Foundlings have always fascinated me. I think, as a small child, I confused them with Changelings, and thought that they had something to do with the fairies. Children who arrived on doorsteps from nowhere. Often at night, often only found by the sound of their cry. I thought it was romantic.
I was much older when I realized that the word hid a world of sadness. That to be “found” you had to be abandoned. That the story of Moses in the bullrushes had been cleaned up and sanitized for us at school. That the Importance of Being Earnest was more than just a comedy.
When I had my own children, I started to collect the stories. I visited the Foundling Museum, I read Kate Adie’s book, Nobody’s child. I reread Tom Jones with a new attention to detail.
I remembered that a man I knew claimed to have been found on the doorstep of the village policeman on Christmas day. The policeman and his wife went on to bring him up. I have no idea if it was true, but it captured my imagination.
I cut out the moving story of a baby found in a phone box, that was published in The Guardian, again, at Christmas. (read it here)
More recently, my eye was caught by the increase in the numbers of babies abandoned across central Europe as the refugee crisis grew.
I became a bit of an expert on the awful statistics surrounding abandoned infant mortality.
What I noticed was that with the exception of the Lewes story, the foundlings themselves, tended to have the voice. They were pictured with their cardboard boxes or the hand knitted cardigan they’d been left with. They’d mostly be seeking information about their origins. Sometimes, there were happy stories about being re-united, but often not.
But just occasionally, there’d be a picture of the person that found the baby. Usually looking bemused, with very little information to offer, but they universally expressed a sort of almost parental love for the grown up baby.
And it occured to me that the story I was reaching for was not the tale of the foundling, but instead, it would be about the person who found the foundling.
And so Amy came along.
Bus Stop Baby is published July 28th by Piccadilly Press