Do you feel the same way as I do, that so much of life is immediately in front of us but sometimes we just don’t see it? Maybe you agree with the words of WH Davies “….. we don’t have time to stand and stare.”? In PC 19 (September 2014) I wrote about a number of coincidences that I have experienced. Prompted by a new one so bizarre, I have recalled a few more!
The other weekend we drove up the motorway to north London for lunch. On our way we were passed by a Range Rover with a distinctive number plate ‘1 BNT’. Vehicle number plates in the UK currently have two letters denoting place of registration, two numbers denoting year of manufacture, and three arbitrary letters. Older formats have simple numbers and letters, or letters and numbers. Some people pay huge sums of money to purchase a particular combination that might mean something to them, and clearly this owner had done so. What it stood for I am not sure, but ‘Number One Bint’ comes to mind. For those not familiar with the slang English vernacular ‘bint’ is a derogatory term for woman, but could in this case be the exact proud opposite! Anyway, having made some guesses, we thought nothing more of it as we journeyed onwards. We were later than planned in returning …… but you can imagine our complete amazement ….. to pass the same Range Rover traveling south later that evening. Here of course, in the same time and space, but recognising it purely because of its distinctive plate! What a coincidence! What a chance!
I am struggling to get to grips with Brazilian Portuguese, and currently have the benefit of a tutor here at home. We took a break while Celina and I went off to Alaska, but I did take some homework with me; good intentions etc … we all do it!! Day Two on the ferry on the inshore coastal passage on our way to Juneau, I’m sitting on the deck in the blazing sunshine trying to concentrate on ……. “Estar is used to express location and temporary qualities, while ser is used to express more permanent characteristics. Compare está frio (it’s cold – temporarily!) with Alaska é frio (Alaska is cold – permanently!)” But hang on, it’s 80F (27C) and it’s not cold!! Funny how these stereotypes get established in the belief system. But more importantly, what a coincidence to be in Alaska and read a comment about it in a book …… about the Brazilian language!
Back in May this year I noticed that The Times carried a photograph of a house being towed on a barge ‘down river to Putney’. As the picture was taken by Tower Bridge in London, my nautical knowledge told me that Putney is upriver by convention; so I wrote to the Editor to tell him!! It was not published! Unbeknown to me, my brother, who obviously shares with me a somewhat pedantic like for the correct English, had written in to remind the nation that in the Royal Navy the convention is you serve ‘in’ a ship and not ‘on’ a ship, after The Times got it wrong. His letter was not published either!! However, both our letters were referred to in the Saturday Feedback column with Rose Wild, without Ms Wild realising we were related. Now that’s a coincidence. We had a delightful email exchange!
Read from the third paragraph until ‘ebb tide’.
I mentioned in PC 44 that when we were in Whitehorse, Alaska, we went to the Vaudeville show. The compere had a lovely practiced way of engaging with the audience; he leaned towards the front row and asked a lady sitting there: “Where are you from?” “Portland, Oregon.” “Sorry!” he said. (Note this is an exclamation mark and not a question mark) She repeated herself: “Portland Oregon.” as anyone would. “No, I heard you the first time! Just sorry for you!” (Note: Actually he might be right! The city has a bumper sticker – “Keep Portland Weird”!) Then he asked: “Actually, where are you from, Portland being a big place?” “Albany” the woman sheepishly replied” Celina and I live on a street in Hove, just under 5000 miles away, called Albany Villas!
In the mid-1990s I spent one evening a week attending a Philosophy course at the School of Economic Science. Each week we would look at a particular topic: consciousness, mind/body/nature, beauty – for example, with a facilitator guiding the discussion, and looking at various texts and comments from writers across the centuries. The three hour session would finish with a self-centring exercise and the facilitator then closed the evening with some pertinent quotation. The quotations were from various sources, from poets and Greek philosophers, from playwrights such as Shakespeare to religious texts from the great religions of the world. One evening in early January, having just come back from a Christmas spent in Sydney Australia, I couldn’t keep my attention centred on my ‘self’ during these quiet few minutes at the end. I found my mind drifting around the world, like that DHL TV advertisement of a red tape wrapping the world. At the end of the tape was ……. Sydney, and I imagined myself walking up Darling Street, past a church. In the churchyard was one of those large advertising boards; it carried a quotation from St Matthew: “Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. … For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I am brought back into the philosophy session with a jolt. Robin is reading that evening’s quotation: “Come unto me all ……” Now that is very, very spooky!!
Our minds generalise for us, cutting out much of what we see. For instance, we might see a tree, the mind having decided we don’t need to see the individual leaves, twigs, bark etc. So when we want to look at what is before us, we need to concentrate, to look, to observe, with every joule of our energy; the result is very enriching.
Just some scribbles for the end of the English summer.
Richard Yates – firstname.lastname@example.org