Share this article Share She wanted to know if I would like to help her trace other relatives - but for me she was moving too fast. I'd expected to build up a closeness with Judi, but straight away she made me feel I was just another person she had managed to track down in her family tree - another box ticked - and now she was ready to move on to the next.
I explained that I'd never felt any desire to contact my birth family, which seemed to annoy her. But that's the truth. I didn't even know I had a living blood relative, let alone a sister, until I was 35 and I received a letter from Judi out of the blue.
I always knew I was adopted, but that was all I ever wanted to know. The reason was quite simple: I'd had an unhappy childhood with my adoptive parents, so not only did the thought of having to cope with another family not appeal, it actually terrified me. Ann and Judi when they were first reunited: They found they couldn't agree on anything I was never told why my birth parents had given me up.
All I grew up knowing was this: They had already adopted a son 18 months older than me, and the story went that it was my adoptive brother who 'picked' me at the children's home. But any chance we might have had at being a close, loving family was shattered when Eileen suffered a heart attack and died, aged I was only seven at the time, and all I understood was that the person I had called Mummy was gone.
After Eileen's death, our home wasn't a happy place and I left as soon as I could, finding a live-in job in a care home when I was only Later, I qualified as a nurse - but the older I got, the more determined I was not to delve into the past. Yet in February , when I opened a letter from social services telling me a woman relative had tracked me down, I found I was hugely excited.
Judi and I exchanged a few letters and spoke on the phone. She told me she had been adopted at six weeks old, that she'd tracked our birth mother several years before, and had been searching for me for all this time. Six weeks later, we arranged to meet in a Southampton hotel, midway between our two homes.
I had expected to feel an instinctive bond, and straight away I was amazed to see we shared many mannerisms. Both of us talk a lot and share gestures such as wagging a finger to emphasise what we are saying.
But as our first meeting wore on, Judi's pointing finger became more tiresome. Ann Beavan as a three-year-old child, she never knew why she was given up for adoption I must admit, for my part, I felt a pang of envy when Judi told me she had a four-year-old son. I had tried to get pregnant with two different long-term partners, but it never happened, and it was hurtful now to be sitting there and be judged for being childless.
It simply wasn't true that I'd made a conscious decision to put my career first. If motherhood had ever happened, I would have been thrilled. But Judi, whose manner seemed so angry, didn't seem to notice she was upsetting me.
Still, as we said our goodbyes, I tried not to show how much she'd upset me and focused on the extraordinary fact that I had finally met my sister. I reasoned that things would improve once we got to know each other a little better. How wrong I was. A few weeks later, we booked a weekend trip to France - a country we both loved - but then ended up having an almighty stand-up row on the way there over the most ridiculous thing. There we were in the train carriage, in front of strangers, arguing about whether religion was truly helpful in life or not.
The weekend went rapidly downhill after that, with the most awful silences interspersed with flare-ups as disagreed about everything from how to spend our day to the world at large. I can honestly say that no one has ever irriatated me quite as much. Judi continually compared me to our mother, whom she'd first met years before and who was by then living in London.
I tried my best to like her, I really did - but as the months went by, our relationship worsened. Judi as a child, she was given up for adoption because their Mum was young when she had her Once a week, I made a huge effort to to see her, making the four-hour round trip to her home in Brighton. But she never once seemed grateful. Instead, she would just moan that I had brought my Jack Russell puppy along.
She couldn't understand the bond I had with him at all. It really hurt that she refused to let him in her garden, let alone the house, saying that her partner was allergic to dogs. A few months later, we tried to have what they call 'post-adoption counselling' to try to heal the rift.
Judi would always take over, making it clear how unhappy she was with her life, while I just sat there, tears running down my cheeks. The final straw came when I discovered she had taken a photo of me to show our birth mother - who had denied all knowledge of my existence. Judi had always said she was adopted because our birth mother was so young when she had her; but neither of us could work out why I had been adopted. I had always imagined that one day I would pluck up the courage to contact her myself, so I was horrified when she refused even to acknowledge me.
