Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Who says that coincidences don't happen?

I was given a lovely example of a strange and moving coincidence which took place, as many of my extraordinary life experiences seem to do, in a café, this time Paul’s in Marylebone High Street, to which I betake myself each morning to mull over my thoughts, with a croissant and small espresso in front of me.  I am often served by a young Italian waiter, Mattia, with whom I have struck up a warm friendship, as he, a great reader himself, is fascinated by how many books I read and by what I am writing.  Some months ago I gave him a detective story about Venice, since he was Italian and I thought it would help his command of English.   

I was immersed in my usual reading, when I noticed a woman of mature years with a face I seemed to recognize popping her head around the corner to stare quite searchingly at me, and then leaving the café.  The next minute Mattia plumps a book on the table in front of me and says, “You gave me a book about Venice some time ago, and this lady has just given me another book about Venice which she has written.”  The book was Donna Leon’s Earthly Powers.  Any detective story reader out there who doesn’t know who Donna Leon is should now go straight out and buy one of her books.  They are beautifully written accounts of life in Venice, a part of the world I know well from the many family holidays we spent on the Venice Lido.

As soon as I saw the book, I realised why the person who had looked at me had seemed so familiar to me.  Of course, she was Donna Leon herself, and I had been to a book launch she had given up the road at my local Daunt’s bookshop some months ago.  And the book I had given him was another of her books, as he showed me by placing the two books side by side, one signed by the author herself, the other signed by me encouraging him in his English studies.  I asked him why she had looked so directly at me, and he said he had told her that I was a lady who read many, many books and did my writing in the café.

Donna Leon lives in Venice and only visits London briefly.  What then are the chances of Mattia receiving two books by the same author in the same café, one given by the author herself and the other by me, both of us being together in the same place for just a few minutes?  I find it truly amazing how often such apparently coincidental happenings occur as though they are meant to be. It reinforces the, to me, comforting belief that that there is indeed a pattern to life, and whilst often this pattern remains unclear, occasionally, as today, it stands out in stark contrast to the shapelessness and random nature of much that happens around us.

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