Archive for the ‘coincidences’ Category

Coincidences No.s 359, 360, 361 & 362 – Back in the Old Country

first edition ulysses james joyce 1922 paris book novel

A snip at €30,000

No. 359 – 06:12:17

I am packing for a trip to Dublin to address the board of RTÉ, the national broadcaster of Ireland. There is one area of the subjects I am covering which I’m not feeling 100% confident about.

As I take stuff out of my work bag to make space, an old copy of Broadcast (the TV industry trade paper) surfaces. It’s from late September. Two pages have become detached from the centre. They are about exactly the subject that was niggling me.

No. 360 – 06:12:17

I am at Luton Airport in the queue to get on the plane to Belfast (I have a meeting at BBC Northern Ireland before heading south to Dublin). The plane is heading to Belfast International / Aldegrove which is north of the city in Co. Antrim.

My phone goes while I’m in the queue. It is Home Counties-based Northern Irish radio broadcaster Peter Curran. We almost never talk on the phone – we do face to face and use email/text to arrange getting together. He tells me he is recording a programme in Antrim and something he saw made him think of me. I tell him that that’s a bit weird as I’ll be in Antrim in about 55 minutes.

lemon soap sweny dublin james joyce ulysses

A snip at €5

No. 361 – 07:12:17

I go to a reading of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ in the old pharmacy (Sweny’s) near Merrion Square where Leopold Bloom buys his lemony soap in the novel. (I’d seen a copy of the ultra-rare 1st edition a few streets away earlier in the afternoon – see photo above.) People show up ad hoc and each person reads a page from where the group had last gotten to – the reading goes round the attendees for the duration of the session. To make it feel just right an auld drunk fella showed up to take advantage of the warmth and light. The section they are reading today happens to be my favourite in a 733 page book.

I go to turn my phone to silent before the reading starts. My phone shows 19:04 – the year ‘Ulysses’ is set in these streets of Dublin.

Earlier in the afternoon I drop into the old pharmacy (now run by Joyce volunteers) and buy a bar of the lemon soap in a facsimile wrapper.

As we read we read the line “To wash his soiled hands with a partially consumed tablet of Barrington’s lemon-flavoured soap”. A couple of pages later we read: “in Lincoln Place outside the premises of F. W. Sweny and Co. Limited, dispensing chemists”. Between we read:

“What reminiscences temporarily corrugated his brow? – Reminiscences of coincidences, truth stranger than fiction…”

(I have just noticed Sweny’s intials – F W. I came to the reading directly from the National Gallery of Ireland, 3 minutes away. I had been at an exhibition of F W Burton (Frederic William) called For  The Love of Art.)

lorraine chase campari TV advert

Lorraine Chase

No. 362 – 02:12:17 & 09:12:17

The name Lorraine has been following me around this week.

At the start of the week (last Saturday) I am directing a documentary about cycling. I go to interview a couple in Birmingham. The wife is called Lorraine and is an ex-church minister – I have pictured her as a thin white sticky woman, influenced I think by Lorraine Chase, the woman made famous by the Campari TV ads in the 80s (catchphrase: “Nah, Luton Airport!” – see No. 360 above).

As it turns out the interviewee is a substantial black lady.

At the end of the week (yesterday, Saturday) I go to a screening of ‘I Am Not Your Negro’, the feature documentary by Raoul Peck about James Baldwin and Black Lives Matter (from the 40s to the 2010s). I sat next to documentary veteran Peter Dale, my old colleague from Channel 4. During the film I noticed in the archive footage a sign for a diner in one of those southern towns like Selma, I forget which: it is called Lorraine.

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Coincidences No.s 355, 356, 357 & 358

No. 355

Graham Norton Channel 4 presenter chat show

In the morning I have a meeting at BAFTA with a director (Peter Demetris) I worked with on ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ to discuss a forthcoming commission I’m doing at Little Dot Studios to do with modern addiction. Peter reminds me he was studio director on Graham Norton’s first chat show ‘So Graham Norton’ on Channel 4.

