Sunday lunch at the in-laws today, with Phoebe very much at the centre of attention as always. Before we were linked by marriage but now our blood and DNA is mingled inside a tiny human being. Their family history is now most certainly my family history. The twists and turns that it took to create them are directly responsible for the creation of my daughter. And on the anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli, my father-in-law had dug out a picture of his own grandfather, Bernard (Phoebe’s great-great grandfather) who had fought in the battle and got mentioned in despatches for successfully laying down cabling at high speed whilst under enemy shellfire. We were shown a photocopy of the despatch which was signed by Winston Churchill (the architect of the doomed campaign - though perhaps he made up for it later).
The complicated and outrageous unlikelihood of any of us existing is shown by the fact that Bernard met his future wife, Agnes at his brother Joe’s wedding. Agnes was the sister of the bride, Nora and had been practically engaged to someone else at the time. But it was love at first sight and Bernard managed to win Agnes’ heart (and maybe in a hundred years time, my descendants will talk of how I fell in love with Catie in a similar way. But further than that, Joe himself had been engaged to someone else before Nora, but she had been killed, when a vehicle hit her after flying off a race track. And Joe had survived in the war when a bullet heading for his chest had been deflected off a coin in his pocket. But for these crazy moments of good and bad luck then none of the people I was dining with would be here. And the people who lived in this house instead would have been very confused about why I had turned up for lunch.
As any true student of fate knows, even tinier incidents than this would have such a knock-on effect as to more or less guarantee that nobody alive today would be so in the alternate universe where the bullet went slightly to the right or the original fiancee didn’t go to the race track (or stood somewhere else). Bernard himself nearly came a cropper a couple of times in the war, once when he was on sentry duty and worked out that the enemy shells were getting close to where he was. He stepped away from his box and a shell landed right on it, which would certainly have killed him if he’d stayed where he was. It should have killed him anyway, but luckily it didn’t detonate. The DNA that would help to make daughter should have been splatted all over France. And how many more times between the creation of life and now did one of her ancestors nearly snuff it before they’d reproduced or taken a chance turn where they bumped into the person (or monkey, of vole thing, or fish or amoeba) that they would mate with (OK, not amoeba).
As if the odds of being the right sperm in the right ejaculation weren’t high enough.
I love this kind of stuff, not the sperm, so much as the history. Who am I kidding? The sperm and the history are equal. Who am I kidding? Sperm wins. But sperm beats anything in Top Trumps (it’s in the rules) and I still love the history thing a lot. And the Wilkins' side of Phoebe’s family tree has a lot more exciting stuff in it than the Herring’s (at least the parts I know of). Even without the wartime stories, it’s pretty cool that there are double cousins in there (two brothers marrying two sisters). All my family did was make some ventriloquist dummies that would one day be involved in a sexual assault.