We're going to spare you the traditional photograph (well, if you really want it just click here!) but we will tell you a bit about ourselves.
We are John and Jeannette Simpson, a husband and wife
partnership based in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, UK.
(And we are NOT related to this person - nor OJ either!)
From 1987 to 2004 we traded as MCW (Mobile Computer Workshop) offering computer consultancy
and training throughout Sussex (and often beyond). We used to offer non-profit-making courses through Adult Education centres
to provide computer skills for people who might otherwise not afford the
training. However an increasing number of government schemes to provide totally
free training meant that people did not want to pay even the relatively low fees
asked for these courses and they ceased to be viable. The public now has
perceptions that they can, for example, do a free course for a couple of hours
in the local library and come away knowing all there is to know about the
We find this very sad because the level of knowledge is becoming increasingly shallow, even though the programs used are becoming ever more complex, and when people run into problems they do not have the skills to cope. Also all the equipment purchased through grants to set up these local free training centres has a limited life - will the funds be forthcoming when it needs to be replaced? Still, since June 2004 it's no longer our problem, and we have been able to concentrate on developing other interests which are much more fun and our stress levels have dropped considerably! We have added an extra C to our trading name - MCCW now stands for Malt, Craft and Culture Workshops. Read on, and you'll see why that reflects what we now do!
We have a long standing interest in Japan, its language, people, history, and culture and for many years taught several evening classes in Japanese language as well as giving talks about the culture of Japan. In 1996 we set things in motion for the founding of the Sussex Japan Society, which ran very successfully for nine years. Although it was eventually dissolved in May 2005 we continue to host its Web site as a resource on things Japanese and as a notice board where local Japan-related events can be publicised.
For some years Jeannette has been giving talks on Japan to various local organisations and we have gradually extended this, so that we now have quite a large repertoire of subjects between us, and the diary has bookings for more than a year ahead. More details here. When last in Japan we saw a kakejiku (hanging scroll) with a brilliant Zen quotation which inspired us to start a range of Japanese Calligraphy Tshirts.
Jeannette started her career by teaching German and was asked to take it up again for Worthing Adult Education centre. The first year course she ran was very successful, and she was asked to teach a second year course as well. Eventually John took over the beginners classes so that Jeannette could concentrate on the higher levels. We finally phased out our teaching of evening classes in 2007,
We have been going to Belgium regularly for many years and are especially fond of West Flanders. Belgium is arguably the producer of the best beers in the world, and so we felt duty bound to make a study of this aspect of the local culture, making a point of visiting all the local breweries and checking out their products. John already had the certificate of the Wines & Spirits Education Trust, and we both attended one of the first certification courses run by their offshoot, the Beer Academy. As well as both being members of CAMRA, John is also a member of Zythos, the Belgian equivalent, which has been a useful introduction to breweries and festivals over there.
Having tasted and studied extensively over many years (and having built up a huge collection of Belgian beer glasses!), in Autumn 2004 we offered a course through the Worthing Adult Education centre to introduce people to the superb range of Belgian beers. This proved so successful that we had to run a repeat soon afterwards and it opened up a new avenue for us. One result of the college tastings was a request for us to run tastings in Belgium, and the first of these took place in February 2006. We ran courses at several AE centres through 2005-7, but, like a lot of other AE tutors, we found that the levels of bureaucracy being introduced were totally disproportionate to the time spent teaching and in 2008 we pulled out of Adult Education completely. However, it's an ill wind that blows no good and from 2008-9 we have been running tastings in conjunction with a delightful local pub, the Red Lion Inn, Old Shoreham Road, Shoreham-by-Sea. This 16th century coaching inn has an enviable reputation for real ales and good food. Taking advantage of this, the new-look tastings start with lunch, which means that some of the beers in the session can be tasted with food.
We have not confined our beer studies to Belgium. We have always had an interest in UK real ales, and our visits to Japan and Germany to keep up our language skills provided opportunities to check out the local beers of those countries. We have also made field studies of the beers of Portugal, Spain, Atlantic Canada and Newfoundland, and use a very good online supplier to obtain other world beers. We have set up a section of this website with information about Belgian and world beers and in that area you can also find details of the beer tasting courses.
