Diane Alsop was fortunate enough to be gorgeous, have a relatively well-off family, and better than average intelligence. She was the object of many a young boy’s affection but did not date anybody seriously. She had a flair for languages and managed to enrol on one of the few courses, at the time, available to study Mandarin.
A year-long exchange to Shanghai changed the course of her life. For there, she met Henry. Henry was also a student, just three years older than Diane, but was well on the way to becoming a political activist. Henry’s roots were in Tibet, and the issue was a sore point for him. That he was so switched-on, so up to speed with current affairs, who’d done what, to whom, and why, and why they told you something else – turned her on, he was so unlike other boys, who were more into their Walkmen. And so, began the holiday romance. It could not last, of course, and eventually Diane flew home to finish her studies. Diane duly qualified and started a job in London for a publishing house.
Henry, meanwhile, had managed to get himself into trouble. Evading the authorities, he managed to flee China via Hong Kong, and catch a flight to London. And who did he know in London?
The romance blossomed once again, and Diane and Henry duly married in the summer of 1988. Her parents helped them to rent, then buy, places close to them, down in Lewes, and during their early married life, Diane continued to commute up to London each day. Before too long, Diane found herself pregnant, and Anna was born on 29th October 1990. There followed a sister, born in 1994, by which time Diane had quit her job. As the sister grew older, she had chosen the name Zara – the hippest-sounding English name to come vaguely close to her original Chinese name.
Anna not only inherited her mother’s good looks, but she also excelled academically, shining even brighter than Diane. She was regularly “top-of-the-class” until a refugee, Katerina, arrived from the Balkans. Katerina was a whizz at numbers, but Anna more than held her own at anything English-language-related.
Being used to success, Anna lived a fair amount of life on her own terms. When she was 17, she decided that she would like a boyfriend, then set about sifting through suitable candidates! Ironically, it was probably that choice which cost her a place at Cambridge, but she was easily accepted at her second choice, King’s in London, to read Law. There, she had her first semi-serious relationship, with another student, which lasted just over two years. Not wishing to repeat her previous mistake, Anna ended the relationship just before her finals, and duly passed her degree with first-class honours.
Anna’s CV could now speak for itself, but she was not beyond a little help from Henry, who by now was a founding partner of a small think-tank up in London. A few words in the right ears, and Anna had an offer from Maynard Fleischmann, the tiny, prestigious human-rights law firm. The offer was not without strings, and the firm required Anna to take a year’s internship at a human-rights charity, whose CEO was husband of one of the partners at the firm. Even so, it was a good move.
Siblings, however, can be chalk and cheese, and around about the same time as Anna was starting her internship, so Zara was pregnant with her second child. Even when she’d gone to university in Brighton, she had never been far away. When she dropped out to have her son, it was handy to have her parents close by. Both Diane and Henry were doting grandparents.
With the preamble now complete, Anna met Paul in 2017. Let us begin.