Archive for the ‘coincidence’ Tag

Coincidence No. 541 – J’accuse

Raquel Welch & Ringo Starr in ‘The Magic Christian’ (1969)

When I look at Facebook this morning the first thing I see is a post from the past (2015) on its anniversary. It was a reminder that today’s the day (13th January in 1898) that Émile Zola accused the French government/establishment of anti-semitism in the letter J’Accuse. Yesterday was the day (in 2015) the French government sent armed troops in to guard Jewish schools. I also published a second post on the subject that same day 5 years ago (the Charlie Hebdo shooting had been the previous week on 7th January 2015): Today’s the day (in 1898) Émile Zola published the letter J’Accuse in a French newspaper. He was convicted of libel. Then took refuge in London. #jesuischarlie

I am watching the 1969 British film The Magic Christian this evening. It contains a Who’s Who of the 60s of swinging London including Peter Sellers, Ringo Starr, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Spike Milligan, Christopher Lee, Roman Polanski and Raquel Welch. Raquel plays a bikinied Amazon (echoes of her fur bikini in One Million Years BC, 1966) in a scene parodying the slave galley scene in Spartacus). Among the first words out of her mouth are “J’accuse!”.

Priestess of the Whip (Raquel Welch):

In, out.
[Groaning]

In, out!
[Groaning continues]

In, out. In…

During my reign as Priestess of the Whip, I’ve never seen such unmitigated sloth.

Passenger: My god! What’s going on here?

Priestess of the Whip:

J’accuse!

How dare this intrusion? Who are these people?

Youngman Grand (Ringo Starr): Oh, these are me mates.

Priestess of the Whip: Out! Out!

[Groans]

Passenger: Oh, I say! Do that again.

Priestess of the Whip: Out! Out! Out of my galley!

I was watching the film because tomorrow night Entertainment Attorney and Executive Producer Vinca Jarrett, who I met last year in Duluth, Minnesota when I was doing a speech on diversity in TV entitled Not The Usual Suspects, is putting on an online film discussion group which I’m really looking forward to. These kinds of online communal activity, like Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties, at their best are one of the silver linings of Covid Lockdown, generating a genuine sense of shared experience and contact. 

While I was at it I made an edit to the Magic Christian entry on Wikipedia, noting the fleeting appearance of John & Yoko in the movie. My first ever article published on Wikipedia was the one on User-Generated Content. And here we are some two decades later with WordPress and its over-refined self-publishing service with these difficult to manipulate Blocks and generally over-boiled interface. In two days’ time it is the 20th anniversary of Wikipedia – launched 15th January 2001. The scale, accuracy and relative lack of conflict around this pooling of the world’s knowledge online is a testimony to what people can do together for no money. In contrast to the theme explored by The Magic Christian, which is that everyone has their price.

Front page of the newspaper ‘L’Aurore’ Jeudi 13 Janvier 1898

Coincidences No.s 291 & 292 – A London Boy

No. 291 All Things Must Pass

I go for my last run (of hundreds) in St Pancras & Islington cemetery. It’s only open on weekends at the moment due to Lockdown/Covid so this Sunday is my last opportunity. I am due to move house on Tuesday. I know every inch of this huge cemetery-cum-nature reserve and have deeply enjoyed the hours I have spent here running, walking and meditating. I jog listening to a BBC Radio programme (‘Archive on 4‘) about George Harrison’s first solo record ‘All Things Must Pass’. 

As I reach the gate coming out for the last time the narrator, Nitin Sawhney, reminds us that the record first came out in the UK 50 years ago on 30th November. This is 29th November. On the 30th I am packing up the house and home office of ArkAngel to move out. 

As I reach the side gate of the house at the end of the run George says (referring to the long recording process):

“…and it’s finished.”

No. 292 A New Dawn

I just received the following message (30 seconds ago via Facebook):

“Listening to it myself. Dedicating Nina to you. Xx”

It refers to this playlist, ‘Weekend at Home‘, created by my Best Man, and the track ‘Feeling Good’ (by Nina Simone). I’ve been listening to the playlist all morning on the first Saturday in my new home, where I’m sitting at my new ArkAngel desk.

About two minutes before the message arrived I got an email from a colleague/friend at Little Dot Studios. It was about somebody pirating ‘Surf Girls Jamaica‘ and at the end he asked

“How’s the new place?”

