I often ask people how they met their partner. It's always an interesting story, if only because it almost always turns out to be a one-in-a-million chance meeting.
In my case, I missed a train. The train guard was whistling as I crossed the bridge from the ticket office. I might have made it if I'd run like crazy, but I decided to get the next one. If I'd been about 50 yards closer I'd have got on that train, and if I'd done that, we'd never have met.
It's not just love and marriage that's a game of chance. Shortly after we got married we found out that we may not be able to have children of our own, so we applied to become foster carers. One Sunday lunchtime we went for a drink and came home. The pubs shut at 2.00pm in those days. We turned on the TV and the best thing on was The Sound Of Music. So we...made our own entertainment. One Friday morning a couple of months later a letter arrived saying we'd been accepted as foster carers, would we like to come down to the office and look at the files of youngsters who need a home (remember this was decades ago, fostering is a lot more sophisticated now). But I had a doctor's appointment same day, as I had my suspicions which turned out to be true, and the result was our first child. All because some unknown BBC scheduler had put the Sound Of Music on that Sunday afternoon. We're certain that was the one, if you know what I mean.
Earlier today I'd dropped into the supermarket and was standing in quite a long queue for the basket only cases. A till opened up, but before the next person in the queue could move in a woman came from nowhere and plonked her basket on the counter, her back to the queue. A queue jumper! The assistant hadn't noticed so she just started serving the woman. Everyone in the queue looked at each other, wondering what to say.
I started chatting to the woman in front of me. I don't often chat to the queue in the supermarket, but this was something to talk about.
As we gassed it just came out somehow that I'm in fostering. I'd joked about some of the food in my basket. She'd asked about my children and I'd said that one of them has some rather inexplicable food fads, and I said that such things were all part of the joy of fostering. Normally I don't mention fostering, as it can either bring the conversation to a halt or take it in all sorts of directions, but I was enjoying talking to this stranger, she didn't know me from Adam.
But the woman asked a number of interesting questions, then it was her turn to go to the till.
When I finished paying, the woman was waiting by the door.
"I've been thinking about fostering myself but..."
She was worried that she was too old, and that she'd had all sorts of ups and downs in her life.
I reassured her there is no upper age limit in fostering. Anyone can apply; singles, marrieds, people in civil partnerships, any and every ethnicity and nationality, any background.
As for having had troubles in your past; that's no bad thing. How can you understand a child's troubles if you've floated through life on a bed of roses?
And fostering is anything but a bed of roses, I made that clear. But she was still interested. I told her how the allowance is paid, and how the allowance is in effect not subject to income tax, and how it doesn't usually affect other income even benefits (to the best of my knowledge).
I told her that she could either apply to her local social services or contact an agency, which was what I'd done (Blue Sky, obviously). I told her a bit about why I preferred an agency to social services (for example Blue Sky have an accountancy firm who'll look after the money side of things for you, for a fee somewhere between "token" and "small").
I gave her Blue Sky's number and told her they'd answer any questions better than me. She said she'd call when she got home.
So. If she becomes a foster carer, and our chat was the gentle shove she needed, it's all thanks to the woman who jumped the queue.
Whenever our eldest is driving us mad, we look at each other and burst into a song. A Sound Of Music Song, any of them seem to do the trick.
Because our eldest is one in a million, in soooo many ways.