While looking for my old sewing machine plug and foot presser thingy in the bottom of the wardrobe...and where else would it be?...I found a pair of clogs I bought at least three years ago when they were half-price. They're blue and covered in tiny flowers and I'd totally forgotten I had them. So I put them on and sort of teetered about with my toes scrunched up to keep them on and hell's bell's aren't they uncomfortable...they ought not to be seeing as they are Eco something or other, a make I've bought before...but I can understand why I've never worn them before today.

Anyway, I found the foot pedal thing and the special plug for the old sewing machine which keeled over with a bad tummyache and refused to go...which is why I bought the newer one 'cos if I'd taken the old one to the man who mends them he'd have wrecked it even more...he really isn't awfully good...thinks squirting gallons of oil over everything is classed as maintainence and it takes oodles of kitchen towel to wipe it all off and so I don't take my machine to him anymore...

I suspect I know what's wrong with the old one actually...think it probably involves wielding a small screwdriver...not that I can use two machines at once, but it'd be handy if it did work 'cos it has more fancy stitches on it than the new one does...

So I made a couple more cloth bags...the idea is to never have to use a supermarket bag with it's logo stamped all over it ever again...quite why I should give them free advertising when I spend so much in their shops is beyond me...I found an excellent video on YouTube on how to make a bag with a bottom...it's easy-peasy. And having said that I started off so feckin' confident and discovered I'd sewn the strap on totally wrong so I was stopping and starting the video and then going back to my workroom to sew the next bit and by then I'd forgotten again so had to come back and restart where I'd left off...was quite out of breath by the time the bag was finally made...

I made one bag from patchwork the other day and honestly you'd need arms six feet long to reach to the bottom and I don't like it one little bit. But today I made two from some material from the charity shop...there was yards and yards and yards of it...brightly coloured with splashes of orange and blue and yellow. And it was only six € for all of it...but it's the kind of fabric that is a bit inyourface as it were. Lovely in small amounts but a bit much otherwise.

Ancestry has been plain mean today...the hints thing isn't working and they keep apologising and saying 'Check Back Soon' but that's not much use to me so I looked up the punishment of whipping instead and that sounded extremely nasty...they used birch rods...thin pliable ones which must have stung terribly. Whipping used to be carried out in public and drew the crowds in much the same way hanging used to...then by the 1820's whipping took place in private...as it were. Your wounds would be sloshed with brine afterwards which was supposed to stop infection...just thinking about it makes me shudder.

Whipping was the favourite punishment meted out to the convicts who were sent to Australia...any infringement of the rules of the camps they lived in warranted a public whipping but eventually...towards the end of the days of transportation...it was decreed that whipping was too harsh a punishment for the convicted men so it was substituted with rock breaking.

I had another trawl through the criminal registers and found a man sentenced to death for stealing a sheep but heaved a huge sigh of relief when going over to the far side of the page showed it was commuted to transportation for life instead. And I found a woman tried for larceny against a person who 'pled the belly'...in other words she was pregnant. The court wouldn't have taken her word for it unless it was plainly obvious though. Half a dozen 'Good Women' would have taken her to a back room to see if they could feeling a quickening or the baby moving. The Good Women were just spectators who were picked out by the magistrate or the judge.

If her crime warrented the death sentence then she'd have had it put off until her baby was born...in reality she'd have been released because no-one wanted the cost of rearing a motherless child. The lady who 'pled the belly' was found not guilty so that was alright. I want everyone on those records to be found 'not guilty' which is pretty silly when you think most were as guilty as hell of the crimes they were accused of...simply being poor was enough for you to appear before the courts in the 1600's...being a vagrant or to be found begging meant you'd be driven out of town while tied to the back of a horse-drawn cart and pelted with everything from dead cats to rotting fruit by the townspeople...on occasion they'd resort to hurling stones at you and there are reports of some elderly beggars being killed...

I suppose what truly interests me is that transportation...whipping...being put in a pillory, which was rather like the stocks...and hanging for crimes we would consider almost a minor offence now...all went on while my ancestors lived their lives as Yeomen and Hatters and Bailiffs...with their general servants and their 'outside' men and a child described on a census form as a 'Cow Boy' who was only ten years old...I'd love to stand on the edge of their world and view it the way they did...wouldn't it be so interesting to listen in on a conversation around the dinner table when it was made known six men from their area were to be transported to Australia...what did my third cousin three times removed think...did he have an opinion...did my four times Gt Grandfather go along to the public hangings and cheer along with the crowd gathered there when the hanged mans eyes bulged and his tongue turned black and the stench of his voided bowels filled the summer afternoons air? Or did he refuse to give his servants leave to attend and write copious letters to the government demanding a reform in the laws...

I'll never know of course...I'll know my four times Gt Grandfathers name and where he is buried and the names of his children...I'll know when he married and where...I'll usually know how he made his living...but I'll never get to know how he thought and what he believed in and whether he was a liberal or staunch right-winger...

It is only from word of mouth stories and tales that we find out the more personal aspects of our families lives...Leah tape-recorded a conversation with one very elderly Irish relative and the results are both funny and quite sad...one lady who had sailed from Ireland to England to join her new husband took many household goods with her. But she hadn't packed them very well and the crates kept rattling. The sailors were convinced there were ghosts inside the packing crates and threw the entire lot overboard into the sea...

Enough methinks...time to rustle up a salad for supper.