Archive for the ‘coincidences’ Category

Coincidence No. 545 – Jackals

I am out running in St Pancras & Islington cemetery, listening to an Audible podcast about writer Robert Harris. He says:

“it’s like coincidences, which happen all the time in life, you can’t have them in fiction, they just don’t work…”

Just before this bit he was talking about how you can write novels about things where we know the ending and gave as his example The Day of the Jackal.

Yesterday I go to my bookshelves to find two things: a crappy entertaining thriller to read again and my copy of Kafka’s complete stories – see Coincidence No. 544. In the pile of crappy thrillers is The Day of the Jackal. It is behind another pile of books and I haven’t set eyes on it in years. I think about reading it (asking myself have I ever got through all of it? maybe I only know the ending from the film) but in the end pick another book set in Berlin in 1963 which appeals to me. And I find the Kafka in an equally obscure spot where two shelves meet and overlap forming a sort of hidden compartment.

Last night I begin both books. The Kafka story I pick out to start with is called Jackals & Arabs and features an old jackal.

When I finish the short Robert Harris podcast I switch to an audiobook I’ve had for a while but not listened to yet – A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. In the opening few minutes it explains the terms Species, Genus and Family. In illustrating the biological Family it mentions, alongside dogs and cats, jackals. 19 minutes in, he explains early man’s position in the middle of the food chain by describing the scene of a giraffe being eaten by hyenas and jackals.

jackal

Coincidence No. 544 – Kafka

The day before yesterday I start reading Kafka’s Last Trial by Benjamin Balint. It is about the court case settling where Franz Kafka’s manuscripts should reside.

Yesterday I see that Facebook has added to People You May Know a certain Beverley Kafka. I don’t know her, it looks like she may be a friend of a friend of my mum.

Today I am walking in East Finchley Cemetery – it is perhaps only the second time I have been in here. (I am writing this in the shade of a spreading old oak.) At the turn to this side of the extensive mid-19C cemetery is the grave of Dorothy Kafka, born 1930, died 1988. The objective of my walk in the cemetery is to find a quiet spot out of the sun to read Kafka’s Last Trial.

I have never met or come across anyone called Kafka before.

Coincidence Nos. 362 & 363 – words

A couple of standard word ones but nice examples…

No. 362 Kabyle

I am watching Jean-Pierre Melville’s resistance film ‘L’Armée des Ombres’ (thanks to my free 3-month trial of Mubi through the Phoenix Cinema) and the protagonist mentions that in the prison camp where he finds himself are Poles, Romanians, Jews of various nationalities and ‘Kabyles’. I’ve never come across that word. The film is set in France.

48 hours later I am reading ‘The Meursault Investigation’ by Kamel Daoud and he refers to “a Kabyle waiter the size of a giant”. It is set in Algeria.

‘Kabyle’ relates to a Berber population in Northern Algeria.

The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud novel cover book

No. 363 Gimlet

I begin my second plague book for the lockdown – Jack London’s ‘Scarlet Plague’. In the opening chapter is the sentence: “In marked contrast with his sunburned skin were his eyes – blue, deep blue, but keen and sharp as a pair of gimlets. I don’t know what a ‘gimlet’ is – at least I didn’t until a few days ago.

Gimlets have been in my life recently only through Gimlet Media, the podcast outfit that make one of my favourite podcasts, ‘Heavyweight‘. I also have a vague notion of it in the realm of cocktails.

I am reading a book – ‘Get Wallace!’ by Alexander Wilson (1934) – and the word ‘gimlet’ comes up and I bother looking it up: “a small T-shaped tool with a screw tip for boring holes”

'Get Wallace!' by Alexander Wilson (1934) novel book cover

 

Coincidence No. 361 – Thalia

(1) I am sitting in my garden in East Finchley reading ‘Get Wallace!’ by Alexander Wilson (the subject of the excellent drama ‘Mrs Wilson’ played by Iain Glen – grandfather of actress Ruth Wilson who I had a very enjoyable chat with at last year’s TV BAFTAs at the Festival Hall, as well as with her father who was one of the sons of Alexander). The sentence I am reading is:

You left her in the company of Thalia Ictinos, and in your pocket were the documents I want.

(2) My other half is listening to Cerys Matthews on Radio 6. As I read the above sentence Cerys gives a shout-out to a man’s 11 year old daughter in Finchley called Thalia.

I have never met anyone called Thalia.

get wallace alexander wilson book cover

mrs-wilson-iain-glen-ruth-wilson-tv

Coincidence No. 644

I am reading Paris After the Liberation by Antony Beevor & Artemis Cooper. In it I come across the name of Darius Dassault (WW2 French Resistance fighter) and his brother Marcel (aircraft engineer). [The name is resonant for me because my dad built me a model of a Dassault Mirage jet when I was about six.]

Airfix-Series-3-No-D363F-Dog-Fight-Doubles-Mirage-amp-MIG-15-1-72nd-scale-model-construction-kit-1968-71_700_600_5VWX5

Released 1968

The next day I am talking to my wife about a training course she is having to deliver online via Zoom. It turns out her client is Dassault (Cork office).

antony beevor artemis cooper paris after the liberation book cover

Coincidence No. 544 – Outsider

I am doing a day-long Zoom session for Documentary Campus Masterclass (was supposed to be in Copenhagen but had to be shifted online). I take a short break of 15 minutes and decide to use the time to start re-reading Albert Camus’ L’Etranger in French (the first book, other than comic books, that I have read in French for ages). The usual translation of the title is The Outsider (rather than The Stranger – it means both in French). I read the first couple of pages.

