I am who I am.. Or am I?

Genetics....What is it that sets us apart? Am I who I am through nature or nurture?

How much do you know about your family history, and how does this translate to who you are and where you are right now? Are the choices of your ancestors responsible for the way you walk the earth right now? Hell yeh!

It doesn’t make us grateful though, it seems to us that it's our right to exist. How much time do we spend looking back into family history and find ourselves truly understanding how we got here? How close are we to the distant relatives of years gone by? How much of the family gene pool has remained strong?

You can see where my minds been whizzing off to!

Why? Those Peaky Blinders, that’s why! I think because I’m from the Midlands, (and I don’t particularly celebrate that fact), I’ve not felt the need to indulge in the story of racketeering, Birmingham bullies, with their lack of moral compass, sharp suits and razor blade tweed caps. Alas, with the new series hot on everyone’s watch list, I felt that this talk piece of a series marathon had to be conquered.

That’s it, I’m hooked! Mind you, you do need to concentrate, it’s quite clever really and Thomas Shelby is a rather interesting man! Easy on the eye too, right? It’s the ‘gypsy’ blood aspect of the series that has left me wondering. There’s something fascinating about gypsies and their nomadic, spiritual ways, and coincidentally, there’s a family legend of mine that I needed to dig out.

Back in the late 1800’s my great grandmother, Mary Claytor, was born in Handsworth, Birmingham. Legend has it that her relatives were of gypsy blood. It is believed that many years ago a Squire Claytor’ of Claytor Park in Nottingham, allowed a group of Romany gypsies to make camp on his land. Squire Thomas Claytor became infatuated with one of the gypsies, married her and they produced a child. The gypsy wife, Miriam, grew bored as the Squire was many years her senior, and she ran off back to her gypsy life. The child, ( a boy), was brought up by the bailiffs and servants; he grew into a fighter and became one of the ‘bloods’, squandering money in gambling, racing, and betting on prize fighters. This was Mary Claytor's great grandfather!

It is believed that my great grandmother visited the Leeds Art Gallery in the early 1900’s to view a painting of Miriam the Gypsy that the Squire had had painted, and that this picture was on loan to the Gallery. The family went back to view it again at a later date and alas, it was gone.

I can remember my grandfather sitting me on his lap and telling me about this story, although his version was certainly a little more embellished, and telling me that Miriam was the ‘Queen of the Romany Gypsies’. I guess we will never know now.

If you confess to having gypsy blood these days it seems to me that you get shot a look! Like, the kind of look where people hang on to their handbags and lock their doors, or perhaps offer their palm for a reading! How funny!

So it got me thinking, with a watered down heritage of gypsy in my family, how has that shaped my life? Well for starters I can tell you that on my mother’s side, we all have incredibly light blue eyes. This is unmistakable. Even my grandad, with his beautiful olive skin, had the lightest, most dazzling eyes you can imagine. My mum has piercing eyes, that are truly quite beautiful. But, how much of a personality trait that can be linked to a gypsy ancestry could have infiltrated the gene pool down the years to me?

I have learned that 99% of our genes are the same as the next person's, but it’s that 1% that makes us all different. Yes, it's true that genes are responsible for our eye and hair colour and the texture of our hair too, but how much more is it nature versus nurture? I further learned that we are what our parents ate, and what their parents ate! Can you believe that? The food and nutritional choices our parents and their parents made, are actually accountable for the way our own bodies work...only to a point though. Think about it, if your grandparents were eating rations in the war, perhaps they weren’t having the best nutrition available? Perhaps they were raised in industrial times, when pollution was nearer to homes, or when no one knew how bad smoking really was for their health.

The good news is, although we may have inherited these genes, you can actually change it all if you want to. Not only that, but no longer is it proven by science, as was once thought, that our personalities were ‘fixed’ by 30. No! Research now shows that as we age we can and do change. Mostly that we become ‘nicer’ and more ‘socially adaptive’.

Many of us use the mantra, ‘I am who I am’, and refuse to change... but we will only be met by the same obstacles. Surely, a part of ageing is to become more wise, and more aware of those experiences we've had that really shouldn’t be repeated, to understand cycles that don’t serve us and to let go of the past?

So, how much of that gypsy blood has contributed to my life? I don’t know the answer to that question. What I can share is that the mindset of my father's parents, and indeed my own, was instrumental in my travels and the successes of my career. Without the directive from my parents that 'you can be anything you want to be ’ and the lack of the negative belief that ‘you must do it this way’, I was able to leave the nest and create my own path... where no one had been before thanks to my supportive parenting and my very own really strong focus.

Yesterday when I was elbow deep in boxes looking for the old gypsy stories, I found a folder from my school days. For those in their 30’s and 40’s you may remember your

‘National Record of Achievement’? A burgundy hardback folder, containing your hopes, dreams, exam results and random certificates for achievements you’ve forgotten about. In it was a statement, written in 1995 about me, and you know what, it hasn’t really changed that much, only that now I don’t have to try so hard.

Am I a gypsy? No, but someone was... a long time ago.

Who are you really?

Ps- Do gypsies like coloured tights ?

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