I was given my very first proper job, because the candidate they wanted turned it down. I didn’t know this until some months into work, and it did rock my confidence a little bit. I wouldn’t have been looking for a job at all if I hadn’t had a disagreement with our Head Mistress, who foolishly tried to remove my transistor radio from the class room. That was a fun day.
I arrived home telling Mum that I wasn’t going back. She was spectacularly unfazed by this, and suggested I start looking for jobs. We found the job, office junior in a University Admin, Mum thought it was perfect. I applied, and Dad took me into the city so that I would be able to find where I was going. Such a special thing to do, Dad and me on what I think was our only trip alone into the city centre.
As we walked up the road towards the Senate House, Dad stopped and pointed out a building. Old, huge and looking quite battered, this he said was the hospital where they fixed your heart. To my shame, I wasn’t that interested. I was more keen to look forward not back. It is only now, as a parent I realise just how important that building and the people inside it were to Dad. He would come off the docks at lunch time and change into a suit in the public toilets, before visiting me, his tiny baby daughter, Mum and him desperately hoping that all would be well. Then he would change back into working clothes and go back to the dockside.
I was one of the very first babies to have open heart surgery in the UK. The man who operated on me was an American, who had been invited here to teach this new technique. Mum and Dad, married for seven years before I was born, had almost given up hope of being parents.
They were told, and told me that if I had been born just a year earlier, well I wouldn’t have seen my second birthday.
So it seems to me that things do happen for a reason, and maybe it isn’t just sliding doors, but also a chain reaction that influences all our lives. I was born at just the right time to be fixed, by a man who had decided to come to another country to share his skills.
So when Dad and I passed the hospital on the way to my first job, it must have been a huge moment for him, and for Mum, the little girl grown up.