My Neanderthal fascination

I’ve been fascinated by the Neanderthals ever since I read Clan of the Cave Bear as a teenager. Even more so since recent scientific discoveries seem to show that Neanderthals not only co-existed with our direct ancestors but almost certainly interbred with them.

Genetic evidence suggests interbreeding took place with Homo sapiens (anatomically modern humans) between roughly 80,000 and 50,000 years ago in the Middle East, resulting in 1–4% of the genome of people from Eurasia having been contributed by Neanderthals. [Source: Richard E. Green et al (2010) “A Draft Sequence of the Neanderthal Genome”, Science 328 and Rincon, Paul “Neanderthal genes ‘survive in us'”, BBC News via Wikipedia]

Which you have to admit is fascinating, even if also a little unnerving.

I mean, what we were taught about Neanderthals when I was growing up was that they were primitive, hairy, stocky, brutish, unintelligent ‘cave men’ who swiftly died out to make way for their more advanced, tool-using, higher-browed – and better-looking – cousins, us. We can all picture a Neanderthal in our minds, right?

And, wtf? Interbreeding? Eeeew.

But then I saw this:

and this:

and, really, they don’t look very different from us, do they? I mean, the furs, dirt and stone tools tell us they’re a ‘cave’ woman and man, but if you cleaned them up and put them in modern clothes, would you look twice at them on the street?

Luckily for me, someone else wondered the same thing and so they used computer graphics to create these two images of anatomically accurate Neanderthals in more familiar dress:

Hell, I’m pretty sure I’ve actually dated the guy in the white shirt…

Anyway, now I want to write a novel set in the not-too-distant future based on the premise that Neanderthals did not die out 30,000 years ago, but survived in isolated pockets and are part of modern society, an ethnic minority proud of being the original Aboriginal culture of Europe and finding their more robust musculature and larger brains giving them a Darwinian edge as we face the crises of climate change and the end of fossil fuels.

I rather like the thought that up to 4% of my genetic material links me with the Neanderthal people who hunted mammoths, cave bears, rhinoceros and aurochs in Europe and Asia’s distant past.


Image copyright: Tom McHugh/Photolibrary (Neanderthal male reconstruction); National Geographic Magazine (female Neanderthal with red hair and fair skin); Neandertal Museum, Mettman, Germany (Reconstruction of male Neanderthal with skins); Neandertal Museum, Mettman, Germany (Older Neanderthal male smiling); Volker Steger/Science Photo Library (Neanderthal in check shirt); Smetek/Science Photo Library (Neanderthal in white business shirt).

More info on Neanderthals from – who else – National Geographic

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I inadvertently seem to have taken a break from blogging…

.. the reasons for which are many, varied and not limited to:

a) our new office is open plan so everyone can see everyone else’s computer screen, which makes using teh intertubes that much more tricky during office hours and I don’t have a computer at home (to avoid the temptation to work when I’m supposed to be playing)

b) having recently got engaged and then having to fly back here to the other side of the planet, leaving my love in Blighty, almost every spare minute has been spent emailing, texting and skyping each other like a pair of demented 16 year olds

c) the reasons I began blogging originally were, at least partly, to help me articulate, examine and resolve personal issues that were holding me back and dragging me down. I feel as though that work – while never finished – is certainly at a point where I’m more self aware and better able to live in a healthy way, both physically and emotionally

d) I’m now using facebook much more and finding that, because it is instant and since it does not limit me to 140 characters (unlike twitter, which I have now abandoned), much of the twaddle I would have blogged about here instead goes there

I have also not been keeping up with reading the blogs I had been following, because a change of computer meant I lost all my RSS feed thingys.

HOWEVER… I am now off to try and catch up with everyone, and will be back here to regale (no one but) myself with more nonsense soon.


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This time last year

I’ve just found a small piece of paper in a pile of other papers on top of my fridge. This particular piece of paper, however, made a big difference in my life.

This time last year I had a conversation with a friend about the concept of a daily affirmation, the slightly Californian-tasting and dipped in NLP* idea that you what you tell yourself becomes your reality.

I was skeptical… because I am always skeptical… but it made logical sense so I decided to try it. I wrote down the following:

“I will get fit, be more positive and have more energy. I will lose 10kg and fit into size 10 jeans. I will attract the kind of man I want.”

I stuck that piece of paper to my fridge and I said my affirmation outloud to myself every morning and every evening.

Then I signed up with a personal trainer because this time I meant business. As a result, I lost 13kg (28 pounds or 2 stone) and now wear a size 8 jeans (a 4 in US sizes). I am fitter than I’ve been since I quit fencing in my mid twenties and I sleep better and find it easier to wake up and get going in the mornings. Things that used to enrage and frustrate me no longer bother me nearly as much; the bright side is much more readily visible to me now.

