Don’t You Know Who I Am

When you have a passion to communicate it’s extraordinary the compromises that you have to make.

I have been fascinated by my family’s history, since long before that wonderful television series where celebrities explore their roots: Don’t You Know Who I Am. Some relations are fascinated too and we discuss family matters through a website which I created for that purpose. I will tell you a little about that site in a moment, but first something about my ancestry.

The Alablagues, as you will have guessed from the name, were Huguenots. They left France after the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572. In France our name, when written down at all, was more usually spelled in full – ‘M. à la Blague’ – but was eventually contracted, as was ‘de Gas’ to ‘Degas’.

My ancestors made landfall at Deal, in Kent. There are Alablagues still living in Deal, although they do not trouble the Phone Book. Most however have migrated to Kettering, in Northamptonshire, which became and remains the centre of the Alablagues, although some, including me (or ‘including myself’, as they say on The Apprentice), could not resist the call of the ‘Great Wen’.

By and large the family has been hard-working, virtuous and a bit dull.

My cousins and I have tracked it down through censuses, old editions of Kelly’s Directory and other records. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Masons both have good records of their members, which they will make available, for a modest payment. It appears that no Alablague was ever a Mormon, but Masonry did attract them, possibly appealing to their instinctive anti-Catholicism. My great-uncle Edgerton, who lived between the Wars and also came to London, Lewisham to be precise, is an example. Apparently a colourless employee of an insurance company, he was a keen Mason. I have discovered through my researches that he ascended to the Third Level of the Order of the Drawn Sword. A rather sensational book, acquired from Abebooks, suggests that as such he would have routinely been required to fight in unarmed combat with zombies, handicapped moreover as regards the trousering of one leg.

The website for the family history predated this site. Indeed it predated WordPress altogether. This was a shame as WordPress would have been ideal. I am sure that you will agree that its layout is clear and navigable and its infrastructure sturdy. Other sites for blogging will not let you, as a visitor, move without trying to sell you something. Google is particularly irritating. Not so WordPress.

But in those days WordPress didn’t exist. I found two possibilities. One was a site for gay porn and the other for swapping tapes of Grateful Dead concerts; even in those days I don’t think that they were actually tapes, but people still called them that. The idea in each case was that by inducing visitors to the site with information about the history of the Alablagues I would ‘drive traffic’, as they put it, to the profit-making parts of the site, the porn or the tapes as the case might be. I would be paid a small return for this.

I went for the gay porn. You may find that surprising as I am not gay and I do like the music of the Grateful Dead. There were three reasons.

The first was a disinclination to mix business with pleasure.

The second was that the financial provisions were much the same.

The third was the endless scope for confusion between ‘Deal’, the town central to the Alablague story, and ‘Deal’, the fine song written by Jerry Garcia and regularly performed by the Dead from the early 70s onwards.

Obviously I looked at what I was ‘driving traffic’ to. A range of videos is available. There is some turnover but they tend to fall into one of two categories. The first involves a number of men, not all in the first flush of youth, shuffling around like penguins and waiting to be relieved, one way or another. I imagine that the pleasure lies in the anticipation. The other, presumably more traditional, involves two spotty youths enjoying sodomy, mutually but of course sequentially.

They paid me £200, but apparently that all had to be recouped in ‘expenses’. I also get a small royalty. It’s not a lot but at least the porn pays for the Masons.

Not only am I not gay but few of the Alablagues seem to have been. The one notable exception was Henrietta Alablague, my great-great-aunt, who in Edwardian times seduced the wife of the Bishop of T- and bore her back to Kettering, where they lived together in open scandal, driving around rural Hertfordshire in a new motor car and painting watercolours of naked young women with far-away looks in their eyes and unnaturally pronounced pubic mounds. The Alablagues hoped, with decreasing confidence, that these paintings were products of my Aunt Henrietta’s imagination. The Bishop of T- went to pieces altogether and lost his bishopric. His family are still touchy and have asked me to not to identify him, a request that I honour.

You can find the site at – actually, better not.

In fact I have been thinking of moving it altogether to WordPress. The gay porn people have started asking me to work in what they call ‘advertorial’: material in the middle of my accounts of family history extolling the lubricious qualities of their videos. I find it very difficult, or, as I suppose they would have me say, very hard. Great quivering members and Uncle Edgerton just don’t mix.

And in case you discern gender bias in my exploration of my father’s family I should say that I am also investigating my mother’s. It’s a very different kettle of fish. My maternal grandfather comes from a long line of horse thieves in Tenerife. The doings of that family are recorded in broader, more Iberian, brush-strokes but they have a romance rarely to be found in the Town records at Kettering. The tradition is that my mother, having just met my father on the beach at Deal in high summer and seeking to impress him, spirited away one of the beach donkeys, but he made her give it back.

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32 thoughts on “Don’t You Know Who I Am

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  21. […] who ever tried to contact me like that was Uncle Edgerton, though he’d been quiet for months now. Uncle Edgerton, of course, usually summoned me by using his familiar, P2, who would adopt the shape of a woman […]

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