Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bark: Serendipitous Happenstance

I had a really awesome day today. It started in a very unusual way. Today my lady, her padawan learner Ginnie (long story, don't ask) and I were headed into London, so the girls could do some shopping and I could do a bit of drawing with my buddy Mark and catch up with a couple of other friends. As we're buying our tickets at Woking station, I notice a guy standing quite near us having a cigarette. Normally, I wouldn't even give this kind of thing a second glance, except this time, I'm struck by something familiar...

A closer inspection reveals that this gentleman was, in fact, my old housemate from Leicester University, Neal, whom I haven't seen or heard hide nor hair of for no less than a decade. He didn't recognise me at first, since ten years is a very long time, and I've changed quite radically over the years (I've acquired glasses and put on a fair bit of weight), but after that initial shock of having an old friend you've not seen for years literally walk off the street back into your life, we struck up a conversation, found that we were sharing the same train into London and had a chat about what the heck we'd been up to for the last decade or so.

It turns out that Neal had been living just 20 minutes down the road from me for the last 6 years (also doing IT work, but for a different company) and that I'd probably passed him a hundred times while overtaking the commuter bus on the way into Farnborough and never known it. On the way into London we had a nice chat about the futility of DIY and home ownership, the virtues of old school arcade games like Defender and Robotron, and the corporate treadmill. It's one of the signs of a really strong sense of friendship when you can sit down with someone you've not seen in years and pick up from exactly where you left off as though it was yesterday. I was totally stoked to see Neal again, because he was probably the one person from my university days that I regretted most not keeping in touch with - not just because of our devotion to Sir Clive and his wondrous Spectrum - because we always got on well (not always something guaranteed when you share a student house) and had a lot of fun times at uni. So I give him my email and phone number and head off to do our separate things in London.

The girls head off to Camden while I hook up with Mark and do some terrible drawings of Egyptian and Greek sculptures in the British Museum, including a horrible, mutilated interpretation of a distressed horse's nostril (no, really) from one of the Parthenon sculptures. I really need to work on my proportions and spacial relationships when I'm sketching. As a slightly random aside, I muse to Mark that the British Museum is one of the most ironically named, since virtually nothing inside it is of British origin. It's mostly filled with antiquities from much more ancient cultures, such as the Mesopotamians, Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, which the British stole at the height of their imperial power. It's a museum that should have a subtitle. The British Museum: Stolen in the Name of the Empire.

Unfortunately, Mark has to toddle off to do some work around 4pm, though that nicely dovetails with Paul and Chris turning up, with whom I decamp to a pub in Leicester Square, to have a couple of beers, while discussing the US election, the credit crunch and some of the sheer dunderheadness of modern macro-economics, with its derivatives, credit default swaps, securitisations and short selling. We concluded that economists all needed to be put up against the wall and shot, and that we should abandon money and replace it with leaves from trees, Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy style.

Then when the time came to go home, who should we bump into on the train? Neal again. I think that the statistical probability of this rates up there alongside winning the lottery. Maybe not the jackpot, but one of the top prizes surely. When you think about it, we could have gone ANYWHERE after leaving university. But instead, we both happened to be working in the same town (albeit for different companies), live less than 10 miles from each other and ended up taking two trains going to the same place on the same day, without either of us having foreknowledge that we would be there. As Harry Hill would say, what are the chances of that happening? And as Han Solo would say, don't tell me the odds - I don't care, I'm just glad that it did happen.
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