In the afternoon I get an email from presenter Tim Lovejoy mentioning Graham Norton’s producer at So TV which of course was set up to make ‘So Graham Norton’.

No. 356

bible salesmen salesman

An old friend and gig-mate (another Adam) comes to stay from Amsterdam (aka A’dam). He has been working during the day at a famous University Press and mentions that he reckons a significant proportion of their revenue comes from bible sales.

The next day I am at the University of Surrey in Guildford doing a guest lecture. While I am there my old colleague, Jon Weinbren, Head of Digital Media Arts, out of nowhere mentions bible salesmen.

No. 357

blue star garage finchley road

A blast from the past – now buried under flats

My mum is trying to describe where an office she visits regularly is. She positions it relative to the old Blue Bird garage on the Finchley Road. I further triangulate it relative to an orthodontist’s surgery I went to once or twice as a kid with her. I remember the man telling me I had a “Polish jaw”. She can’t recall it at all.

A couple of days later one of my best friends visits from Aspen, Colorado where she now lives. We go to the National Theatre together and at lunch she mentions the very same orthodontist to whom she went as a girl.

No. 358

mercedes van I A Harris fruit vegetables

My grandfather was a research scientist not a fruit & veg man (he had a secret love of bacon)

I go with Enfant Terrible No.1 to visit the grave of my grandfather Ian Harris on his birthday (the same day JFK was shot – that’s how I know what I was doing on the day, I was at Pop’s tea party in a cradle).

On the drive home, as I’m talking to my son about his great-grandfather, we pass a commercial van parked in a drive in Hendon with the name I. A. Harris emblazoned on the side.

Coincidences No.s 270 & 271 – Eat Your Heart Out

11/10/17

I go in to Eat opposite my office to have a coffee with an Irish TV presenter I’m meeting for the first time. We sit at one of the only two tables in the branch, two two-person tables side by side. The presenter asks me early in the conversation where I live. I tell him and mention that Feargal Sharkey (Northern Irish lead singer of The Undertones) also lives there. I am about to mention other music-related people in the neighbourhood, striving for a moment to recall, when I sense the person sitting diagonally opposite me, alone at the other table, perhaps four feet away, has had their attention drawn to our conversation. It turns out he had overheard reference to East Finchley. Because that is indeed where he lives too. And he is the very person I was about to name because he was in the much admired post-punk band Gang of Four. It’s nearly four years since I last saw him (when I was writing my first book). The three of us ended up having a fascinating conversation about Catalunya as the musician splits his time between East Finchley/Fortis Green (home of The Kinks) and Catalonia.

gang of four band

Gang of Four

12/10/17

I go to see the Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican. I notice how he uses three parallel horizontal lines for E and think perhaps I’ll adopt that for my own surname.

downtown 81 basquiat E

I walk away from the Barbican and pop into the nearby Eat for a sarnie. As I walk in I notice a prominent display (Grill Club) that uses a three parallel horizontal lines symbol.

Eat Grill Club sign

Coincidences No.s 268 & 269

28 & 29/9/17

cocktail shaker kaleidoscope judyth greenburgh

cocktail shaker kaleidoscope by judyth greenburgh

I meet an old friend of mine near the BBC in White City – she’s an artist from North London who now lives in Darwin, California in the desert. Recently she’s gotten really into making kaleidoscopes. One of the ones that most appealed to me was one made out of a cocktail shaker with pills/capsules providing the coloured pieces. I told her how I’d loved capsules since childhood when I was allowed to play with them in the back of my uncle’s pharmacy in Arnos Grove. I then showed her my capsule bracelet which I was wearing – a red-white capsule on a black band sold to benefit an AIDS charity.

capsule bracelet

I’m having a chat with TV presenter Tim Lovejoy and he tells me about some art he’d seen at a Soho exhibition the night before – it showed the work of an anonymous artist called Chemical X made of pills and capsules.

