So many things hang from the flimsiest of threads. So flimsy, one might think Something Else must be at work to make them happen. This afternoon, for instance, I decided to take a detour and visit a place I hadn't planned on going to - I went only because of the notion had been planted in my mind. Once there, chance then led me up a path that I'd never been on before and had no prior intention of taking. And, up that unlikely path, I met two people I'd been thinking about but didn't expect to see. And when we encountered each other, astonished, they said they had been thinking about me. We had apparently conjured each other up, as if by magic!
Voodoo stuff, this.
The background story is this. It was the last day of the Appledore Book Festival. In the morning it was an hour with Jeremy Vine, whom I had partied with just the night before. He was very entertaining. It was mainly about his thinking on current social trends, interspersed with hilarious clips from his BBC Radio 2 show and the quiz show Eggheads, which he hosts. I saw that two friends, Rachel and Paul, were there. We agreed to meet for afternoon tea in Appledore, after the closing event, at which Ann Widdecombe would speak. She was a hoot. A remarkable lady, whose views and opinions were crystal clear, and expressed with lucidly and conviction. I feel reassured now, should the troublesome US Presidential Candidate Donald Trump ever get elected to the White House. Ann Widdecombe explained how that would still be All Right - how the American System would prevent him doing most of the things he was promising to do.
Anyway, Rachel, Paul and I meet up afterwards, and in the course of the next hour and a half somehow got round to discussing the new building going on at nearby Westward Ho! (Which I think is the only town in the country to have an exclamation mark as part of its name - derived of course from nineteenth-century Devon author Charles Kingsley's seafaring book of that title) I was urged to see what had sprung up on the seafront since I was last there.
There was no urgency about visiting Westward Ho! and I could have left it for a couple of days. But something made me steer Fiona in that direction. And once parked, I could have stayed in the centre of town. But I didn't. I strolled westward along the sea front. I suppose I wanted - subconsciously - to get a shot of Lundy, far out on the horizon, against the setting sun, if the two could be got in line from the clifftop. But I soon realised that couldn't be. I walked on, however. And as I walked, I pondered on the people I'd met again this time, and those I hadn't, among them a couple named Vicky and Ken. By this time, I was a long way from the town centre, and it was sheer curiosity to see the sea view ahead that had got me even this far.
Then guess who walked towards me! Vicky and Ken - and I'd just been thinking about them. It was hardly believable. They gaped at me as if I had beamed down from another planet. And keep bearing in mind that a clifftop path on the edge of Westward Ho! was one of the more unlikely places we might see each other. 'Lucy!' cried Vicky. 'We've just been talking about you, because we haven't seen you at any Festival events.' (Although Appledore is a small place, there are so many daily events, and the attendances are sometimes so large, that you can easily not meet people you know) 'And I've been thinking about you!' I said. And that's when it struck us all how very odd it was that thinking had summoned up the real persons, as if by some spell. Far more than coincidental. It was weird and bizarre.
Well, the upshot was that I would share a walk on my last day in North Devon with Vicky and their poodle Rosie, and we could have a good catch-up chat. That settled, we parted. I walked on, still marvelling at the combination of chance decisions that had brought us face-to-face. It still seemed unreal.
I don't really believe that you can, without fail, engineer or magic-up a meeting simply by thinking about someone. But it sometimes seems to happen. Our encounter would have been unremarkable in Appledore, especially just before, or just after, some Festival event. But it was remarkable in another place where there was no expectation at all of bumping into anyone one might know. And at an out-of-the-way spot at that. Very strange.