An Incidence Of Coincidence

Coincidence. Serendipity. I’ve been speaking a lot about that kind of thing recently. From a reader posting comments on City Jackdaw about places from her childhood that also hold connections for me, to a fellow blogger describing serendipity playing out in her own life.

Along with what’s the chances of that happening in the face-to-face world that we operate in, too.

Highlighting them seems to be attracting more of the same, eavesdropping universe that this is.

This post is an example of a string of coincidences that recently played out over the last few days.

It began when I messaged my cousin to see if he wanted to go to a local Non-League football game. He replied that, along with his family, he’d gone to Glastonbury for a few days, a place I know that they love.

In answering his text I told him to “Enjoy Avalon”, referring to the link that the place has to Arthurian legend.

Later that day, while absently scrolling through Facebook, a video surfaced that was first posted in January by the group Kula Shaker. It featured them spending some time on top of Glastonbury Tor, at either sun-up or sundown, with some music and chanting featuring in the background.

So of course I sent this video on to my cousin as I was sure he’d appreciate it. He did.

Then, speaking of Avalon, in a local charity shop I came across a book that I’d been meaning to read since I was a child:

I snapped up a bargain and was able to start it, a few decades down the line from those first youthful intentions.

Now, back to Kula Shaker again:

They are a band that seem to be marmite to people, but I like them. I first encountered them in 1996 when I worked for a short time in a warehouse (predictive text changed that to whorehouse 🙈) on Stakehill Industrial Site.

Driving an electric pallet truck, I passed the radio, perched on a bottom stair, that was playing what sounded like a slice of 60’s psychedelia, which I love.

After first catching my ear, it seemed that, as I made many circuits around the warehouse throughout the next few days, whenever I passed the radio that same song would be coming from it (coincidence again?). This regular amount of airplay demonstrated that whatever it was, it must be new music, and eventually I stopped my truck and hung around long enough to get the name of the track:

Tattva, by a new group named Kula Shaker.

I went straight out and bought their debut album ‘K’ which featured that song, and have been a fan ever since.

Now, fast-forward back to today.

Kula Shaker’s last album had come out in 2016 (K 2.0) but they had been posting/tweeting/crowing for a few weeks about some new music and a tour that was imminent.

Then we got a countdown promising . . . something.

First there was a cryptic smiley drum thing.

Then the countdown became more specific.

And then D-Day, a video was posted showcasing the first music from this pending new album. The title of the song?

What’s the odds? I’ve stopped asking that question.

Glastonbury/Avalon/The Once And Future King

Don’t be surprised if the group play Glastonbury this year. This thing is going to run and run.

I will follow their lights/And I will follow their star.

Who Resides In The Shadows?

I’ve not written any fiction for six years.

I hadn’t realised it had been that long until I was going through some books today and uncovered the two volumes of The Northlore Series that I have three stories included in (Volume One: Folklore; Volume Two: Mythos), along with a poem.

I sat down and read my contributions. Reading them for the first time in a while felt strange, as though they’d been penned by someone else. The last one was published in 2016, and since then it seems that my focus has been solely on poetry and non-fiction.

I enjoyed becoming acquainted with those characters again: Alfred Cartwright, the former English teacher finding himself trapped in the horror of the Somme, and Andy, the young, infatuated, wannabe writer, working in a Manchester cafe for a little extra money.

As any reader or writer will know, fictional characters take on flesh in the mind’s eye, appearing in the form that our imaginations give to them. But with the final character – a Lutheran Pastor ministering to a small rural village in Norway, I had a little help with an illustration provided by the series’ artist, Evelinn Enoksen:

I peered at his face, up close, thinking ah, I remember you. Torsten Göransson, the Stockholm man of faith, struggling through the snow.

It made me think of other characters that I have, neither drawn nor written, existing half-formed in the back of my mind, having been pushed back further down the line.

Maybe I should consider bringing some of them out into the light? Maybe they want to breathe a little?

Maybe I should turn my focus inwards and ask “Who’s there?”

Perhaps after this oral history project is completed.

