MY TWINS/MY INSPIRATION
People sometimes ask how I did my research for writing about twins. If I’m with my daughters I gesture towards the brown haired and freckled young women by my side. ‘I’ve been observing these two since they were born,’ I say.
Twenty-two years ago, people stopped to gaze into the double pram I was pushing, murmuring, ‘Little angels!’ They couldn’t know that this was the only time the two tiny babies lying together in the pram actually slept. Night-time was party-time, with lots of screaming. And I was not prepared for how much the naughty-scale would increase when they learnt to walk, which they did in a determined way by 10 months.
I was a new mother, my ‘L’ plates still flapping on my back. I had to learn quickly. My dark-eyed identical girls liked nothing better than conspiring in corners so that they could climb a bookshelf when I was out of the room, sending a precious vase to the floor with a crash. Or escaping down a supermarket aisle to take all their clothes off by the baked beans. They covered the cat’s kittens in felt pen squiggles. When told off, they washed the kittens in soapy water. It was only later that I noticed the mother cat blowing bubbles.
Because they wouldn’t fall asleep in their beds, they often fell asleep in other places. Perhaps copying the cat, one of them once curled up deep inside the dirty laundry basket and slept for hours while I searched the house and garden in desperation. I was just about to phone the police when she woke up yelling because it was ‘all dark.’
When they turned six, it was as if a magic spell had been lifted: they began to read books, sleep through the night, desist from inventing new ways of creating havoc and generally turn into the bright, kind and lovely girls they are today. Having twins has taught me things about human nature. We long for someone to share our life with, someone who will always understand. But although my daughters were born with this on tap, and love each other with a fierce loyalty, they are also continually striving for independence and a place in the world that is unique to them as individuals. Anybody who addresses them as ‘the twins,’ is met with two sets of brown eyes staring hard in best Paddington fashion. They don’t want to be compared. But it is their lot in life. The title of my book is partly an ironic reference to that.
I’m lucky that my girls have shared with me the bitter-sweet nature of having another ‘half’; and although I didn’t base my fictional twins on the real ones, they definitely provided the inspiration for the story. I held my breath while they read The Twins. Luckily, they approved!