Do you believe in synchronicity?
It was Jung who coined the term, of course, and ever since I came across it, I’ve liked it. My mother's a great believer in meaningful coincidence (which is much the same thing) and has some extraordinary examples.
My favourite’s the story of how she met Herr Buchholz. We were on holiday in Austria in 1966. We had never been abroad before (my sister was 10 and I was just 13), and my mother was determined to practise the German she had been studying in night school. She fell into conversation with a couple who were staying with their daughter at the same hotel. Naturally they asked where she came from and discovered it was a part of England one of them already knew. Mr Buchholz had been a prisoner of war, and was detained in Cheshire, near where my mother grew up. I don’t know what he was doing: perhaps he was a land worker of some kind.
Over the days they stayed in the same hotel, they continued to chat. They discovered they had, unknowingly, been in the same location together before, albeit not in Austria. It was over twenty years previously. My mother was a young woman in her teens and was working for a GP in Bowdon. Word came round that the King (George VI) was passing through. Not one to miss the opportunity of seeing royalty go past, my mother nipped out to view the royal progression (traffic moved slowly in those days). The streets in her part of Bowdon were deserted. She was the only person standing at the roadside apart from a man she didn’t know and didn’t speak to.
That man was Herr Buchholz, and here she was talking to him, nearly quarter of a century later at a hotel in Austria. Now there’s coincidence for you! Later his daughter Charlotte came to stay with us, to improve her English, and eventually I went to stay with them, to improve my German. Charlotte and I are still in touch.
All of which brings me to this week’s happy coincidence. I went to pick up Matthew Stewart’s new pamphlet Tasting Notes from The Dolphin Press. (It isn’t listed on the website yet).
Tasting Notes is, as the title suggests, about wine. The author works as a wine exporter for a Spanish co-operative in Extremadura. He’s also, of course, the originator of Inventing Truth, which came out in 2011 (Matthew blogs at Rogue Strands). Tasting Notes is very different from Matthew's last publication. This time, the language of wine tasting and marketing merges with something delightfully unexpected. Each of four Zaleo wines has something to say for itself, and not quite what you’d expect.
But this brings me to the synchronicity. When I picked up the pamphlets this week, they were all packed in . . . wine boxes! Naturally I loved this detail, and saw it as particularly auspicious. I am, I think, the only poetry publisher who regularly dispatches boxes of books in car parts boxes (my other half works in a garage). I’ve always delighted in the inappropriateness of the packaging — this time it was the other way around.
Matthew’s Tasting Notes, when it finally makes it into our website shop, will have a link to a site where you can buy the wine to go with it, if you’d like to. This has proved a bit complicated, so it's not yet accomplished. But not only will you be able to buy wine, you can get some free.
At the Poetry BookFair in London, on September 8th, you’ll see we’re opening the readings with the launch of that very pamphlet — and wine tasting! There will, in fact, not only be wine but, just as delicious, a chance to sample the Iberio ham celebrated in one of the poems. And afterwards, a whole complimentary glass of the blushful, if you make a purchase from HappenStance. It's beautiful drinking, I've tried it, so it's to be hoped I will be coherent. (Joke.) The event is at the Candid Arts Trust, near Angel Tube Station, easy to get to if in or near the capital. Do come along if you can: the programme for the whole day is fabulous.
Besides, there are actually two HappenStance pamphlets launching at the London Poetry Book Fair. The other is Marion Tracy’s Giant in the Doorway. More about that next week. . . .