I rejoin the Zoom session and start a one-to-one meeting with a German filmmaker currently based in Thailand. From Chang Mai his very first statement is: “I did a lot of films about outsiders.”

Existentialist philosophy as propounded by the likes of Camus and Sartre has the universe as without meaning and pattern, and man as always striving to see pattern and sense in things.

the outsider albert camus novel l'etranger penguin

Coincidence No. 489 – Malcolm X

I am travelling to Helsinki to do some work with broadcaster YLE and University of Helsinki about Public Service Media and young people. It is a 3-hour flight so the night before I download three programmes on Netflix on my phone. It is the first time I have done this for months. One is a British movie, ‘Northern Soul’. Another is an episode from Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary series. The other is the first episode of the Netflix Original ‘Who Killed Malcolm X?’. I just picked the first 3 things I fancied watching. I watch the movie on the way out and the Malcolm X doc on the return journey – today, 21st February.

Malcolm X

The documentary starts. Within seconds it becomes clear that he was killed on 21st February 1965. I had no idea. Today is the 55th anniversary of his assassination.

who killed Malcolm X Netflix documentary

Coincidence No. 488 – Bletchley Park

bletchley park the mansion codebreakers

The Mansion, Bletchley Park (Dec 2019)

I go to meet my cousin from Melbourne, Australia at my old home tube in Tufnell Park. We have never met before. She has come to London to work as a mathematician at the Alan Turing Institute in King’s Cross. Mention of Turing’s name prompts me to ask whether she has visited Bletchley Park yet? She has. I explain how it was very little known about until Peter Bate, David Darlow & John Smithson made the TV series Station X for my alma mater Channel 4 in 1998. We talk about how the men and women of Bletchley Park did not talk about it for five decades until the interviewees for the programmes got permission from the MoD. We talk about Sue Black who saved Bletchley and who I got to know originally during my time at C4.

I get on the bus to come home. I open my novel, Old Filth by Jane Gardam, which we are reading for my book group. (I’ve just looked it up because I suspected as much… Jane Gardam is the mother of Tim Gardam, now Principle of St Anne’s College, Oxford, in 2003 Director of Television at Channel 4 when I joined.) This was on the page I was up to and started reading on the top front tourist seat on the 263:

But they had me later in the War at Bletchley Park and there we met again. [NB Bletchley had not been mentioned in the novel before or had any role in the story] Bletchley Park was full of innocent, nice girls (not me) who had a very particular aptitude (crosswords) for solving cyphers and things, as you will be hearing in a year or two when ALL IS TOLD (the fifty year revelation).

The Mansion, Bletchley Park (Dec 2019)

The Mansion, Bletchley Park (Dec 2019)

Hut 1, Bletchley Park (Dec 2019)

Hut 1, Bletchley Park (Dec 2019)

The Lake, Bletchley Park (Dec 2019)

The Lake, Bletchley Park (Dec 2019)

Coincidence No. 776 – Snowdrops

This one I’m writing in the porte-cochère of Beech Hill House, Derry.

I am out for a morning jog and I stop to take this picture of early snowdrops.

As I crouch down I hear in my earbuds this from Kermode & Mayo’s film podcast: “Dear Timely Snowdrop and Early Daffodil” – the coincidence of “snowdrop” and clicking the shutter is exact. They go on to talk about “coincidences (or are they?)”

Note 1: I got married at Beech Hill

Note 2: I was at school with Mark Kermode and Jason Isaacs

Note 3: Hallo, Jason Isaacs

Note 4: Beech Hill was Base One Europe, the first US base on the continent for WW2 – tinkety-tonk and down with the Nazis

Coincidence No.s 309 & 310 – Bernstein

No. 309 Electric Chair

I am reading Sidney Bernstein’s biography (founder of the Granada cinema chain and Manchester-based Granada TV) by Caroline Moorehead. It mentions a trip he took to the USA in the 30s during which he visited an Alabama prison where the governor proudly showed off his electric chair – which, Bernstein noted, was yellow.

The same day I am watching the movie Just Mercy with Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan as part of my BAFTA awards viewing (it’s released on 17th January in the UK – well worth seeing). In one of the scenes we see the electric chair in the Jamie Foxx character’s Alabama jail – (half a century on) it is bright yellow.

just mercy poster jamie foxx michael b jordan film movie

The poster is also yellow

 

No. 310 Duff Cooper

I am reading Sidney Bernstein’s biography by Caroline Moorehead. It talks about his efforts to join the Ministry of Information once WW2 was declared. He finally got into the organisation through Duff Cooper, Minister of Information from May 1940 under Churchill.

With the Bernstein biog on the go, I also started reading today Paris After the Liberation: 1944 – 1949 by Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper. Duff Cooper it turns out was Artemis’s grandfather. She is married to Beevor. The intro mentions that some of Duff Cooper’s personal papers are used as sources for the book.

Paris After the Liberation: 1944 - 1949 by Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper

 

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