Tuesday, 5 April 2011


I was on the underground today – the Victoria line, to be precise, heading southwards at a leisurely pace. I threw my head back and emptied it. I'd been thinking about Sam Leith's novel, The Coincidence Engine, and about time travel, which has come up in discussions with friends about books for children; I remembered talking about chronological journeys with an old university friend, who recommended Daphne du Maurier's House on the Strand to me as being one of the best of its genre.

Du Maurier: Time Lady?
I tried to remember what it was about, having read it and loved it, and was picturing huge fields of corn and a rider galloping across them, when the train started to slow further as it came into the station. I sat up, glanced at the paper lying on the seat to my left, and at the three people sitting opposite me. One was a girl, who passed a newspaper to her friend; she then unzipped her rucksack and pulled out a book.

It was The House on the Strand, in the very same paperback Virago edition that I had. I couldn't help but whisper, 'god that's strange'; I hope nobody noticed. Perhaps I should have said something to her - but what? I was just thinking about that book, and you're reading it? Maybe I had gone back to a time when a girl on the tube was reading The House on the Strand. Maybe it was a message, from Daphne du Maurier, who is the last remaining Time Lord from Gallifrey and wants me to do something terribly important involving saving the world or writing a book or some such. I can but hope. (If you're listening, Daphne, and you'd like me to write an episode of Doctor Who - well, that would be marvellous.)

Or maybe it was just a coincidence. Whatever it was, it made me think about things twisting together, and making patterns in the world, and whether or not a pattern is intentional, or chaotic, it's still remarkably beautiful.

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