Two Stories about Coincidence

One: 1990, A Wednesday Evening

I’m working away from home in North Wales, commissioning new industrial machinery. M and I working long days in a factory near Wrexham. In the evenings we return to our hotel before eating dinner. Sometimes we eat at the hotel, but more often, as the weeks tick by, we look for somewhere new. This evening we’ve decided to go for a walk before eating, to churn through the day and to edge us in to the personal that is taking up more of our conversation. M suggested going to look at some pools he has noticed, created by open-cast coal-mining. Walking up and over the smooth curve of high hills formed by slag, we find luminous green deep water, still and threatening; empty of life. After staring for while, we notice a path leading off to a canal and decide to walk further, up a hill, until we are walking along a wooded tow path. Opposite, on the other bank, are grassy fields sloping down to the canal. One has a herd of cows in, lingering close to the water, watching as we pass, chewing less easily. I tell M about a book I remember from childhood, The Cow who Fell in the Canal, a story of Hendrika, a cow who, after falling in to a canal, manages to scramble on to a raft, and who then floats through the Dutch landscape, seeing all manner of things before arriving to some celebration in the middle of a city.

Walking on, we hear a splash, and turn to see one of the cows fallen into the canal, struggle to stand, then try, unsuccessfully, to scramble up the steep gradient of the grassy bank. We watch. The other cows watch. The cow stands in the canal, wondering what to do next.


Two: 2002, A Sunday Afternoon

I’m walking to the train station to catch a train to Rotterdam. A fifteen minute walk for a fifteen minute train ride. I listen to music as I walk, liking the sense it sometimes gives me of providing a soundtrack to my experience. My filmic life. Today I’m listening to Radiohead’s Amnesiac. Bleeping electronics and lunar beauty; liquid, frosted vocals. As the first street floats by: I’m a reasonable man get off my case, then, towards the canal, the portentous Pyramid Song nothing to fear, nothing to doubt, implying just the opposite. Over the canal and nearing the station, the scratchy, beaty brew of Pulk/Pull, barely intelligible. As I climb the steps up to the platform the beginning of You and Whose Army? Mellow, jazz-inflected and posturing.

I wander along the platform, along with a few others, and my eye catches an advertisement. 46 seconds into the track I simultaneously read the words ‘Holy Roman Empire’ as I hear those same words sung: Holy Roman Empire, wrung out in otherworldly glory. The seeing and the hearing unconnected but skewered by time. Me, the affording agent.



February 2013