Also, and most importantly of all, I’m engaged to be married to the man I love which would not have been possible this time last year – not because he didn’t find me attractive, but because I didn’t find myself attractive.

Anyway, I’m noting this here now partly to assert the truth of the old adage that a lot can change in a year, as well as to illustrate the effectiveness of seemingly simple techniques in overcoming years of bad thinking and their associated habits of behaviour, which can be a viciously self-reinforcing and miserably destructive cycle.

And now if you’ll forgive me I’m off to write another affirmation, for this next year…

*NLP Neuro Linguistic Programming, also sometimes termed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, whose basic premise is that if you tell yourself something often enough, you’ll believe it and make it true… So stop saying and thinking “I can’t do that” and “I’m unattractive” etc etc and instead tell yourself “I can do that” and “I am attractive”… It’s more complex than that, obviously, but you get the general idea.

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I can’t believe how long it has taken me to tell you this but…

… we’re engaged!


Yes. Ed and I (for that’s my Viking Sousaphonist’s name) are going to be married. He will be my husband and I will be his wife. He will be my lover and companion and friend, and I will be his.

But for now we will have to be patient as he is still in the UK and I am still in Australia, while he sorts out his job and finds a good tenant for his house (and a good cat slave for his two ginger toms).

I miss him and am already counting down the days (86 to go) until I see him again, when I fly back to England for my sister’s wedding, after which my fiance and I will return to sunny Sydney for the summer to spend Christmas, New Year and our 40th birthdays here together.

After that the plan is to get married on 19th May back in the UK, to make it easy for family, and then we’re going to head off in the campervan round Europe on honeymoon for 3 months.

More pics to follow, when I get a minute…


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Together at last

If you were at all wondering how my trip back to the UK to see the man for whom I’d carried an unrequited torch was going, I should think this picture says it all.


We were high up inside the 13th century tower of Salisbury cathedral, having spent a couple of days dashing from Bristol to London to Wiltshire to see family on both sides.

My Viking Sousaphonist’s mother, elder brothers, their wives and children could not have been warmer or more welcoming. They were genuinely delighted to see him so happy and said some wonderfully kind things.

So, as is to be expected, our story has a long tail and once or twice it has twitched and thrashed a little uncomfortably, but we are employing patience, honesty and the affection that is considerate of another’s feelings… And it is turning out better than I could have hoped and becoming something stronger than I think either of us ever dared to dream was possible.

Posted in niceness, unrequited | 9 Comments

Points for Most Pointless Meeting

I have just had the World’s Most Pointless Meeting. And believe me, around here the competition for that particular accolade is pretty stiff.

When the Obviously Pointless Meeting was called this morning, I wanted to reply to the email with:

‘No need to meet. I have already resolved the minor query that I can tell you are just dying to build into a drama of Titanic proportions. It took 2 minutes’ thought and one short phone call last night. So, thanks very much but I don’t need your advice on ‘the issue’, nor do I need to sit for 20 minutes while you shuffle papers and restate what you – in your headless-chicken-with-a-clipboard response – think is a huge disaster, just so you can have a thinly veiled dig at two of my colleagues as though it was their fault. I say again, we do not need a meeting. Please. Stop. Calling. Meetings.’

But I didn’t. Instead I went to the meeting and did my best to remain calm, even though I had to repeat the fact that there was no longer anything to deal with about 4 times before it penetrated her determined effort to lay out all the reasons why it would be such an enormous problem that we should all PANIC.

And people think I have control issues. Good lord, if one of my team resolves something, I’m delighted – I don’t need or want to know how they did it, as long as its done. I only need to know about it if they can’t resolve it and need to escalate it up to me to handle and even then, we don’t need to call a meeting to discuss it. But this woman is the very type species of micro-manager (not my manager, thank the gods for small mercies) and she is also a completely inflexible worrier.

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Inbox inanity

I was just scrolling through the as yet un-dealt with emails in my inbox when it occurred to me that the list of subject fields was… er, I suppose you could call it ‘interesting’.

1. Kangaroo birth spread mother licking cloaca visible?

2. 3D boy problems

3. dogs and mariachis – costs

4. INV SND pdfs HR pre-CRA

5. 3 missing crowns

6. hi from wet London

7. Sustainability Centre Opening this Sunday!

8. A favour from woo…

9. koncepcja infografiki do podręcznika przyrody

10. Old Man’s for 12:30

I love how every grouping of human beings develops its own language of acronyms, contractions, nicknames and codes for its common activities.

Posted in niceness | 8 Comments