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Rutland columnist Allan Grey discusses the double trouble of twins




It’s late 2015 and the lovely lady and I are thousands of miles from home when she inspects her iPad for the umpteeth time that day, hoping for the minimum of an internet connection, writes Rutland columnist, Allan Grey.

“Wow”, she cries, “an email has actually got through at last”, but it’s only the first line which says simply: “It looks like double trouble...”

Now we were well aware that our younger daughter was pregnant, and just about to have her three month ultrasound scan, and so we put two and two together, and guess what, we made four, she’s having twins - amazing news.

Pictured are Hattie on the left, Edith on the right... probably, no definitely
Pictured are Hattie on the left, Edith on the right... probably, no definitely

Six months later, and so it came to pass, two beautiful girls, which was of course to be expected - we don’t do boys in the Grey family. The lovely lady and I have two daughters, my brother and his wife have two daughters, we have four granddaughters, my brother, four granddaughters, ne’er a boy to be seen.

Initially the twins look pretty much alike, but the midwife tells us they’re non-identical, they’re fraternal twins. Then all newborn babies look alike don’t they? Mostly like wrinkled prunes for the first six months. These two really did look the same however, and whenever the lovely lady and I looked after them during their first 18 months or so we could not tell them apart, apart from one feature. One had a single crown, and one had a double crown, so sometimes we called them C1 and C2, other times, Copy and Paste...which brings me neatly on to my favourite identical twin joke. Have you heard the one about the Spanish fireman who became father to twins, he named them José, and Hose B?

By the age of two, even their Mum was convinced they were identical and so decided to have a DNA test done, and yes, they shared 98.5 per cent common DNA, so they definitely came from a single fertilised egg, or as they’re known in the trade, monozygotic twins. In these cases for unexplained reasons after the egg is fertilised, it splits into two or more eggs, or zygotes. What confused matters was each of them having their own play centre at birth. I think that’s what they’re called, which more likely suggests they are non-identical, as only 30 per cent of identical twins have separate play centres, really marvellous those Fischer-Price BOGOFs.

Multiple pregnancies are more common than you might think, and they’re becoming even more common. In 1984, only one in every 100 births were multiples, now it’s one in 65. What exactly are they putting in the water?

More likely it’s a feature of increasing levels of fertility treatment, and the rising average age at which women are having children. Then again if Grandma and Grandad take them down to Oakham’s Mini Monsters without knowing it’s their Wednesday twins session and thinking it’s just a normal session, you’ll think all births in Rutland are twins. Either that or you’re suddenly suffering from serious double vision, with nine sets of twins careering around.

As doting grandparents we often pushed them around town in their twin buggy. How many times did we hear complete strangers say “Gosh, you’ve got your hands full, are they twins?”

“No they’re triplets, but we’ve left the ugly one at home.”

On other occasions: “No the boy on the left is two and her sister on the right is a particularly small seven year old,” or “No they’re quadriuplets, we take them out two at a time, have you seen the cost of a triple buggy?”

Even though their Mum was convinced they were identical from the start, she could always tell one from the other as could their slightly older sister, even when sneeky grandparents swapped their clothes one day to see if Mum would notice. She did: “Why have you swapped their clothes?” being the first thing she said when she came to collect them from The Grey Day Play Centre.

There’s much speculation whether or not identical twins can communicate via telepathy, or even have ESP, extra sensory perception. There are many anectdotes, but very little scientific evidence to confirm this myth. Many twins, whether due to nature or nurture, may simply have the same instincts, tendencies, or preferences, explaining why they may do eerily similar things simultaneously. Ultimately, regardless of whether it’s described as telepathy, twins often share a special sibling bond that makes them especially close throughout their life.

Now they are five, they’re increasingly into “let’s fool Grandma and Grandad”, regularly deciding to dress alike when they come to visit, so even if we start off knowing one from the other, they’ve soon got us completely confused. Just wait until they have boyfriends, there’s going to be great fun to be had there. But of course, before that they’ll have to have that sensitive discussion all twins have to have to find out which of them is the unplanned one.

My research did uncover much humour about twins, but most of the identical twin sister jokes I’ve found are far too risque for the Rutland Times, so I’ll leave you with this one instead.

It’s the Sunday after Quasimodo’s funeral, his identical twin brother Farsimodo (I had a hunch Quasi had a twin brother) was still grieving, but knew he had to take over and ring the bells of the spires of Notre Dame, having promised his brother he would do just that.

Unfortunately as he made a grab for the ropes, he slipped and pulled the ropes too hard, only for one of the returning bells to smash into his face, causing him to fall from the tower and land in a bloody mess on the street below. A crowd soon gathered around, and seeing his face smashed in and motionless on the ground, someone yelled out, “Hey who’s that?”

The answer came from the front of the crowd: “Not sure of his name, but he’s a dead ringer for his brother.”



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