Although I am back from Cyprus physically, my mind will not disengage readily from the place and the way that its combination of deeply-rooted ethnic traditions and more recent ‘global village’ trends can produce interesting variants on what we are accustomed to. There is, for example, a shaded restaurant courtyard in Nicosia where delicious mezze are served by the urbane proprietor to a soundtrack of his favourite Blues and Gospel music, while his caged canary sings along to BB King’s guitar-licks and twitters ecstatically in sympathy with the backing singers. Much as I was amazed and amused by the novelty, I am unsympathetic to the practice of caging creatures and, really, hope it dies out soon.
Returning home is comforting despite the fact that, seen from a perspective refreshed by travelling, there are aspects of one’s life that could benefit from re-evaluation: one of these is our duvet cover. Perhaps it’s the recent memory of all those exuberantly foreign fabrics but, despite its excellent quality, it does appear dull. Its drab colour does nothing to lift the spirits and it is time to give up on the idea that because it ‘tones’ with the decor it qualifies as a suitable furnishing. My partner readily agreed that life is too precious to share with a dismal duvet, so I took it on myself to find a brighter one.
On the brief walk to the shops I encountered a couple of friends who have been living abroad these past few years. They had just arrived in town and, had I left the house seconds earlier or later, our paths would not have crossed. Such coincidences, we agreed over coffee, are quite rare. Or are they? After we parted company, I bumped into someone else I had not seen for a while. I began to feel it might be a lucky day to place a bet. And then I found a pleasing duvet cover at the very first shop! I headed triumphantly for home but was stopped on Market Street by a polite young man with a clipboard who asked if I had time to answer a few questions about socks. It so happens that I have strong views on socks and was therefore willing to share them. However, all he wanted to know was how many pairs I owned, whether I ever wore odd socks, whether I had any “lucky” ones, my age and email address. I was miffed not to have been given the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for the hygienic properties of bamboo-fibre and merino wool compared with synthetics, but it was my first disappointment of the day and, incredibly, was mitigated moments later by my bumping into yet another acquaintance I had not seen in years.
The duvet cover gained the full approval of my partner and I went off to meet a friend for an early dinner followed by a concert by the Brad Mehldau Trio. I was telling him about the day of coincidental meetings as we made our way from restaurant to concert hall when – as if to prove my point – my partner stepped out of the doorway we were passing. She was leaving the gym and on her way home to make up the bed and was just as surprised by the encounter as we were. By now, both my friend and I were convinced that supernatural forces were in play and that, in the concert-hall foyer, some long-lost friend or lover would step over and buy me a drink for old time’s sake. However, despite the fact that the place was heaving, I saw nobody even vaguely familiar. It was my second disappointment of the day – and a practical demonstration of the fact that you can’t anticipate a coincidence. Perhaps it’s just as well I didn’t place any bets.