This is me and my younger sister, Jemma, taken at a portrait photographer's just before I left the UK in October.
My sister is pretty brilliant. Let me tell you a little bit about her, over and above the fact that, after this post, she will almost certainly kill me next time I see her.
She is a final year student at Portsmouth University, studying Psychology. Studying Psychology rather well, as it happens. She has yet to take her final exams, but she is already setting her sights on a Doctorate after a year or so of work experience. She's like that. The run of the mill challenges are just a lead up to what she has her eye on. Something she gets from her Dad, really.
Jemma lives with her boyfriend Tom in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. They have a cat called Gumbo, who turned out to be a girl and now goes by the name of Gumpy, Gumpykins and any other of the thousands of variations on the nickname theme. Some of my favourite names for the cat are our Dad's inventions; Goulash and Stroganoff.
Jemma is the best arguer or debater I know.
As children, she and I were, in Mum's words, like cat and dog. Mum never elaborated as to who was who, but I know this: Jemma never lost. After twenty minutes of arguing a point, IF, emphasis on the IF, Jemma realised that she may not have been in the winning corner at the start, then I found that there was an entirely new argument in play - who had held which view to begin with and hence got to claim victory. As tactics go, I could never and never have bettered this. As a result I either agree with Jemma or keep quiet. I lived in fear that she would move into Law until she started out towards a stellar career in Psychology instead.
As children, the only time I can remember getting one up on Jemma I was so surprised that I never told anyone until I felt comfortably past the statute of limitations, that is to say, after we had an ocean between us and I knew for a fact that she and Tom don't keep firearms in the house.
When we were 9 and 6 respectively and after a petty squabble (which I lost, of course), I took a pencil and wrote 'I am 6' in a rough attempt at her handwriting, at her height, on the wall on the stairs. She got into trouble and I was so shocked that I had gotten away with it, I didn't breathe a word about it until about six months ago.
Jemma came to visit me a couple of times when I was at university; once in the first year, resulting in me being banned from having guests (damn you, Jem, and your post-midnight hellraiser-style toast-making).
We spent long wonderful summers with Mum on the beach at Ventnor.
We've been through a lot together; I've stood by and not laughed at the sight of her with certain boyfriends in the past, stayed loyal and supportive through the time she painted her bedroom pink when our parents were on holiday, and she has always been there for me, too - getting too drunk on Carnival night, endless lifts, a critical, honest, eye, belonging to one who knows that my general life meandering can be a little too laid back.
Jemma is my sister and I love her, but I've been terrible at keeping in touch lately.
On Friday, in the midst of a great sunny day's activities with Krissa, we got home to find a couple of messages on our answering machine - from my Mum. While walking around campus Jemma was hit by a car, a car which, thankfully, wasn't going very fast. It knocked Jemma over, and, despite no one quite knowing how, she fell in the foetal position, and she fell forwards onto her bag, which, being the dedicated student she is, was full of large, squidgy textbooks.
While being told to relax and wait for the ambulance, Jemma thought of nothing but trying to get someone else to hand in her coursework. I'm telling you; this girl is something else.
After being checked over and pronounced medically fit apart from bruising, Jemma then proceeded to go back to Campus to hand in her coursework, to what I can only imagine would be the slack-jawed awe of her colleagues and tutors.
This shock was enough to get me to wake up and call her - there's an awful lot of sea between us and I can't do a hell of a lot from here, and the least I can do is keep in touch.
She's at home, and has Tom and cute little Bouillabaise for company, but I wanted to write a post about her, tell her that I remember playing on the beach in the rain, keeping an eye out for her at St. Wilfrid's breaktime, studiously avoiding each other most of the rest of our school careers, but all the time growing up as brother and sister.
Watch where you're bloody going next time, okay?