All through my life I have been subject to amazing, though sporadic coincidences, but since moving to Vancouver Island they have occurred so regularly that I am beginning to think these weird events are all some kind of cosmic dots that may be destined to ultimately join up one day!
It is the latest of these, which I shall come to in a while, that prompted me to write about them, but I may as well start at the beginning of the Vancouver Island sequence, as there were two coincidences that kicked it all off before we even arrived. This said, I will only detail a few of the VI coincidences - 'kwinkydinks,' my dear wife sweetly calls them - as there are just so many:
When we knew we were moving here at the tail-end of 2006, as everything had to move quickly we hurriedly set about the task of informing everyone we thought, or knew, would wish to learn of our new chapter. One of these folks, my friend Eamon, used to write for the same Brighton magazine that I did (though, for the record, is now married to an artist, has two kids, and is living in upstate New York). When we told him of our imminent departure he said we should connect with his aunty Deb, who lives in Duncan. Sure enough, without even trying, during our first summer here, via a writing commission I found myself talking to her at the music festival she co-founded. As we had so much to sort out those first few months I had made no concerted effort to contact Deb, but it is entirely possible that I could have met her without even knowing she was related to Eamon.
When I infomed my buddy Miles we were moving to Canada, he asked where, and when I told him Nanaimo he said, "Oh, my (Canadian) wife's best friend lives there; I'll give you her contact details." As a consequence we met Adrienne, without whom we would not have met this or that person, or at least not as a direct consequence of meeting her, and so our life could have turned out very different indeed.
More recently, at a party we met new friends in town with whom, it turned out, we shared a lot of common interests. When they were over to dinner one evening we got to talking about families.
At this juncture I need to press pause, rewind way back in time to when I was a very young boy, being minded by my dear old nan during the school holidays, as my parents both worked full time. One (in retrospect, seemingly) fateful day nan took me into Birmingham city centre, where we went to the market, then to the cinema, which was a first for me. The movie was a rescreening of The Student Prince, starring (the singing voice, but due to a contractual dispute, not the acting of) my nan's all-time favourite singer, the light opera megastar, Mario Lanza. I seem to recall playing up merry hell in the cinema, to everyone's dismay running up and down the aisles out of boredom, receiving an usher's reprimand, but the image of a giant character's head, voiced by Lanza, singing away on that huge screen, has stayed with me to this day. After the film, nan - quite the drinker, bless her - took me into a pub, where she loved to play the piano (and good at it she was, too). I remember standing watching her in awe as her hands moved swiftly up and down the keyboard, and I have often wondered if this was the moment that I first responded to music in an emotional way, setting me off on a lifelong music-oriented career path.
Anyway, nan loved Mario Lanza so much that in her will she requested that his versions of Ave Maria and I'll Walk with God be played at her funeral. My mom, nan's daughter, requested likewise, and I dutifully obliged when she passed in 1993. Back to the present, and there we were chatting with our new friends, James and Kris, about families. For some forgotten reason I recounted the fact that these songs were played at both funerals, and James excitedly piped up, "Mario Lanza?! That's my granduncle...my mother's uncle!!" Naturally, I thought he was pulling my plonker, but indeed it is true. Wow! Of all the people in this world I could meet, it is a man who is related to my nan's favourite singer, a performer whose music was played at both her and my mother's funerals. Truly, truly insane! What on earth must the odds be of that happening?
Then there's another crazy kwindydink that again bridges my life in Brighton with here. Over the course of the last few years, having bumped into them at several parties thrown by mutual friends, we got to know and love Liberty and Mark. At a party of their own, we met Steve and Julie, originally from Brighton. Liberty and Mark announced plans to go travelling this spring and summer, included a couple of weeks in the UK. Both Susan and I and Steve and Julie highly recommended they visit Brighton. Subsequently we invited all four friends to dinner, at which Julie pulled some photos of Brighton from her bag, taken on their last trip back to England several years ago, and intended to arouse further interest in the town for Liberty and Mark. Julie passed the photos around and upon viewing one my hair stood on end. "Is that...?" I wondered, quickly running into the kitchen to look at the snap in better light. "Holy crap, it is!!" I blurted out, as there in a general shot of the North Laine area of Brighton, standing in a cluster of chatting guys, was my old record store colleague, Alex! I looked and looked at the photo, actually trying to dissuade myself that it was Alex, simply disbelieving the odds that it was him, but as clear as day, there he was, unmistakeable unless he has an absolute clone in the same English seaside town. Crazy, crazy, CRAZY!
Finally, and the catalyst for this post, one concerning our new neighbours, Brendan and Celia. We have known Brendan for a while, and when we learned last year that he and his girlfriend were looking to purchase a fixer-upper house, we told him there was one for sale two doors from us. Adding to this amazing mix, the house was coincidentally formerly owned by work associates of Susan, though well before we moved into the street. The next thing we know, young Brendan and Celia have bought the house.
Again, I need to press pause on a story, rewinding to last summer when we attended a one-day indie music festival in Chemainus. On one of the two stages we saw a performance by a good, rootsy singer-songwriter named Ben Ziakin. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, we were at the Queen's Hotel for the Elliott Brood show, and saw a guy in the crowd whose face was familiar. Remembering that he was that performer from Chemainus, as he was sitting with other acquaintances of ours I went over to introduce myself and tell him we had enjoyed his set at the festival.
A couple of weeks later, Brendan and Celia told us they were taking in a mortgage-helping roommate, whom we met just the day after, in the alley behind our houses: it was Ben Ziakin! We chatted for a few minutes, welcoming him to the 'hood, but were astonished when he said, "I was told you were lovely people, and I was told right!" "Huh?" we responded. Unbelievably, and the latest remarkable kwinkydink in our life here, Ben works with Alyse...who grew up in our house!!
There are more stories like this. Many more. Stories such as the one about the guy that now cuts my hair being a former English Ice Hockey League legend I saw play many times, and was in awe of as a goal-scoring machine, when I watched hockey in England back in my twenties.
What does it all mean? Does it, or can it mean anything at all, or are these all simply astonishing coincidences, yet by some twist of fate we are simply subject to considerably more of them than the average people? If yes, then why? Their regularity and extraordinary, random unlikeliness - especially the Mario Lanza story - make this feel more than just coincidence, and even if there is some spooky cosmic design behind these amazing alignments, how would I ever know? It is all part of life's rich pageant, I guess, and that's just fine. Long may the stars continue to line up and amaze us at how small the world really can be!