Thursday, 9 July 2009

Foxtrot Juliet?

Our ancestors used to look to the skies for omens from their gods. Now it seems they're dropping down around us, like hailstones.

Coincidences, synchronicity, signs and gut feeling are as much a part of modern life as credit cards and Facebook. Who hasn't at some time turned on the radio to hear a song they've just been thinking or talking about? Who hasn't had an urge to call a forgotten old friend only to bump into them around the next corner? And here's a very common one: who hasn't glanced at their digital clock or watch to see symetrically matching numbers flashing back at them? As it happens, I started to write this 'Letter from Claptonia' at 20.20. There really is a lot of it about...

I used to put great currency into such synchronistic events; so much so that I would spend my waking hours looking out for them. I'd find symbols and signs in my waking life with reassuring frequency: crows, for instance, have been hugely symbolic creatures for me for many years now. And now I've got another big one going on in my life - but I don't have to look out for this one, it comes and finds me. Here's the story:

Almost five years ago something pretty strange occurred while I was being driven to my father's funeral with my mother, brother, sisters and some nieces in a long black car. As we meandered the streets of Exeter towards the city crematorium, we were cut up at a crossroads by another motorist who slipped into the space right in front of us. My mum was first to notice: "That's dad's old car!" It bloody was, too: the registration plate checked out. Here was my dad's old Escort (being driven by its new owner, obviously) seemingly leading its original owner's funeral cortege.

It kept ahead of us a fair bit before turning off. It didn't have to last the whole journey - its presence had been noted. Sheer coincidence? Perhaps. Or synchronicity? Universal forces conspiring to make a metaphorical point? Angelic intervention? Mass hallucination or delusion? My dad making some kind of gesture from the spiritual realm? Who knows what was really going on. But if the car was there to be noticed, for whatever reason, then job done.

Obviously, the events of that day overtook this particular semi-paranormal event, but it's been repeating itself for me in a minor way ever since with the appearance of 'FJ' registration plates. These letters make up the old, no-longer-used, prefix for cars registered in my hometown of Exeter. These plates are a bit of a dying breed and they certainly shouldn't jump out at me to be noticed in London, up and down the country or even on the continent - but they do.

I take them as a good omen as well as a tangible reminder of home. I tend to notice them when I'm thinking about something connected to my dad or Exeter; always at a reasonably appropriate time. When I spot an 'FJ' plate, I'll smile inwardly, sometimes outwardly, and take it as a sign that I'm being looked after or am somehow doing the right thing at whichever time they make themselves appear. Of course it could all be just coincidence coupled with a subconscious desire to filter through the hundreds of number plates I see each time I go out on the road until I find an 'FJ' one and register a 'Eureka!' moment. But deep down, I'm convinced there's more to it than that.

This morning, when I was heading for home after a nightshift, I was thinking quietly to myself about what I could use as subject matter for the next Letter from Claptonia. I thought about my accident in Sicily, where I broke my elbow falling down some steps, I thought about writing something about the whole Michael Jackson circus, and I thought about the FJ phenomenon...

But then my thoughts were interrupted when the driver of a bendy bus cut me up, leaving me stranded in the middle of the road while I waited for him to pass me on the inside. As I watched and waited, the impatient motorist behind me leaning on his horn, I caught glance of the number plate on the back of the bus.


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