The Spirit Of Ecstasy by Chemical X

The Spirit Of Ecstasy by Chemical X

 

5/10/17

On my jog this morning I was listening to an episode of ‘Desert Island Discs’ featuring Caitlin Moran. For her final track she chose a song by Anne-Marie. I’d never heard of this singer and wondered who she was.

At 17:33 an email arrived from TicketWeb. It advertised an imminent concert by Anne-Marie.

anne-marie concert advertisement

 

 

Coincidences No.s 266 and 267

8/9/17

I am walking down to the bus stop to go to a meeting in Camden Town. The meeting is about a website I commissioned some  years ago on behalf of Channel 4 and the Arts Council called Quotables. This prompted me to think about the colleague I worked with at the Arts Council who I haven’t been in touch with for over a year, wondering how she was.

I’m in the meeting at Camden Town about an hour later and an alert comes up on my phone screen – an incoming email from that very person.

Derek Hill by Cecil Beaton photograph

Derek Hill by Cecil Beaton (courtesy of Glebe House & Gallery, Co. Donegal, Ireland)

10/9/17

I am working on a documentary at the moment to do with the Mitford sisters, in particular Unity.

I stayed in Donegal during August beside the house of English artist, the late Derek Hill.

I read today that Derek Hill was the person who introduced Unity to Hitler. (I had no idea he had any connections with the Mitfords.)

Triple Coincidence No. 416 – Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele painting Sitting Woman with Legs Drawn Up, 1917

The picture on our bedroom wall – Schiele’s wife, Edith (1917)

I’m in Vienna for the first time in over 30 years for Doc Campus documentary workshop at ORF (Austrian TV). The last time I was here was on a scholarship from Girton College, Cambridge for research on the Austrian painter Egon Schiele.

I’d first heard about Schiele in a radio interview of David Bowie. At the time (mid-late 70s) Schiele was not well known outside of the Euro art cognoscenti. His description caught my imagination and I became a teen devotee, having always favoured a graphic approach to figurative art. At school I used to deliver drawings of, say, a glass of water that looked more like cut diamond.

So today I decided to go on a Schiele pilgrimage either to the site of his studio (Neulengbach, just outside of Vienna, where I had a memorable visit in around 1984) or his birthplace (Tulln). I’m writing this on an S-bahn to Tulln.

As I was reading Schiele stuff online this morning in my pension room near Schwedenplatz I noticed for the first time ever that he shares a birthday with my wife. (Along with Anne Frank and Robert Elms.) There is a reproduction of a painting by Schiele in the corner of our bedroom which my wife bought me years ago: it is inscribed “thanks for always bringing pictures”.

I left the room to go to the hotel for the workshop. As the taxi ride dragged on I felt irritated by how far out of the city centre the hotel they had chosen was, out near Schloss Schönbrunn at Hietzing. Never heard of the place. Not much zing. Burbs.

I dumped my stuff and got on the U-bahn to go to to Franz Josef station for the train to Tulln.

I have just set foot in Tulln, sitting on the platform to finish this. Schiele’s father was an official at this station.

On the underground to the train station I was reading the Wikipedia entry on Schiele. Lo & behold there is a mention of sleepy old Hietzing! Schiele had a studio at 101 of the Hauptstrasse I just walked down. (I’ll go check out the site later.) It is here he met his wife Edith Harms, who lived opposite and features in many of his later paintings. She died three days before him in the Spanish flu epidemic in the wake of WW1. He was just 28 but had brought a new modern expressionist vision to painting.

Update, 5pm:

On the way back from Tulln I’m reading my book on the train – The Travelling Hornplayer by Barbara Trapido, a novel with nothing to do with painters – at least it hadn’t had until I got to the shores of the Danube at Tulln where, as I was reading, one of the main characters meets a student painter at college in Edinburgh. On the train back I got to a passage where this student painter’s style is described: “Stella thinks they [the student painter’s paintings] are maybe just a bit like Auerbach; maybe just slightly like Auerbach crossed with Egon Schiele.”

