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It's a sign...

Wednesday 8th June 2022


Quite often in life we will spot a small coincidence that makes us pause, and perhaps remark upon it to whoever we happen to be with at the time. Just last week I heard on the radio, for the first time, a thirty-year old song by The Cure, that I instantly loved (‘Just Like Heaven’, in case you’re wondering), only for that same song to turn up in a film I watched that evening…

But some coincidences seem so huge, and so unlikely, that it’s hard to believe — and hard (for me) not to be stormed by magical thinking: to feel that it must mean something. That it’s “a sign”…

I experienced one such coincidence back in 2012.

The paperback edition of my third novel, ‘A Half Forgotten Song’, was about to be released, and I was busy researching my next book when I took a week’s break and went on holiday with my sister to a small Croatian island called Lopud. It’s a tiny, sleepy place — no cars, no big hotels or resorts; one delivery of bread per day — oversleep and you miss it. We rented a small apartment halfway up the hill from the quayside, and settled in for some serious relaxation.

The apartment had a small, shady terrace where we spent most of our time, and I soon began to get the oddest feeling of déja vu… After a couple of days, I realised the cause of it. The view from that terrace was the view that had been used for the cover of ‘A Half Forgotten Song’— even though the book is set in Dorset. Not just a similar view: the exact same one. The photo that, months before, my publisher had selected for the cover must have been taken from the terrace of the exact same apartment my sister and I had rented, purely by chance. See for yourselves — I've posted a picture I took above, and you can look at the cover of the 'A Half Forgotten Song' here on the website.

I mean, that’s a biggy, right? I was instantly obsessed. The house in the picture was obviously abandoned — from where we were, higher up the hill, we could see into it’s empty windows and bramble-choked garden. I admit… I went and had a look. I trespassed a bit, had a look inside. The place was in a sorry state, and that’s where my overactive imagination took over, and the magical thinking kicked in, and I decided I was meant to have this place — to buy it somehow, renovate it (I constantly dream of renovating old houses) and henceforth spend half my time on Lopud, writing books and soaking up the sun.

Readers, it didn’t happen. My enquiries took me as far as finding out that the house could not be bought or sold because nobody knew who owned it, or the land upon which it sat. There were no deeds, nothing that could be legally transferred. This is apparently a common problem in Croatia, and eventually I dropped it. Where I would have got the money to buy and renovate it if it had been for sale, I have no idea! My mind tends to fudge over such trivial complications…

So, no, it didn’t mean anything. And, sadly, nothing happened as a result; except that I might go back to Lopud one day, and see if anyone has moved in. And it proved, to my mind, that the world is full of mysterious, sometimes unlikely, confluences — which are, of course, the very essence of a story…


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