Aah, genealogy. That bloody, brilliant and brutal tapestry comprising drunken uncles and giddy aunts, skeletons in the closet (and under the floorboards), unspoken rivalries, scandal-scented moth balls, feral pets and all manner of crazy traditions, routines and general shenanigans.
Not that you’d guess. No sireee. Aside from the occasional dark hint it’s like the rumbling of the underground: you feel it but you can’t see it. Yet the past is there. You know it and It does too. It won’t play dead – and if you’re anything like me, you just can’t help sticking your oar in. Poking around. Asking questions and muddying up the gene pool. Fishing for tasty scraps of scandal and clues as to why Ethel won’t talk to Grandad. What happened at the Grange that April? And why can’t we mention the War?
Except that asking these things straight out would be far too simple. If your family functions like mine, you’ve evolved a complicated and delicate code. It works like this: no-one actually talks to each other directly. Instead we’re all super sleuths, discussing one other in hushed tones and generally meddling for all we’re worth. Everything is ‘confidential’ but disseminated within minutes. Talk to mum about weeding the garden and two minutes later the phone goes. ‘I hear you’ve been having Problems with Slugs’, intones a grave voice, that sounds awfully like my brother. ‘Two words of advice: beer and broccoli – I can say no more’.
Move along now, nothing here to see.