In A Manchester Book Shop

“Come on, make your mind up. It was you who came in here to buy a book. I’ve got two.”

Looking at them I presumed that they were mother and daughter, the former indeed with two books beneath her arm, looking a little exasperated if not impatient; the latter indecisive.

Mother picked up a paperback from the display table. “Oh, this is a good one. The Colour Purple. They made a film out of it. It’s about racism.” Now she was the one who appeared indecisive. “Actually, I think it might be too much for a fourteen-year-old. You might want to read it when you’re older.”

“I think I’ve seen the film,” replied the daughter, “With Whoopi Goldberg?”

“That’s right.” Sounding surprised.

“I liked her in Ghost.” She cast her young eye to take in the shelved multiverse. “Is there a book of that?”

Beginning A Book Of Beginnings

I picked this up in Waterstones recently, knowing that it would be my kind of thing. Ancestry; pre-history; our shared humanity: I love all that.

The more I learn the more I want to know. Roots, beginnings, of where we came from, and how.

I sometimes think of myself sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s surgery. In the chair opposite is a man from Africa. Or a man from China. Or maybe a woman from the Philippines. They might not particularly look like me, in fact they’d look quite distinct from me. But whoever it is we would still be connected. They would still be one of us.

But just imagine if the person sat in the chair was a Neanderthal. Could you get your head around the fact that he’d be other? Not us at all?

Of all the hominid species that we know of (so far), it’s the Neanderthals that capture the imagination the most. Maybe perhaps because of how, in some ways, they were quite similar to us, or maybe more so because of how recently (in comparative terms) they fell away.

Though you could say (spoiler alert-even before picking up the book) they never fully did.

I’m only sixty-odd pages in and it’s great writing for a layman like me, not dry at all, with the start of each chapter instilling a sense of wonder in both our origins and shared beginnings.

Each chapter is headed by a drawing, and I love this image, from Chapter Two, of us reaching out to our maternal line, a line that snakes off into the distance, beyond memory, photograph and record. Taking unknown directions while holding maybe the odd recognisable trait, going that far back that even the stars above have shifted position.

Elsewhere Sykes writes:

We are the embodied heritage of all our mothers. The predecessors of your eyes focusing on these words first saw light over 500 million years ago. The five dextrous fingers moving these pages have clutched, grasped, scrabbled for 300 million years. Perhaps you can hear music, or a recording of this book right now; that ingenious triple-bone ear structure began listening for sounds of love and terror while we scuttled beneath saurian feet. The brain processing this sentence had ballooned almost to its current size by 500 thousand years ago, and was shared by Neanderthals.

I hope that’s whetted your appetite. Now I’m logging out of City Jackdaw to begin chapter four, reading newly written words while looking far, far over my shoulder into the distance behind me.

Flea/Owl/Wasp

I picked this book up for just £2 on the local flea market. Seeing as though we soon learn in it that the sound of an owl calling your name foretells imminent death (according to the folklore of the tribe that the main character, a priest, goes to stay with), the title may be a bit of a spoiler.

Still – I loved it. It’s not a long book and it’s not a new book, but it’s a new favourite book, added to a select few. Two pounds well spent!

I was reading it outside in the garden as today was quite mild, making the most of the warm Autumn sunshine. Perhaps this will be the last day that we can sit comfortably outdoors like this. I’ve heard it mentioned that we may have some snow before the month is out. Never mind a white Christmas, could it be an unseasonal white Halloween?

These days you can take nothing for granted.

While I was reading, a wasp hovered briefly above my book and it reminded me to check out the guttering above my lad’s bedroom. I’d noticed that wasps were nesting in there some months back and I looked now to see if they’d since departed.

No – there was still some activity up there. We are in October, surely they’ll have to leave soon. Maybe sooner than they think.

Time For Truth, Truth In Time

I was reading Stephen King’s Joyland, which I’d picked up in a charity shop, over my morning coffee when I encountered the following line:

When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction

Is this fact or fiction, so to speak? This line was unearthed in a work of fiction. And, to further blur the lines, truth can be found in fiction and fiction hidden in truth. But what about what it refers to, in regards to history? Our own history?

