As a child the only of these histories I was familiar with was the last, the bastard son who escaped the convict isle. It’s not exactly an ennobling story, especially to a boy well-able to read and discover the unspoken details of what such a life must have been like. There is no romance in that tale, no military history, no great battle against the odds. Just a boy run to escape and held to ransom.

I think, if anything, it demonstrates clearly to me now, as an adult, how even as children the narratives we build around ourselves can become all-encompassing. The stories your family tells of its own past, of from whence your waters run, and feeds into the daily speaking of where and who you are. They run under your consciousness, and manifest in your own talk of who you think you should be. Being given a past without dignity echoes within people, and profoundly influences who they are, and the world-view they enjoy.

So there I am you see, a criminal’s child. A bastard scion of an unknown house. A boy who sees himself with no future but that he can make for himself, and I’m acting it out unknown to my tiny seven-year-old mind. I have no dignity and only shame. I am a boy wishing he were a man, full and straining at the boundaries of lives unfulfilled.

But beneath what I knew there was this other layer, a set of lives I could not have known of, because they were unknown to the adults around me. And it’s that layer waiting to be revealed that has characterised my life. Just when I thought there was no more of interest to learn, another veil has been lifted, and my view has changed again, with divine provenance gifting me yet another knowing.

It is a strange thing this life. At times it is as thought I have lived many lives, with the twists and turns of fate’s flow lifting and carrying me gently between the spectres of the past, unfolding and lighting them with the magician’s sleight of hand, letting them fall onto my path for me to understand. This, a life never meant to be. A gift forged from a choice made by a teenage girl on the shores of a foreign, alien, harsh environment (for that is what I imagine her to have been, the woman who set this slow-rising locomotive in train).

At the centre of all this is that. The knowing this life was a gift. Whether a gift given in jest or love is a question yet to be settled, but the gift itself has been well-received (if at times a little petulantly). It’s that, I think, that has always aided the decision. The choices to stave off the knife. To keep the hand steady. To see out the flow, and know all the mysteries, and to know where the poison was introduced, and why it placed me in that field on that cold winter’s day.