One of my life’s pleasures at this time of year is enjoying a cup of coffee in the garden early in the morning, about 7 am, when the sun rises above the tree line and floods the patio with warmth. It’s peaceful and calm with only the birds for company and has become my time for reflection, for planning what needs doing in the garden, what doesn’t work where and to appreciate what is now coming into full flourish. This morning I noticed the crocosmia is about to burst into flower, its orange flowers in vivid contrast to the green sword leaves. It’s not something I’ve planted, they’ve escaped from next door but I don’t mind as they always remind me of happy times as a child spent visiting a friend of my mother’s.
Years ago when I was a child we lived in Hounslow, West London. Mum is German, and one day went to the aid of another German lady who couldn’t speak English having difficulty making herself understood to a shop assistant. From then on, Mum and this lady (whose name for the life of me I can’t remember!) became firm friends and Mum would regularly go for coffee and cake at her house, often with me tagging along. She lived in Hounslow Barracks with her military husband, and whilst she and Mum sat nattering away in German far too fast for me to follow the conversation, I was left to my own devices reading and playing. In summer we would sit in her garden. The garden was nothing more than a tiny patio and a small square of lawn with one corner given over to a large clump of crocosmia, or as we knew them then, monbretia. I thought they were fascinating, elegant flowers and, when I found them growing of their own accord in my garden, I was more than content to leave them in and enjoy them.
Here I am some 50 years later living a good hundred miles away but the connection to Hounslow, although tenuous, has manifested itself through the friendship of a fellow author, Avis Randall, who I met through the RNA chapter in Bristol, which is how I also got to know and befriend Tricia. Avis’s husband at the time was terminally ill. It wasn’t until a few years after she was widowed that we became close friends. It transpired that her husband was in fact born in Hounslow, and spent much of his early childhood living in Hounslow Barracks, his father being a high ranking military officer stationed there. Talk of a small world! I also learned that her husband’s favourite singer, one whom he listened to constantly, is also my all-time favourite and who I usually play whilst driving the car: the folk singer Ralph McTell; and we apparently both frequented the same pub in the late 1960s and early 70s where Ralph often played.
Coincidence? Yes, but I do find it fascinating how we can find ourselves connected to people or place, often in the most obscure situations. A few years ago my husband and I went on a rare holiday (for him) to Barbados. The first morning there we ventured early onto the beach. A few palm trees away sat another couple. “I don’t believe it,” I exclaimed to my husband, “I’ve come all this way to find myself sitting next to someone wearing exactly the same swimming costume!” Dave laughed and said, “I don’t believe it either. That’s my cousin Tony and his wife!” They were even on the same flight as us the day before but we hadn’t seen each other until that moment on the beach.
On another occasion, I was reading a novel one evening and came across a place called Collingbourne Ducis; a village I’d never heard of. I’m a pretty well-travelled lady in the UK, so I had assumed the author had made the name up. The next day was one of my special days out with my husband. He ran a delivery business, covering the West Country and Wales. If ever I was on leave from my job or we had Saturday deliveries, I would frequently go with him, such as on this day. “You’re going to enjoy where we’re going today,” Dave said, loading the van with computers at the depot. Imagine my surprise when our first port of call that morning was to an address in Collingbourne Ducis! It did exist, and it’s a beautiful, quintessential English village in Wiltshire. It was eerie to find myself there having only coming across the name the evening before. Spooky!
Has anything like that ever happened to you?