Revisionism. I’ve known people alter the facts to suit and justify their own particular narrative. Events recounted that don’t quite match up with our own recollection of things. I guess we all know someone like that.

But what about me? Do I ‘write’ fiction about my past?

I think I’m mostly the opposite. At the time, wherever along my timeline that ‘time’ was, I’d sometimes put a spin on things. Make myself appear more favourable and, forever the storyteller, embellish things for entertainment purposes, playing to the audience.

And of course obscure things I’d prefer not see the light of day. We’re all human and life is a learning curve.

Now, further down the line and removed by years and even decades, I recount how things really were back then from my own perspective (and it’s all about perspective, isn’t it?), with an insight I didn’t possess at the time.

Maybe age brings with it, along with wisdom, a certain candour. A candour maybe recognised by encountering an alternate version of truth in the midst of a work of fiction.

Rosemary’s Bay Bees

What a beautiful day it was today.

In fact, do you know what kind of day it was today? It was a Rosemary’s Baby and Fosters kind of day today.

So much so that I felt that I had to share with everyone on Facebook just how I’d passed the afternoon.

Why have you poured Fosters into a glass?! my daughter Courtney commented.

Because the glass wouldn’t fit into the can, I replied.

Obvious, isn’t it?

One pay-off to be made for the good weather at this time of year is that we have to share it with others. Other creatures, that is. A few days ago I noticed some bees flying around the end of the guttering at the front of our house, guttering that is close to both Courtney’s bedroom window and also her sister Millie’s bedroom window. Courtney and Millie are not the most bug-friendly girls you’re ever likely to meet.

When one of the bees turned up in our living room today I thought, while catching it to release outside, I’d take the opportunity to photograph it in an effort to identify the species. As it dropped onto the window ledge, I placed a glass over it (yes, the Fosters glass) and took a snap of it.

That’s right-the bee was doing what bees do and wouldn’t keep still, flying to the top of the glass. Eventually though, I got a close up.

From this, and from what I’d read when scientifically googling bee nests in gutters I deduced that the bees were most likely to be Tree Bumblebees. Eat your heart out Attenborough.

(Though don’t ask where the tree comes into play.)

And from what I’ve learnt I’ve decided not to take any action and leave them bee (😀) as it’s likely that they will leave the nest by the end of July anyway.

That’s only two months away. Eight weeks. Ish.

You can imagine how thrilled my daughters are by this decision.

Just wait until that sun is out again tomorrow, and the temperature rises, and how those windows should be opened to admit some fresh air.

I’m thinking now that tomorrow could be a Cool Hand Luke in the sweatbox kind of day.

Roaming In Rome, Connecting In Retrospect

What a difference a bit of sunshine makes to our locked-down spirits!

I sat a while in our town centre gardens, drinking a coffee while watching people come and go. It was almost, almost, like the world before, when nothing impinged on our intentions and freedom other than schedules and finance.

The new warmth took me back even further, to around 2006, when I was in Rome. I would get up early and after showering go for a walk along the Tiber. Along the way I’d call for a bottle of water from a small shop that I knew of, tucked away down a small backstreet, that was championed by the locals as it didn’t charge the inflated prices that the others inflicted upon we tourists.

I would loop a route back round to take in Peter and Paul in St.Peter’s Square, up there high on their pedestals, before the crowds arrived with their clicking cameras and eager eyes. As the day wore on, with the sun well on its way to reach its zenith, there were no shortage of churches that I could choose from to seek respite in their cool stone shade.

It was on one of those days, easy and long, that I was sat having a beer next to the Colosseum when my wife messaged to inform me that the girl we fostered had shaved off her eyebrows!

Talk about being hooked right back into the ‘real’ world back home.

It’s funny how different places bring different memories, small connections that lead into each other over time. Hopefully soon there will be new places offering new memories and connections to be made down the line.

Anyway, that particular memory found a home in my second poetry collection In Brigantia, born of a conversation with one girl that made a connection with the recollection of another.