When I was seventeen, my family had just moved to a new town - ostensibly this happened because of the need to relocate for work. I'm always a little disconcerted when I think about it, because moving always seemed to happen when I'd made friends and was, you know, actually able to get out of the house and away from my family for a few precious hours. All a series of unhappy coincidences, I suppose.

There was little peace and quiet to be had, almost no privacy, and various other reasons why going to bed at a later hour appealed to me. Like most teenagers, my circadian rhythm was telling me that normal sleep/wake hours were for loser adults who weren't cool and listened to Abba. Since I was awake, why not stay up and watch some late night television? Lucky me: The Avengers was being re-run for the first time in probably thirty years. Pulpy B-movies were on, because pay TV still didn't have a big enough budget to run four big Hollywood movies on rotation for a week. The music channel here actually played interesting stuff, somehow managing to get around that system of vampire leeches called "distributors". All the really good contemporary shows were on late at night, too. Not bad, really.

So I'd be up late, keeping quiet... but then my mother started using this as an opportunity to come out and confront me about things that didn't really seem quite right. Apparently I was inherently evil. I was the source of everyone's problems. Everyone hated me. At the point where she told me she wanted to cut my throat while I slept, I pretty much lost all desire to ever fall asleep again. I really don't have a clue where any of this came from, either.

One of the more startling instances of disturbing midnight crazy talk was when she came out and told me that I have an older sister, who was nine years older than me, and had been put up for adoption at birth. All the wonderful messed-up attitudes of a society without abortion, any concept of single parenting, or that teenagers could have sex without it being shameful for their family, were present in this tale. One proposal for dealing with the situation was that my grandparents would have raised my older sister and pretended she was their daughter (was anyone ever fooled by this? I doubt it). Nobody else in the immediate family knew this sordid tale. Of course, I was not to tell anyone.

Fast forward six years and mum sits everyone down at the table and tells us that her lost child got in touch! Wasn't it lovely? Well, yes... that was kind of nice. Maybe mum would stop wanting to murder me now.

As it turned out, everyone knew, and everyone had thought they were the only one who knew. That was slightly nasty. But wait... not everyone knew. My brother didn't. I was mildly annoyed that a slightly shadowy bit of family history had been presented to me as a big secret, but the fact that one of my siblings hadn't been told, and then had to find out that everyone else knew... that would be cruel, if it wasn't just the result of absent-mindedness.

Ultimately, this was a bit unpleasant - to have my mother resentfully tell me a secret from her past and guilt me into silence. I can imagine to myself that it explains some of her behaviour at various points while I was growing up, but frankly that doesn't really explain half of it. The fact that she told people, one after the other, and didn't want to let us all know that others were in on the secret, that was extremely unfair. It wasn't something I wanted to be dealing with - in fact, it made finishing school more difficult for me.

I really didn't want to know that.

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