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.

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.

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.

Rochdale Blues

Have mask, will travel. Border crossings, on a damp and languid day.

Heading once more back to Manchester by train, having started a new book, Water Shall Refuse Them, along the way. The author, this being her debut novel, has been getting comparisons to Shirley Jackson and, although I’m only fifty or so pages into it, the protagonist does have a bit of Merricat about her.

Rochdale, the penultimate stop on my journey, in the dark, wet afternoon never looked so bleak.

The next few weeks are looking bleak, too. With rising figures, Rochdale is on the brink of following Leicester into a possible new lockdown. Though I don’t live in the town, my own town comes under the borough of Rochdale, and another lockdown is the last thing that any of us want.

After leaving the train, I caught a bus outside of this Rochdale Road pub, The Marble Arch, established in the Ripper year: 1888.

A renowned pub that brews its own beer, it has been some years since I’ve been in there. Possibly over twenty.

Maybe I should have called in for a pint, today, while I still can.

A Twelve Month Canter

It was a year ago today that In Brigantia got its first cover reveal.

Following on from my first collection, Heading North, I’m quite proud of it, and thank those who have already bought it.

For anyone else who’d like a copy, it’s available here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brigantia-Andrew-James-Murray/dp/1731271360/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=In+Brigantia&qid=1588098484&sr=8-1

Thoughts On A January Day

Coincidence. It happens all the time.

I’m sat inside, reading a book as a weather warning comes over the radio threatening strong winds for my area in the next couple of days. The book I’m reading is by Nicolas Bouvier, and I’ve just got to the part where, during his travels in Ireland, he is asking a local about a meandering road of pointless bends:

I like that. I bet that’s why those lovers of straight routes, the Romans, wore helmets all the time.

*

I lost my Evie twenty years ago.

It was a man behind me, in the queue at the local bank, after enquiring how a newly widowed acquaintance of his was doing, during their chance encounter.

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til you lose it. No, you wouldn’t have seen me, I’ve been in hospital for a hip operation. But I’m still here, still upright. Eighty-one on New Year’s Eve. You’ve gotta fall apart sometime, haven’t you?

I was recently saddened to hear of the passing of an old colleague of mine. He’d made it to his eighties, too, though he’d succumbed to dementia. I bumped into him once, my own chance encounter, and he’d exclaimed “Bloody hell, I’ve not seen you in ages!” The next time I saw him he didn’t know me.

My Mum has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. At the moment she’s not too bad, and living next door allows me to keep an eye on her. I asked her if she could remember the name of an old dog that she had:

“Was it Andy?”

“No, I’m Andy!”

She laughed, confusing me with the one who had slouched on the sofa and pissed on the floor. Easy mistake.

Though she’s not yet at the stage that my colleague was, I can see that this person I’ve known for the whole of my life is fading. I guess time can do that anyway, regardless of that particular condition. The years diminish us. It’s like we grow, we build, we peak, then begin to slip back to our primordial beginnings.

*

There is a house near to us where the occupants are shut away. Every single window, both front and back, night and day, has the curtains closed, fastened together in the middle to create a perpetual twilight for those, unseen, living inside.

The young me, the one who had not yet reached his teens and spent his time watching Hammer movies on television, would have immediately thought: vampires. The current me, a bit longer in the tooth, came up with crack den.

Books For Christmas!

Christmas is coming 😃 Here is a link to my Amazon page if you’d like to grab yourself (or somebody else) a copy of one of my two poetry collections, or an anthology that I have some fiction in.

If you visit my page, don’t let that photo of me put you off!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B018IRS81O?_encoding=UTF8&node=266239&offset=0&pageSize=12&searchAlias=stripbooks&sort=author-pages-popularity-rank&page=1&langFilter=default#formatSelectorHeader

My latest collection (2019)

My debut collection (2015)