Coincidence No. 415 – orange & smiley

space hopper bouncy toy 70s

I am looking for the coaster from my office desk. No immediate joy so I decide to add it to my list of lost things to find. (Top of the list is a postcard from the early days of The Great War from a lad announcing to his parents that he’s joined up – it has a bulldog on the front.) It’s just I can’t describe it properly as the name of the toy from which the coaster design derives escapes me, it’s been so long since I’ve thought about it. The coaster design is flat orange with a particular black smile. I resort to asking Prof. Google… A Space Hopper – that’s what those classic 70s bouncy toys with horns were called.

The next morning I hear on the news about a new set of stamps to be released by the Royal Mail. Classic British toys. The Space Hopper features.

Spacehopper-stamp toy 70s

Coincidence No. 414 – Love

I am on the phone to a producer I worked with a few years ago on a landmark multiplatform project at Channel 4. He asks me about my new job at Little Dot Studios and mentions a producer he works with at his indie who used to work with the founding partner of Little Dot. (He was in the car and had warned that the reception may go.) Just as he says the name of this colleague, whose surname is Love, the line fails.

love heart hands at sunset

An hour later I am on Skype to an activist in Santa Fe, New Mexico who I sometimes help out with digital stuff. We are discussing a forthcoming crowdfunding campaign. I mention I am seeing a person from a British crowdfunder next week. She says that she has met with a British crowdfunder recently, introduced by Tim Smit of the Eden Project. This person, as it turns out, works with the fella I am due to catch up with and has the surname Love – the very same man.

Coincidence No. 413 – Cod Liver

I drop my wife at the tube station – she is talking to me in the car about the health benefits of cod liver oil (her ma back in Ireland swore by it).
cod-liver-oil capsules in shape of fish
On the way back (3 min journey) on the radio (BBC Radio 4) there is a description of salt cod preparation in Newfoundland in the Elizabethan era, including the first stage where one person on a kind of assembly line has the job specifically of removing the liver. The salt cod was for feeding the troops in Ireland.

Coincidences No.s 410-412

snowflake under microscope

9/8/17 & 8/8/17 Snowflake

I go to meet a detective in the Home Counties for a documentary I am working on. He has given the subject of the film a codename: Snowflake.

One of the Enfants Terribles uses a term I have not heard before: ‘Snowflake’, to mean a pampered modern kid without resilience.

29/7/17 Gee Murphy

We visit the Glebe Gallery beside Derek Hill’s house in Church Hill, Donegal. The visitor just before us, according to the visitor book, is called Erina Mc Gee Murphy – her name contains both my surname and my wife’s. I record the coincidence accordingly:

visitor book glebe gallery donegal ireland

3/7/17 Montana

I meet with a director I am commissioning to do a documentary for Real Stories. It is our first meeting in person, we pop across the road to get some tea, we talk for a while before she pulls out her laptop. Except it is not her laptop – hers is bust, she’s had to borrow her son’s. The documentary is set in Montana, USA. Before she brings out the computer we have discussed both the location and an indie called Joi Polloi.

On the lid of the laptop, among several stickers, is one that reads Montana. This director is based in Sheffield. We have been discussing indie production companies in Sheffield. I mentioned Joi Polloi because I am working with them and have done regularly for a few years. Another sticker on the lid reads Oi Polloi , a small clothes brand (a photo of whose sign I sent a few months ago whilst walking past the Soho branch to the team at Joi Polloi during their rebranding phase when they changed names from Rckt to Joi Polloi – that was my first fleeting encounter with the name Oi Polloi, this sticker was the second).

In the wake of this, exactly a month after the Oi Polloi tea (2/8/17), I visit the new cafe of a friend of a friend in Kilmacrenan, Donegal. This person, the owner of Coffee Time, serves us the day we visit. I’m good on accents and his accent sounds typical of the area, no hint of it being anything other than Irish. After a bit of a chat it turns out he comes from Montana.

coffee time kilmacrenan donegal coffee shop cafe

 

 

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