I’ve just spent a wonderful few days in London with my old friend Brian (the balletmaster; you may have heard me mention him). Weather notwithstanding, it was a lovely and eventful weekend. Brian organised all the food and drink, as well as all the outings (as a good host should) so that, for the entire weekend, I had nothing at all to worry about. Seriously; nothing at all.

I could get used to this ‘enforced idleness’!

The weekend was built around a Royal Ballet performance of La Bayadere at the Royal Opera House. Thanks to one of Brian’s patrons, we were in the front stalls, row E, in seats worth over £70 each. Seventy pounds. Each.

It was a lovely ballet, beautifully performed (as you would expect) - all tutus and tights and the ludicrous posturing that makes classical ballet so utterly irresistible. It liberates you from the humdrum worries and concerns of everyday life in a way that no other art form can even approach. But it does what it does at a price well beyond the reach of those who need its mind-freeing effects most.

It was an ‘interesting’ weekend in all sorts of ways. For example...the journey to Covent Garden on the Underground was a bit of a nightmare. Because there are always engineering and improvement works on the system at weekends, many lines and stations are closed. This means that many thousands of weekend travellers have to use alternative routes - which therefore get much, much busier than normal.

Our train was very crowded indeed; and this had two unexpected and very welcome effects. Firstly - and on a journey of about 35 minutes - no fewer than five people gave up their seats, either to disabled or older people, or to women. Perhaps this should not have surprised me. After all, I lived in London for 15 years and know perfectly well that Londoners are as friendly and considerate as people are anywhere else; often, much more so.

But (let’s face it, folks) it’s extremely uncommon now for people to give up their seats on public transport anywhere in England, let alone in our supposedly inconsiderate and selfish capital city. I honestly cannot remember the last time I witnessed it in our famously friendly north-east.

The other effect of that crowded journey on the tube was even more startling.

I suffer from mild claustrophobia on crowded tube trains, so Brian and I decided to get off the train one stop too early - at Leicester Square. We found a coffee bar (which was, to be honest, almost as crowded) and were slurping our cappuccinos when...

But we need to back-pedal to last October and my trip to Seville. One of the reasons I wanted to visit the city was to renew my acquaintance with a lovely Spanish bloke I met when I lived in Sheffield 25 years ago. And when I say lovely, I mean he was a total stunner. Curly black hair, dark shining wicked eyes, a killer smile...I was besotted.

However, if you have tears to shed, prepare to shed them now.

His name was - wait for it - Manuel; but our love was doomed. He was an exchange student and within six weeks, he had to return to Spain to become a lecturer at the University of Seville, his home town. On the night before he left, he wrote down his address and telephone number and invited me to visit him as soon as I could.

I kept that scrap of paper in my wallet for 25 years. I’m looking at it now.

So - determined to honour a promise made many years ago and also out of a sense of unalloyed curiosity - I made my journey to Seville.

The rest is history - or so I thought. I discovered that Manuel was now a Professor at the University and emailed him. I was astonished when he enthusiastically agreed to meet me.

We met at the foot of La Giralda (see the picture at the head of Blog 101) and our minds instantly became uninhibited, joyful and liberated dust to be blown from the present to the past, where they do things differently.

That was last October.

Fast-forward now to last Saturday. Brian and I are in the coffee-bar at Leicester Square. And a familiar figure is pushing through the crowds towards us. A familiar, seductive smile.


I have absolutely no idea what the odds against this happening actually are. Both of us away from home meeting - by pure coincidence - on a cold, wet Saturday night in the same coffee-bar in a city of 6 million souls. Just think of the long series of events that lead up to it. I think it must be the strongest and strangest coincidence of my life. So far.

Even stranger, to a certain extent, is the fact that neither of us would have recognised the other if we had not already met in Seville a few months earlier. After all, 25 years changes people quite a lot, you know.

I’m not sure how these Council Meetings are going to progress but...just in case anyone fancies a coffee and iced finger later this month, I’ve decided that the next meeting will be on THURSDAY 26 FEBRUARY. I will be in the Coffee Lounge upstairs at the Tyneside Cinema in Pilgrim Street, Newcastle after about 1800. Even if no-one turns up, I'll stay there until 2000. I like it there!

Post comments on this blog or email me: truckshunters@googlemail.com


Hildie said...

That's one amazing coincidence, Ian, running into Manuel as you did .... to think you got off the tube one stop earlier than you should have done .... a coincidence of staggering proportions! Well, I'll go to the foot of the stairs!

Vivienne said...

Hi Ian,

Wow, what a magical experience! It's stories like your's that make me think we are being guided by some higher power. I had a similar experience while passing through Austria with my family. We'd booked in for one night on our way back home. My mother, sisters & I popped out to the shops before our evening meal and we walked passed our next door neighbours, who were also having a brief stop-over in the same city. We did the classic double take, as we couldn't believe our eyes.

I love your picture Ian. Would you believe that I wanted to be a ballet dancer when I was young? Sadly I wasn't that talented and at 5' 5" became too tall to become a ballerina.

