost in sight for my mystery novel, or at least it’s in sight as long as I don’t get a sudden revelation about a dramatic twist I could put in. I’m actually not all that hopeful about this. I’ve had dramatic twist ideas towards the end of my last few mystery novels, and I must admit they usually do add interest to the plot. So part of my mind is secretly hoping for this, while another part – I think it’s the stern editorial presence – tells me not to make things even more complicated than they already are.

Just as I thought if I applied my full attention to the novel I could get it finished by the end of next week, I was distracted – woohoo! I like being distracted even more than I like chocolate – by the unexpectedly speedy arrival of my DNA test results from Ancestry. I hasten to add that I have nothing I want to prove about my ancestry. I have no ambition to be related to Richard III or the Queen or Charlemagne. After some years of researching family history on and off, I just wanted to get a better picture of the deep background of our family. Of course in most respects it is ludicrously simple, as my ancestors were about 95% Scottish. I was therefore somewhat surprised to be told I was 73% Irish. However it turns out that Ancestry classifies everyone from Wales, Scotland or Ireland as Irish. This isn’t quite as sweeping as a French system of classification I later found on a different website that categorises everyone from Europe as French. Maybe a bit of wishful thinking there!

I find the detail of all this quite fascinating, and as I read the ‘ethnicity’ breakdown with its traces of various places from Turkey to Finland as well as the locations that are now closer at hand, I began to imagine my distant ancestors starting to farm in the mild temperatures of the near East, trekking from there through Europe and the south of Britain, bringing their farming skills with them and a few genes they picked up along the way, until they arrived in Fife, or Argyll, or Perthshire, and decided they couldn’t go any further. That first Scottish summer must have been a bit of a shock – never mind the first winter – but eventually they would have acclimatised. We all do, some more reluctantly than others.

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