So I have seen the daughter I never knew I had and yet knew rather well at one point in my life. Truth is stranger than fiction. Caroline, who is now thirty two (which I can barely believe), approves of this blog entry and will be talking about it herself this evening to her congregation as she makes another rather important announcement to them.
Let's go back to 1980. In those days friends and I had a social contact with those who went to a Methodist church. I was agnostic then and we were marginal to the core participants. But we joined in with some social activities. In that year they held a district all-night disco at Malton and Norton, in May, and then came the celebrated Midnight Ramble in the moors on the longest day. A group from Hull went to both events. This was the first year I kept my diary, so I have been able to recall both events very well.
During the disco, two of us males from Hull (and I won't tell who the other was - but it is written down!) went upstairs from the hall with three girls from York. One of them was too nervous to join in, but let's say I and he learnt that girls actually used their mouths and then one of them wanted to "know what it is like" and the other said OK too. He was a bit hopeless and I thought I withdrew quickly enough, let's say, and was quick with both of the participants, and it had never worried me since. One of the reasons I wanted to go on the Midnight Ramble a month later was to meet this main lass and find out who she was. I wanted to go out with her if she would, even if she did come from York, because she had been willing enough at the disco. And then, if not her, there was her also willing friend. But the two never appeared at the Midnight Ramble, only the third who kept her distance and said nothing much. I recall in those days being rather more youthful, responsive and repetitive than I can be now, and that May night was the evidence.
I didn't know anything about it, but apparently there was something of a local scandal at York, and two families moved away rather rapidly. My own family had no connection with the Methodists, and if anyone locally knew no one was telling. I don't think they did know and I for one knew absolutely nothing, back in Hull.
In Wakefield, Gillian (as I have now discovered her name) had a baby girl and despite this she attracted a boyfriend who took the year old on as his and then they had more children. But he died last year, and her daughter Caroline was only then told that he wasn't her real father. So I have met Caroline, and mum Gillian again. Caroline has had her own life of course but she regularly sees her mother. Caroline wanted to find her biological father and conducted a search and found out about me, and of course I am all over the Internet. Then she realised what an encounter she'd had already.
See, I'd already met her. In 2002-3 I was doing teacher training in Hull and, doing modern foreign languages, there was this student, Caroline; and during the academic weeks I sort of mixed with everyone but started chatting to her more and more. It was, like, I really fancied her but also told myself she was far too young. I was 42 and 43 and she was 21 and had only just finished her degree. What I didn't realise, of course, and could not, was that I was looking into a part genetic reflection. She looked a bit like me, and let's face it she also looked like a lass I'd fancied years back at the all-night disco.
More than this, she said that if she hadn't done modern foreign languages she'd have done RE like me. She was always interested in my religious views, which in 1994-2004 were Unitarian if somewhat on the edge. She herself was Christian, and in Wakefield the family had switched to the Church of England - she said her grandparents had been staunch Methodists but in Methodist terms were more 'Wesleyan' and quite high. So we had these increasingly advanced theological discussions during breaks.
This sense of fancying wasn't helped when she went to the same school practice as me, where the conversation continued and she was interested in what I was teaching and doing. That's when I did a drawing of her (see right) and she says now this is a really good and shows her personality (I kept it quiet then). The second practice was something then of a 'loss' when I missed her company. Often she didn't talk alone but there was a friend with her - well, at least at university itself.
When in early 2006 I investigated how many who'd trained were still in teaching a few years later - 50% only - she was one of those who had left the profession. I got out of schools too. Someone still in touch said she didn't like the status of foreign languages in schools and couldn't do the classroom discipline along with the lack of progress made by pupils. This she's confirmed: only it was worse - she realised her career mistake while on her second practice.
I do wonder if I'd have crossed the age gap. No, surely not. She, though, never considered it. Of course as soon as I met her I recognised her and she'd already realised who I was in her investigations. But one result of our talks was that she went forward for ordination and training in the Church of England and was accepted into the process. She started training as quickly as 2006 and was a curate by 2009, priested in 2010. She was safe from my longings because all the time there was the other person I used to chat with, and she was and is still with her. It is because of her - her partner - that she's just handed in her notice to the bishop. Her friend then was before a chemistry student (not doing teacher training) and Jenny now works in the food industry, commuting to Pontefract.
For Caroline, Justin Welby isn't a new beginning but is the last straw. She could not possibly live the lie any longer now and is joining the OEC. In the OEC every bishop but the Archbishop is now a woman! She said it has been ignored, really, when it comes to those Churches that have argued in favour of equal marriage. The only thing is, she won't get paid and will, in effect, have to be self-employed as a minister and rely somewhat on Jenny. The announcement of her leaving is this evening, and Jenny will be by her side.
So I've met Caroline at quite a time. As for Gillian, she lives in social housing, and April for her means the vicious bedroom tax. Caroline, again like me, was Liberal Democrat at the election and won't be fooled again.
In fact, not only was she voting Liberal Democrat but she was at one point starting to rise in the organisation and was considering being a candidate. But the coalition was precisely what she was against, and having stuck with her membership for a while has left the party. Now she wonders how on earth it can allow for something like the bedroom tax. It may be a nasty, vindictive Tory policy but the Liberal Democrats have signed up to it. Who'd have thought it. This is no April Fool, but bloody serious to the least who can afford it.
So on this day there seems to be much to make up but then at least I did know her for a short time. It almost seems like there is something genetic in parallel experience - definitely not astrology! Left to my own devices, though, had I behaved at university as I did in Malton and Norton, I might now be in a generational minefield of contradiction, but wiser younger heads exist elsewhere. But what of the other lass with Gillian (called Julie, I have been told) and her offspring? It doesn't have to be my one time friend's. Indeed, on that night, he was a bit of a flop, and I wasn't, and that was the point. Well, they remained Methodists (like Jenny's family, apparently) and moved to Pontefract. But that's all we know, if that.