There I was in Southampton, diverted by a print in the John Lewis art dept. A silhouette of trees on a blue-green hillside. I moved closer, bent to see the title – and almost reeled in astonishment.
‘Guiseley’ was printed on the label. Guiseley, of all places! I spent most of my childhood there – on the edge of the Pennines, with the industrial Aire Valley on one side, and beautiful Wharfedale just over the hill…
And in my mind’s eye was that hill on the road leading up to Chevin End. I’d always thought those trees remarkable, the shape of them, the way they stood tall above a network of small green pastures, holding the crest, defying the winds.
Looking at that print was like being back there, while my feet were still in Southampton – a dizzying experience.
A woman, nearby, was also studying the prints. I had to share this odd experience, so I spoke to her. She smiled, and to my amazement said she thought she knew Guiseley too. ‘I’m from York,’ she explained, ‘it’s not that far away…’
I couldn’t believe my ears. ‘So am I,’ I said. ‘I was born there…’
The coincidence arrested us both. It wasn’t until we’d parted – some minutes later – that I noticed another print by the same artist, Jacky Al Samarraie* (see below)
When I saw the title – ‘Yeadon’ – the extent of this odd coincidence hit me.
Just days earlier, while returning from a Christmas visit to family in Yorkshire, I’d started to think about a new book. I was/am in the process of doing some research for a novel set partly in Guiseley, Yeadon and York in the immediate aftermath of WW2.
It felt so weird the day it happened (a few days ago now) I posted it on Facebook. Comments from friends made me think a little harder. I seem to attract coincidences, as readers of my blog will know – coincidences of all kinds, from Library Angel episodes to fortunate meetings and clever little jokes.
All the connections have been related to my work, so I’m bound to think that this one – in John Lewis – is a message telling me that yes, this book idea is a good one, so get that plot worked out and keep writing!
Today, another one sprang up. I’ve been invited to speak at the Indie Writers’ Festival on 21st February – ‘For the Love of Words’ – hosted by Leeds Trinity University. I googled the venue and found it’s outside Leeds, at Horsforth – about a mile over the hill from Yeadon…
Festival Website: http://www.bigbookend.co.uk/indie-writers-fest
Booking Page: http://fortheloveofwords.eventbrite.co.uk
*about Jacky Al Samarraie – from the John Lewis website
‘Jacky Al-Samarraie uses uncomplicated images, sourced from the British countryside, and adds graphic bright blocks of colour to create an eye-catching design. She developed this style during her degree and created The Art Room company in 2007. Her bold landscape images can now be seen on cards, mugs and prints. Al-Samarraie didn’t start life as an artist, she originally pursued a career in Social Services. It wasn’t until her children grew up that she went back to develop her creative skills; receiving a first honours degree in Graphic Media Communication from Bradford College of Art Design & Textiles.’