How does it happen that every once in a while the universe conspires to bring together unconnected things that change lives?
Landscapers call the phenomenon “serendipitous planting” so I believe. It happens when nature chooses to plant seeds herself, with wonderful help from birds, worms and garden creatures like squirrels.
When left to its own devices, my own garden springs weeds and brambles, but every once in a while a fabulous coincidence occurs that brings together the best colours, shapes, smells and textures to create a gem of a corner in an otherwise ordinary plot.
I wander, I ponder and I romaticise about coincidence but it’s true that sometimes, just occasionally, amazing things occur that cause wonder to the ordinary man.
This results in unbelievable stories that nobody wants to believe. It happened to me just this week and I write this to record a coincidence so amazing that I’m not sure I believe it myself. It changed my life and my family will never be the same again.
And so I begin the tale that you the reader will find hard to comprehend, yet I promise it’s true.
As I long for my homeland I love to browse amongst the old bookshops that can be found in abundance in rural Sussex. Sometimes I find something worth a second look or buy a book to add to my collection. So one Saturday afternoon I set off on one such journey with nothing particularly in mind but to spend pleasant time sitting in some dark and dingy corner of an ancient bookstore.
Somehow I found myself in Petworth, a charming small town with narrow streets and many antique shops, hiding itself amongst the South Downs and blessed with a wonderful stately home. Ancient furniture rules in the area and bookshops are less plentiful, yet I found somewhere to pass a pleasant hour and an interesting tome caught my eye.
I was engrossed in reading about the area where I was born, when I spotted a photo. Old and indistinct but I could swear I recognised the setting and not only that but my cousin was standing in the street! Surely not – what were the chances? Surely that would be a huge coincidence.
The book must be bought and treasured. I’d pore over the photos with my brother to confirm the identity of my cousin. Of course we hadn’t seen each other for many years – nearly forty if my memory served. I wondered briefly what he was doing now. What adventures had befallen him over the intervening years? Where did he live and did he have a family?
I browsed through a few more volumes, though nothing else caught my eye. So with much excitement I took the valuable (to me) book to the cash desk to be paid for and carefully wrapped for future scrutiny.
The middle-aged gentleman who ran the shop was most enthusiastic and interested in my story when I explained my origins. By another coincidence, he was from my country and understood my longing for that far and distant land. He didn’t appear to be in a hurry so we chatted more until we learned we were from not only the same nation but actually the same town! It was a day for coincidences and no mistake!
Well you’ve probably already guessed the conclusion of my strange story. As we explored our pasts, we eventually asked each other’s names and were truly astonished to learn that we had more in common. This friendly man was in fact the very long-lost cousin who was pictured in the book I was purchasing from his own store. Had he realised his photo was featured, I’m sure he would have kept the tome and we might never have discovered our mutual past.
We’ve kept in touch, introduced our families and found we had a lot in common. But how can it happen that two people who were once connected on the other side of the world can come together in such strange circumstances in a small bookshop in a small Sussex town?