Five days into the school holiday, I took the children to the local Kidz Klub, the aim being to let them burn off all of their excess energy by diving into ball pools, hurtling down slides, and anything else that works up a sweat.
I knew the place well: the building used to be a social club that was extremely popular when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Of course the decor had changed, but the layout was more or less the same. In my mind’s eye I could still see the jostling forms where the bar had been, all eyes and bluff and posturing.
The kids kicked off their shoes and raced for the nearest rope ladder. I got myself a coffee and claimed a table, taking my battered paperback out of the carrier bag. I emersed myself in the story, occasionally coming up for air to locate the children and again see the building as it used to be.
But, in the gents toilet, there was little need for a concerted re-imagining. The place was a time capsule, exactly as it used to be save for a lick of paint.
Instead of individual urinals, there was one of those long, marble trough sorts that ran the full length of both walls. Night club; kids club: it was still there.
I saw the ghosts of young lads, each showing various stages of unraveling as the night wore on, standing with their heads leaning against the walls as they relieved themselves, eyes closed, awareness elsewhere. Motown thudding against the door.
Coming back out into the regular time zone, I reassured myself that my children were okay and returned to the table, once again picking up my book.
“Excuse me,” a woman on the adjacent table said to me, holding up an image on her iPhone. “I just thought I’d ask, you being a man and all, I need to get a shower head, one of those ring ones, for someone to fit at the weekend. Do you know if this is the right one- it needs to fix onto tiles instead of a wall?”
“I’m sorry, I’m really not a DIY guy. I couldn’t tell you. In fact, if my wife was here, she would be pissing herself just at the fact that you are asking me this question.”
She understood my inadequacy, and said she would take a chance and order it. It was only a fiver after all.
I went back to my book: Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. I picked up where I had left off. Though I had never read read it before, I was familiar with the case, and so knew that Smith and Hickock were nearing apprehension by the authorities.
As I was reading, I became aware, above the exuberant screams of excited children, that Christmas carols were quietly being played over the speakers.
Christmas carols? In February?
Oh, come let us adore Him, Oh, come let us adore Him, Oh come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
Attempting to tune out the out-of-season music, I yet again returned to my book, and immediately read:
Christmas carols were in the air; they issued from the radio of the four women and mixed strangely with Miami’s sunshine and the cries of the querulous, never thoroughly silent seagulls. ‘Oh, come let us adore Him, Oh, come let us adore Him’: a cathedral choir, an exalted music that moved Perry to tears . . .
What were the odds on that? Reading, of all of the lines, in all of the pages, the very line of a Christmas Carol that was at that very moment being played over the speakers? In February?
It was not the first time that I had been left astounded at such a moment of synchronicity. When, somehow, something implausible and unpredictable breaks through into this ordered universe of ours. When two seemingly random and separate things come together despite incalculable odds. At least incalculable for this mathematics layman.
I don’t know how it happens. But it does.
After taking time to appreciate this bizarre coincidence, I went back to Capote. If there was mention of a shower head, or a pathetic, incapable handyman, I was seriously going to freak.