Life starts as a journey full of possibilities, and at each turn we make a choice which leads us down a different track. We can’t go back and change the choice but the branches are infinite, like some kind of Mandelbrot fractal, and who is to say they never meet again as we weave our way along the threads of our lives.
My journey began, as many do, with a wailing confusion. For me it was in a hospital in the Home Counties, desperately cut from the womb under emergency knives while hopes were put on hold by anaesthetic and anxiety. The first month was spent in antiseptic layers and institutionalised routines, until finally we went home. My father had been busy preparing a room for me, building the chest of drawers and dressing table for his baby girl, whom he visited every day along with her mother, his beloved. My grandmother was waiting patiently, worried about coping with a new baby again in her seventies, desperate for a baby girl to fill the space left by her own almost 40 years before.
We became a new family then, filled with expectations and hopes and fears, just like every other family. At this point the choices were barely mine to make: sleeping, crying, feeding, excreting. As any baby I learned to smile and recognise my family, and gradually I started to make my choices.
As a child I was not aware of making choices in my early years. My upbringing was traditional for that time and place – Sixties England, in a dormitory town outside London. My father ran a hardware store with his brother, my mother was a full-time housewife, caring for me and my grandmother.
It was a happy time. I played, I had stories, I felt safe and secure. There could be no better start in life. Eventually I had conscious choices too. I made some and regret none, even the painful ones, the arguments with friends, the intrigues of peers, the minutiae of small girls and their passions.