Every other day, 33-year-old Karen Gilbert sets up a nail bar in her kitchen in Pontypool, South Wales.
She lays out three pots of Rimmel 60 Seconds nail varnish in a row — fuchsia, mint green and purple — summons her ever-helpful assistant Faye, aged four, and the two of them make a start.
One by one, Faye holds three sets of pink wriggling toes and coos into three chubby, smiling faces, while Karen very carefully paints three sets of teeny toenails three different colours and gives them a quick squirt with a rapid-drying spray.
And then everyone can relax. Because for another couple of days, Karen, 33, husband Ian, 35, and Faye can tell apart the one-year-old identical triplets Ffion (fuchsia), Maddison (mint green) and Paige (purple), if only by their nail colour.
‘They’re identical, even to us,’ says Karen. ‘We’ve never been able to tell them apart.’
‘I sometimes get inklings about which is which,’ says Ian. ‘But I’m not always right.’
They’ve tried everything. First, it was hospital bracelets on their hands and feet, replaced every few weeks as they became tighter.
‘Until somehow they started falling off,’ says Ian. ‘We found two on the mattress of the cot they all shared. We knew they couldn’t have swapped over because they couldn’t move, but it still made us wonder. Your mind starts playing tricks. Perhaps Ffion was now Paige!’
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