I hope to see you at the Tyneside Cinema Cafe on 26th. I was there before Christmas, so I know where I'm going. I hope a few more Truckshunters will come along too.

Loz, I hope you've recovered from your bout of flu.

It looks like Maureen is still having pc problems.

Maureen said...

Hi All,
What on earth have you all been up to? You know, you turn your back for a couple of days ...
I'm afraid I can't stop as I'm availing myself of the work pc, while no one is looking. Just wanted to say that I miss you all and hope to be back by the weekend. (My pc is in the hands of a caring (I hope!) self confessed, computer geek who promises me it's not a problem. Fingers crossed.
Ian I've got the card and the red paint. if Sid can 'procure' some wood, just tell us where and when to start the lobbying!
I think you should talk to Jonathan about what's in your stars Ian. So much happening there!That's a coincidence that can't be ignored Ian, what else would you like? A bolt of lightening perhaps? Whatever you want go for it!
Hope you are all well, Speak to you all soon.

Grumpyowldsod said...

Nice to hear that you are enjoying your retirement, Ian. Long may it continue.

Hildie said...

Grumpyowldsod ..... you are officially invited to the
Tyneside Cinema Coffee Lounge
on Thursday 26th February
at 6p.m.

Failing that ..... please pop back and see us on the Truckshunters Blog .... we're dead pleased you have found us!

Hildie said...

Hello .... I see there's still nobody about .... wonder where Ellie and Mim and Mr Magoo and Margaret and Lawrence are this week. I hope you are all okay.
My son went off on holiday on Monday for a week and left me
home alone, so I'm looking for someone to talk to!
Still can't get over your staggering coincidence, Ian. The probability of that happening must be infinitesimal. Hope you too are well.

Hildie said...

And, Sid .... where's Sid? I thought he had posted this week, but he hasn't.

Vivienne said...

Hi Hildie,

I hope you're not too lonely without Liam. Don't compensate with cigarettes will you? I've posted some photos on M&D, which I took last week in the Lakes in the snow.

I was wondering if Ellie will be able to come to our next get-together? It's lovely to see more newcomers on the blog. It will be great if everyone comes to the Tyneside Cinema Cafe on 26th. Welcome to the blog Grumpyowldsod.

Vivienne said...

Hi again Hildie,

Sid's posted on M&D today.

Vivienne xxx

Ellie said...

Hello, everyone
Thank you for being concerned about my whereabouts. Read Ians account of his weekend in London and, WOW, what a coincidence that was ~ breathtaking...
Hilde, I would really really love to meet you all at the next meeting BUT I just won't be able to make it on a Thursday evening... however, watch this space as redundancies have reared their ugly heads where I work. I may have more time on my hands than I want and be a great deal poorer, too. A sign of the times, I'm afraid ~ I despair for Britain - I'm sure we all don't deserve what is happening around us.
Sorry for being a misery.

I hope Laurence has recovered from his bout of flu?????

Hildie said...

Morning folks!
Ellie, I am so sorry to hear that you are under the threat of redundancy. They are terrible times at the moment. My nephew began renting a house only three weeks ago and found out yesterday that his hours at work have been cut by ten a week. He works for Curry's, and all their permanent staff have had this cut in their working hours.
It's quiet on here this week, isn't it? I see that I just missed Vivienne when I posted the other day. And, Maureen .... she is still waiting for her computer to come back from the menders , I hope it happens soon. And, what's all this about Lawrence having 'flu? I do hope he is better soon. Bless him! We are missing Sid too. He'll likely be investigating something!
Alison? Mim? Margaret? Mr. Magoo? Grumpyowldsod? Where are yoo?!
Come back soon.
There, I think I've done the roll-call now!
My son is away on holiday so it has been a VERY quiet week in my house too ... not much washing, ironing, cooking ..... not much anything happening ..... I didn't think I'd miss him as much as I have done. I'll be glad to see him Monday night when he gets ba
Thought I'd leave the honourable mention till last .....
so - last, but not least - I hope Ian's okay.

Hildie said...

I've found some news today to cheer us, in these tough economic climes ....... I read that the price of EASTER EGGS is being slashed by half, after the collapse of Woolworths. Apparently, they were Britain's biggest Easter Egg seller, at 20 million a year. Their demise has therefore created a glut of cheap eggs .... so keep a look-out ...
what's the chances they're all in Tesco?!!
As soon as I shut down my computer
this morning, I thought of Inga .... does anyone know how she is?
I'm just about to leave my email address .... in case Ellie, or any of our newly-arrived Truckshunters, would like to get in touch. Such an eventuality would be a pleasure indeed.


Sid said...

Inga is fine Hildie, a bit stressed as you can imagine.
The last time I heard from her was during the beginning of this week. The power was on and of at the time, and she seemed a bit fed up in her e-mail.
She and the family are still having a few days away, and tells me she is taking her laptop with her, so we may still hear from her.