Wednesday, 30 November 2011


A 3rd cousin (once removed) invited me to Leicester today, the first time I'd been there, so far as I can recall. I don't count passing through on the train. It's not a difficult journey by rail, though New Street seems to get busier each time I change there: there was only three minutes to catch the Cheltenham connection this evening, and I had to fight my way from one end of the station to the other. (Perhaps it was all those striking public service employees, taking advantage of a day off work to go somewhere...)

My cousin, having worked in Leicester for many years, knew all about the long-term successes in race relations there, a tribute to much patience and perseverance. We passed the brand new BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, on Gipsy Lane, opened only last month to great fanfares. Local residents regard it as a great improvement on the old factory that formerly stood on this prominent site. Its building (total cost £3m) took three years and much voluntary effort.

The visit enabled me to catch a glimpse of a set of photograph albums, put together by earlier generations: they fill a number of gaps in my knowledge of the family tree. I rather wish I'd known about them when researching pictures for The Diary of a Shropshire Farmer last year. Even leaving aside any genealogical interest, some of the photography is quite remarkable, and I was delighted to hear that the collection might end up in the Shropshire Archives.

Another pair of third cousins, twins, turns out to have been a teenage song and dance act that transformed itself into a business making bikinis in Florida - shortly after the days they were illegal. It thrives, so I was told in Leicester.

A pity I didn't get a photograph of the two pure white doves that fluttered around my cousin's garden: he and his wife keep a dovecote, perhaps an unusual feature on a housing estate.

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