Exactly as I read the email these were the very words I heard from Spotify…

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me

Yeah, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me

And I’m feelin’ good

‘Feeling Good’ was actually written by two Londoners – Anthony Newley (Hackney) & Leslie Bricusse (Pinner) for a musical, ‘The Roar of the Greasepaint’ . As I finish off this post, on the ‘Weekend at Home’ playlist I’ve reached the track ‘The London Boys‘ by David Bowie. It was a 1966 B-side on Deram records which put out his early work. He sings it in a very Anthony Newley London style as Newley was a huge influence on Bowie when he was starting out. My move takes me back to my native postcode: London NW7

It’s a new dawn

Coincidences No.s 288, 289 & 290

No. 288 Black Lives Matter

I finish a documentary entitled ‘Black Rainbow‘. All through the production it has reminded me of a film I worked on a couple of years ago entitled ‘Black Star‘. The former is about black and trans rights. The latter about voluntary repatriation of an Afro-American musician from California to Ghana. They both are firmly in the realm of Black Lives Matter.

I am scrolling through Instagram the same day and I come across a post by the main contributor to ‘Black Star’, Sunru. His Insta name (unbeknownst to me) is blackrainbow333.

(2018)

No. 289 Friedlander

I am talking to my nephew about his Photography GCSE. He has been inspired on his main project by Lee Friedlander, American photographer and artist (b. 1934).

I am moving my whole library and in the process there is one picture book I decide to chuck. It’s because it is so big it doesn’t really fit in the bookcase. It was given to me a few years ago by an old friend who now lives in California. I helped her with a documentary she was working on – the book was my reward. It is a lovely copy – a signed, numbered, limited edition. It is of photographs by a photographer I had never heard of before receiving the book. A certain Lee Friedlander.

No. 290 Olympic Park

I am moving house and the new place is a new build constructed by Barratt Homes. I noticed in the contract that the sales operation was based somewhere in East London. Today, to distract myself from the drawn-out process of purchasing the place I go for a walk along the canal in Hackney. 

At the end of the walk I get to the old Broadcast Centre from London 2012 Olympics. I worked as a volunteer (Games Maker) in the summer of 2012 in the Press Centre. I cycled along that canal in the early morning to get to work there. I decide to go look at the Press Centre for old times’ sake – it was the best summer of my adult life. I look to see what businesses have moved into the building in its new phase. Barratt Homes have.

 

Coincidence No. 202 – Kane

I finish watching ‘Citizen Kane’ for the first time in years, showing Enfant Terrible No. 1. I notice how the final scene in Xanadu with all his art and possessions boxed up must have inspired the final warehouse scene in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. 

Two minutes after the film finishes a message comes in to me from an old school friend commenting on the stuff I’ve been finding today as I sort out the attic and sharing with our Whatsapp group of schoolmates:

Ad – I’m thinking of that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Ark gets stored in a vast warehouse. Based on what’s emerging recently, I’m assuming your attic is something like that.

Final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark
Final scene of Citizen Kane

Coincidences No. 114 & 115

WordPress is telling me I registered with it 14 years ago – digital time flies. To mark the occasion here’s one of those word coincidences we all have. The word is ‘helpmeet’ – “A helpful partner, particularly a spouse.” It comes from the Bible, in the King James’ version: “an helpe meet” for Adam i.e. Eve (Genesis 2:18). So this also marks the occasion of my Silver Wedding Anniversary this week. I always associate “helpmeet” with Eve in the Old Testament.

Now I haven’t thought about the word ‘helpmeet’, or even the more common ‘helpmate’, in many a year. But it cropped up twice today before 8.00am.

I am writing in my Faber & Faber Poetry Diary 2020. Opposite today’s date is a poem by Julia Copus, ‘Lacan Appeals to the Patient’. It has the line:

Beyond the clayey dark your helpmeet is waiting. 

It is clear this particular helpmeet is masculine and I think it refers to the sculptor in the poem which I understand to be the Creator, perhaps God, perhaps some other kind of artist or higher being. The name Adam means ‘red earth’ or perhaps ‘red clay’. It is the substance God moulded the First Man from in the Bible and this poem is about the shaping of “one’s selfhood”.

Started during lockdown, I am now up to page 242 of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Today’s page contains this line:

Helpmeat too, contrasta toga, his fiery goosemother, laotsey taotsey, woman who did, he tell princes of the age about.

To be honest I’m a bit lost in this chapter – it’s about the three children in the story, two brothers (a bit like Cain and Abel from Genesis) and a sister. It has a lot of references to fairy tales and nursery rhymes, hence “fiery goosemother” = fairy godmother meets goosey goosey gander. “laotsey taotsey” may echo ‘goosey goosey’. “Fiery” may relate to the fact that one of the brothers (the one this sentence is about, I think) is associated with the devil. “Helpmeat” will be a deliberate pun/misspelling as that is the nature of the novel. I’m fairly sure it is referencing biblical Eve. Joyce had a strong Eve character in his own life – his wife Nora Barnacle from Galway. What the woman “did” I’m not sure, but it might include eating the forbidden fruit. The man might well find that something to tell princes and others about. 

