Friday, February 26, 2016

Another chance encounter

Readers of this blog know that I enjoy going to coffee houses and doing my writing and my reading over coffee.  Often, too, I don’t finish the cup, but just enjoy the smell and the feeling of excitement it always give me.  I have traced this back to when I was a teenager, and the first coffee shop in London opened in Wigmore Street.  This would be where I rendezvoused with an uncle who, being originally from Austria, was helping me with my German studies as I prepared for my university entrance exams.  Then a second coffee-shop opened in Hampstead, and again I can feel the thrill of travelling up to North London from our South London home, emerging in Hampstead High Street opposite the Everyman Cinema, and feeling myself in the heart of London’s intellectual life.  A coffee shop, a book, and something to write with and write on therefore still remain tinged for me with the exciting aura of the past. 

And I would like now to acknowledge the friendliness of all the staff at one of my favourite coffee houses, Paul’s, here in Marylebone High Street.  I now know each by name, and they always greet me with warmth.  And, too, to my surprise, I discovered recently through a chance encounter that two people who are often here at the same time as me happen to have known this same uncle who introduced me to coffee houses all those years back.  This is another example of what is called a serendipity – something that happens quite by chance, but seems somehow to be pre-ordained.

I love the word serendipity*.  Firstly, for its sound which has within it a clear reference to a kind of made-up childish word I use, “dippity”, which is in not in my dictionary, (although “dippy”” is, meaning “crazy” or “silly”, and” of uncertain 20th C origin”), and for me describes a somewhat scatty kind of a person.  And this always sets me thinking on a well-worn, nostalgic path which leads directly to my mother.  For I remember her well one day, a few years after I had established my acupuncture college, saying to me, “I always wonder how a flibbertigibbet like you got it together to run a school.”  So to her all the length of the half-century of the lives we lived together I must have remained this very scatty, dippity sort of person I certainly was as a child.

The thought of this serendipitous meeting with my uncle’s acquaintances in my favourite coffee shop this morning brought this all back to me.

* The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines “serendipity” as ”the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident” (coined by Horace Walpole in 1854)

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