It was so hurtful - like being rejected all over again. A few weeks later, Judi sent me a strange birthday present - an imitation voodoo doll with 'For Anger Management' written on it. Perhaps she thought it was funny, but for me it was the final straw. Eventually, after three tumultuous years, I felt so emotionally drained, I decided to cut off all contact with Judi - something she seemed rather pleased about.
At that point, I took some satisfaction in deleting her phone number from my address book. For the next five years, we didn't speak. To be honest, we might never have seen one another again, but a year ago, out of the blue, I received an invitation to Judi's 50th birthday, and as soon as I saw it my heart leapt.
She still irritates me sometimes, but she has mellowed and we've been able to piece together a new beginning. It's almost as if we had to go through those arguments and test each other to the limit before we could really get on.
I guess we had a lifetime of sibling rivalry to squeeze into three years - but finally we are managing to come through the other side and find some common ground. Judi Smith, 51, lives in Brighton. A former telegraphist who once deciphered Morse Code, she is now retired on health grounds. She has a son, Alex, 14, and is amicably separated from his father Roger, an engineer. Perhaps it was jealousy, but I just couldn't stop myself. There I was, sitting opposite my new-found little sister, and I found myself comparing every detail of her life to my own.
For a start, she arrived in designer jeans with her hair beautifully cut. She was slim and was soon telling me about her well-paid job and how she lived in a beautiful three-bedroom house. At the time, I had a young child, and although my partner Roger and I were just surviving financially, it seemed as if Ann had everything I didn't.
I couldn't help but feel she was bragging about how well she'd done for herself. Looking back now, I can see it probably wasn't intentional. In fact, I think she was really just seeking my approval as the older sister.
The problem was that I couldn't help envying her life. Material possessions have never been high up on my list of must-haves - I'd rather spend spare cash on a book - but our semi needed work on it at the time, and there she was casually dropping into the conversation that she was having a new conservatory put in, and a loft conversion.
So I hit back by saying she worked too hard. I suppose, because I was her big sister, I wanted her to need me. I wanted to be the one to make a difference to her life. In fact, it was obvious that she was very capable and had made a great life for herself. Perhaps it was a little bitchy, but I was feeling incredibly upset that she didn't seem thrilled, or even grateful, that I had found her. It had taken me 20 years and hundreds of hours poring over documents to track her down, and yet she didn't really seem that bothered that we had found each other at last.
And when I tried to tell her everything I had found out about our family, she didn't want to know. I was adopted when I was six weeks old, when my mother was 17, and grew up in a happy family unit in Eastbourne. When I was 18, I decided I wanted to track down my family. The sisters finally made their peace at Judi's 50th birthday party I found my mum when I was 23, and for the first nine months we met regularly.
But then our meetings dwindled - probably because she wouldn't talk about what happened. When I found Ann, I was hoping she would want to help me piece more of the jigsaw together. But she just wasn't interested. Didn't she want to know anything about her genes, or possible inherited illness? There she was, a nurse, and she showed such a lack of curiosity. I couldn't help getting angry, and I found her to be very stubborn.
She says I have strong views, but she's just as opinionated. On that weekend away in France, she got on my nerves so much that I walked off with the car keys and left her stranded. I hated her habit of going all quiet when she was upset. She is the type of person who seems calm and unflappable, but when she's upset she clams up, which I found very frustrating. As for the puppy, well, she really spoilt him - and it's not my fault that my partner happens to be allergic to dogs, is it?
I was keen to make our relationship work, so I agreed to go to the counselling sessions with her. But it was no real surprise that they couldn't help bring us together. She seemed to take everything I did the wrong way. I was as surprised and hurt as Ann when our birth mother refused to acknowledge her as her daughter after I told her about our meetings; more so because they look so alike. I tried to defuse the situation by sending Ann a joke voodoo doll - but she even took that the wrong way and was deeply offended.
I have to say, it wasn't really a surprise when our relationship fizzled out. But that didn't mean I didn't think about Ann over the years that followed. There were times when I came close to picking up the phone, but each time I lost my nerve.