“laotsey” is a reference to Lao-tse, the ancient Chinese philosopher and central figure in Taoism. The Woman Who Did is a Victorian novel (1895) by Grant Allen. “taotsey” may be related to ‘tutti’ type words i.e. ‘all’. Finnegans Wake is constructed from such layers of meaning and reference. The trick with both Finnegans Wake and Ulysses is not to get too hung up on understanding every word. 

1st (trade) edition, Faber & Faber, London, 1939

My edition of Finnegans Wake is a Penguin Modern Classic. But of course the original publication was by the bold, Modernist Faber & Faber. So that is Coincidence No. 115.

Coincidence No. 101

I wake up in a pleasant hotel in Bristol and decide to treat myself to some pleasant TV (‘Strike: Lethal White’ BBC1), finishing off an episode from last night. There’s these lines in the bit I got to:

No, wait, I’ve seen Blanc de Blanc before. Matt’s Instagram. Where we went on our anniversary. It’s only an hour from Chisel House.

The character (Robyn) is referring to a hotel where she went with her husband. Blanc de Blanc was the room name.

I am writing this in Casa Lapostolle, a room in the Hotel du Vin. It is named after a wine as is their way. The bottle is sitting in a cabinet just outside the door.

Watching Hotel du Vin in Hotel du Vin

Coincidences No.s 208, 209 and 210 – Sussex

Coincidence No. 208 – Kemptown

I’m sitting at this café in Kemptown, Brighton when I hear a familiar voice. I look round and the face is familiar too. I ask this young woman: “Excuse me but do you have some kind of clothes business in Camden Town? were are you in a film a while ago? “ At first Camden Town doesn’t ring much of a bell with her and I say sorry my mistake. Then she suddenly realises that she took premises temporarily in Camden Town sometime ago and that she is the woman I’m thinking of. She was in a documentary I commissioned a couple of years ago about psychedelics. I know her voice and face not from any direct contact but because I heard and saw her over and over in the editing process.

I didn’t even know she had anything to do with Brighton and associated her with Camden Town and somewhere up north where her accent comes from. 

Mind-Explorers-Poster real stories little dot studios documentary

Coincidence No. 209 – Saltdean & Lewes

My old friend N comes to visit me in Brighton. First thing in the morning I take him to Saltdean for a swim (which is something of an adventure as he hasn’t swum in UK waters for over two decades, he prefers hotter climes). As we walk to the beach we pass the Lido (opened by Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) in 1938). “What does Lido actually mean?” asks N (i.e. specifically). “Is it always like this?” I say that I think it’s usually a 1930s large open-air pool like this, although I was taken to Ruislip Lido as a child and that, from memory, was more of a lake.

a public open-air swimming pool or bathing beach 

At N’s request we go to Lewes in the afternoon in search of a second-hand bookshop. We go to the excellent Bow Windows in the high street. We browse, masked up, in the stifling heatwave heat. I examine a Graham Greene novel, one of the first books I lift from the shelf (are you allowed to actually lift books in the Covid era?). It is The Comedians (1966) set in Haiti. The hotel in the story is called Hotel Lido.

I speak to Enfant Terrible No. 2 in the evening. I ask what he’s been doing with his day in this heat. He has been down to Crouch End Lido he informs me, which is full of “old people” (i.e. 30 plus) doing lanes and, post-Lockdown, none of the young yahoos that used to be there seem to have registered the reopening, all of which pleases him.

Coincidence No. 209b – Saltdean & London

Walking beside Saltdean Lido to the beach I notice the name of the makers of the old pale blue iron railings sloping down to the pedestrian tunnel: J. Every, Lewes

At the spot where I normally park in front of our house in London N2 is a metal plate by the drain. It is made by J. Every, Lewes. The drain itself is made by J. Gibb & Co. Ltd., London. Why did London Borough of Barnet go all the way to Lewes for its drain stuff?

Coincidence No. 210 – Rottingdean

I am starting to read the new novel by Ali Smith, Summer. It just came out a few days ago and I have read and enjoyed Spring and Autumn (the latter for our book group which is where I first came across her). I read these sentences: 

She already knows she is never going to have children. Why would you bring a child into a catastrophe? It would be like giving birth to a child in a prison cell. 

This last sentence reminds me of a programme I heard a few days before on BBC Radio 4 about women giving birth in prison. I remember that I was approaching the traffic lights in Rottingdean when I was listening to it. Rottingdean is the village beside where I now live much of the time in Brighton.

Then comes the next sentence which I have not yet read or glimpsed:

And Brighton’s a good place, one of the best in the country for green things, the only place in the whole of the UK with a green MP

I had no idea the novel was set in Brighton until that moment. This sentence is the first reference to it.

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

 

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