Finding a family, one by one.

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was produced by the Winton programme for the public understanding of risk based in the Statistical Laboratory in the University of Cambridge. The aim was to help improve the way that uncertainty and risk are discussed in society, and show how probability and statistics can be both useful and entertaining.

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In 1978, age 27, I was recovering from a serious illness and had returned to my home town in Hertfordshire to live with my parents for six months. While there I made phone contact with a local co-counselling group that was advertising in a local library. The contact person told me she was withdrawing from the group, and passed me on to someone else, but not before I'd been smitten by her voice. I couldn't get it out of my head for months. Some while later, I forget how long, a year-and-a-half perhaps, I met a young girl while doing an English A level class at the local college. I'll call her Angela here. We became friends and used to meet in the college refectory after classes to discuss the work we had been set. By that time I was living in a flat in town. At some point during that year I moved out of the flat and into a larger one. The next time I met Angela she told me that she, too, had moved. She had left her family home and, as it turned out, moved into my old flat. She hadn't previously known where I lived. The landlady of my new house share asked me to interview a couple of people for a spare room. She had already seen them and wanted me to choose one that I thought I could live with. I chose a young guy called Chris. A week later Chris turned up with his girlfriend - Angela. Further conversation led to the discovery that in 1973 Chris and I had lived a few doors away from each other in Hull while I was at University there. Another year passed and I moved again. By this time I'd lost contact with Angela. The house I now occupied was owned by a friend who had moved up north to live. Once again I advertised for someone to share the house. A lad that I will call Peter turned up and he moved in. We quickly worked out that we had the same birthday. A short while after he moved in, Angela arrived at the door and was shocked to see me. She had come to see Peter who, it turned out was her brother. I had no previous idea of their relationship or even that they knew one another. Another year passed and I was attending a dance class when I met a woman whose name and voice I recognised instantly. She was the woman I had contacted and spoken to on the phone several years previously. Her name was Di. She had been going through a messy divorce at the time. We hit it off instantly and started going out together. She was nine years older than me but that didn't seem to make any difference. She came back home with me one evening and was shocked to find Peter living there. Di, as it turned out was Peter and Angela's mother. As a result of the divorce she had become temporarily estranged from both of them. It was more than a little awkward for a while. As we got to know one another Di and I recounted our histories. One evening, I told her that in 1963 at the age of 12 I'd become a school refuser. My parents were going through a difficult time and I'd become very stressed. I was also a shy kid and having trouble at school. I was taken to a "Child Guidance Clinic" and the team there recommended to my parents that I be sent away to a boarding school near Andover where they thought I might settle down and gather confidence. The county reserved several places there each year for kids like me. This led to a series of experiences and chances that were to completely change my life. When I finished telling all this to Di, she became very thoughtful but didn't say anything. A day later, though, she told me that she remembered me. She had been a social worker at the clinic. It was her first job after leaving college, and she had been part of the team that had done the assessment which ended up with me going to boarding school. Di and I later married and Angela and Peter became my (step) children. I now have four lovely (step) grandchildren. I'm a naturalist and moderate sceptic, so I have no time for spooky stuff. But I love telling this tale. It still surprises me every time I tell it.
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Date submitted:Mon, 09 Aug 2021 23:43:06 +0000Coincidence ID:11535