There has not been a local brewery in the Adur Valley for nigh on a hundred years, and so we were delighted when Andy Dwelly and Dicky Illing set up the Adur Brewery in 2007 - and even more delighted when we found out just how good their beer was. We were initially involved with tasting the beers while they were testing recipes, then became gradually more and more involved, mainly on the marketing side, and also running the merchandising operation. You will find more information on our beer pages.
With our work and other interests filling the day, time for hobbies is usually between midnight and 6 a.m! John is fascinated by Microsoft's Flight Simulator and enjoys making (virtual!) flights between Shoreham and Goodwood, between the islands of Japan or recreating some of our real-world flights. So here's a page with a few useful FS links.
We occasionally find time to read, and enjoy the Discworld (and other) books by Terry Pratchett - if you look at this link you will either recognise fellow fans or decide we're totally insane! We also became hooked on the Falco books by Lindsey Davis - if you want the humour of the Phillip Marlowe detective story but set in ancient Rome give these a try. And if you can't stand detective stories but are interested in Roman life and times, give them a try anyway - we have never before come across an author so well able to bring the ancient world to life.
We always manage to make time for our genealogy interests. In the early 70's we had traced
Jeannette's family (Cousens) to the 1550's in South Devon, and John's (Simpson) to the
1830's in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, by old-fashioned foot-slogging around
record offices and church vestries, but became rather overwhelmed by the mass of
information we had accumulated on paper. When we found the Family Tree Maker for Windows program
it inspired us to start again, as it is so good at managing data. We have been
astonished at the amount of genealogical
information which has become available on the Internet in such a short time, and
the census and other information now available cheaply on CDs.
We subsequently tracked down manorial records which extend the Cousens line to 1500, and information found on the Internet and contacts made via discussion groups have taken us on trips to San Diego, Toronto, and St. John's Newfoundland. We have discovered new relatives and have had lots of fun meeting them and getting to know their world. We have been able to show some of them our corner of Sussex and the Devon farm which the Cousens ancestors were cultivating in Tudor times; we subsequently took them on a tour around the rest of England, Scotland and Wales, and have made a couple of return visits to Newfoundland. We intend to publish our research on the Net eventually - until we get that organised here is a page of Genealogy Links we have found useful.
Although John still has a 'brick wall' with his direct Simpson line at about
1800, he recently made a surprising discovery. He decided to try DNA
testing and found that he had some very close matches in the USA.
Correspondence with them has established that all shared a common ancestor
around 1600, whose son (or grandson) emigrated to America. The task
is now to push John's line in the UK further back, to try to identify the common
ancestor. John had his testing done via FtDNA in the USA, who offer the
best value testing service and have comprehensive databases to match with.
They now have a European office iGENEA who John has also used, as they give more
detailed reports on ancient origins. If you want to give a new dimension
to your genealogy research, and make connections which might never be possible
through a paper trail alone, we recommend you give it a try.
Here's the link to start you off:
Genealogy has also provided a historical justification for the extension of our work into matters alcoholic. Resources recently made available on the Internet enabled us to make some break-throughs in John's research - and we found new information showing that his family had been hotel keepers in both Birmingham and Yorkshire. When we first met, as students, Jeannette's parents had an off-licence in Wimbledon, and, since we helped out in the shop, it was a standing joke that we had to become familiar with the stock in order to advise customers correctly. Imagine the merriment when our early family history research turned up the fact that Jeannette's paternal ancestors had kept a pub in a Cornish village from 1845-1906. Some work on the maternal side quickly established that they had been cider-makers in Hereford and led to more jokes about alcohol in the blood. But the best was still to come, when we unearthed the records of the Stokenham manor courts in Tudor times, where on several occasions it was recorded that members of the Cousens family had been fined for illegal ale brewing! So our beer tastings are firmly rooted in ancestral tradition - although we endeavour to keep them on the right side of the law!
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