I wouldn’t want to suggest that I’m overly spiritual but I do strongly believe in the concept of serendipity.
Indeed the movie of the same name staring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale is one that I’ll always sit down and watch if its on, and I still enjoy it to the very end each time. It might be because I believe in it that I am perhaps always on the look out for fortunate happenstance and open to seeing examples of it everywhere.
Its like when you are going through some intellectual challenge at work, or some emotional challenge in your personal life, there’ll always be a song on the radio, a TV news item, a movie, a book you come across that somehow seems to capture perfectly the situation and helps to either tap into your maudlin mood or steers you to a correct conclusion. I finally got around to watching the film ‘Peterloo’ which I discussed in an earlier posting because the friend who had first asked me if I had seen it had texted me last week to ask me again had I seen it. I resolved that I would have to do so because plainly the universe or whatever was wishing to ensure that I had become aware of it and its message. And OMG yes - it is so incredibly illustrative of a problem I have been experiencing in my professional life that it brought both chills - that it seemed so prescient - and inspiration -for seeing how getting through it and out the other side is likely just around the corner.
My admiration for the timeliness and how strongly it’s resonating with me is so great at this moment that it’s to the extent of course that I now feel like I might become a bit of an evangelist for the movie and insist that everyone I know will have to watch it so we can discuss it!
If you are going to watch it might I recommend you list off every English character actor you can think of and then tick them off as you go - it is an impressive cast no doubt and I suspect you’ll not have many names or faces left when the titles roll at the end.
After my parents had separated and my mother went on to buy a house of her own, the one she bought was the home of the first girl I’d ever sent a Valentine’s card to about the age of about 9 or 10 in primary school and who I’d seen only once since moving on to secondary and beyond.
That was not the only coincidence that arose from her moving into that house located on the edge of Portadown, literally in the shadow of Craigavon Area Hospital.
A number of years earlier when I was a teenager, we lived in an imposing red brick mansion on the Lough Road in Lurgan. The house, now known as Glenmore Manor, is currently for sale, so serendipitously you can google it and get a look. It was nowhere near as fancy in our day but it’ll give you a fair idea.
My father had set up a business in the former stables buildings that were attached to the side of the house and after a few years of growth he’d added a number of temporary offices in three Portakabins - in the courtyard.
As a result of the house being both large and in relatively sprawling grounds it was rare that we would be bored as there was so much land to crawl about in and pretend to be playing soldiers, camping, building forts, climbing the trees or catching frogs by the pond.
On occasion the extra room meant that we could have friends over to stay and enjoy the space playing football or tennis or soldiers, camping, building forts, climbing trees or catching and throwing frogs at each other or trying to shove one down someone else's jumper.
Regular visitors were my oldest friend, who I had been to the same childminder with from the age of about 2 or 3, and his younger brother. It worked very well for me and my younger brother as we had a friend each and picking teams was easy.
One day we decided to play the most basic of games and one that lent itself very well to the arena in which we had at our disposal - Hide and Seek!
The games could literally last all day as you can imagine - never mind a needle in a haystack it was like a needle in a field of straw.
I had climbed up on the wall of the stable’s courtyard to hide at height assuming that the searcher would be looking at ground level.
When I sensed them coming I stretched out to lie flat, well I say flat, but if you’ve ever seen a snake swallowing an egg that was more like it as my belly ensured I was not going to be well disguised for long.
I slipped around then and swung my lower half down the back of the wall on the courtyard side between the wall and a portakabin. Again as the seeker got closer I lowered myself further to avoid being seen before eventually holding on with just my fingers and then dropping down to ground level. He wasn’t going to find me now!
And indeed no one was going to find me as unbeknownst to me I had managed to become imprisoned between the temporary structure and the red brick. It made no sense to me at first. I could easily walk along the space but my teenage bulk was to large to get past the 3-4inch square stilts that the building rested upon.
I went to one end and tried and tried to squeeze through to no avail. I’d go to the other end with the same result. If I couldn’t go that way and I couldn’t go under, the only other option was to go up. I raised my head up, the ledge on top never seemed as far away when I was climbing down but now it took on Everest proportions, but not a grip spot in sight.
I decided to try anyway. I jumped to get my fingers back on the wall and then tried to push myself back against the side of the mobile and force my way up but no matter how I tried there was not enough strength to keep the mass forcing upwards.
Okay, no problem I thought after a few more minutes of trying. I’m going to have to just disclose my location and my playmates will be able to pull me up and out.
Well of course that was never going to happen, health and safety issues aside - if I didn’t have the strength to push myself up - there was no way they would have the strength to pull me to freedom.
We kind of realised that after about ten minutes but we tried for about an hour or so just to be sure.
It was getting to mid-afternoon and my friend’s parents would be there to pick them up before dinner so we decided to take what for any child in a crisis is the nuclear option - they went to get my Dad and older brother to see what assistance they could give.
And of course, Adult male and nearly adult male would have no problem retrieving teenage boy from the predicament and we’d have another bit of play time before the lads had to go.
Well, if you’ve read my previous blogs you know that’s not what happened.
For whatever gravitational pull my dwarf planet of a torso was exerting nothing was doing in getting me out and over the top. And about a half hour later another option needed to be looked at.
My father had the keys to the office and he opened up and tried to take things from the perspective of inside the windows and scanning for ideas. The windows themselves were about 90% one panel of glass with the last 10% being a rectangular opening section that could be opened to let a little air in - but certainly not a human being of any description.
By now it was getting dark so at least putting the lights of the mobile on was a bit of a help, not that I really appreciated that when my friends’ father came to pick them up and I was like an exhibit in a museum with them all looking in at me like when Augustus Gloop got sucked into that glass pipe in Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Luckily they had to get on home to dinner so it was then just my own family standing looking out at me, them in the light and me in the dusky darkness. Ideas were in short supply when the rain started and my t-shirted body began to get soaked.
A series of random tools were located to try to get at least one of the window panes extricated from the frame but after much huffing and puffing from my father and me looking even more bedraggled and lost it was clear that this was not a challenge we were going to be able to rise too on our own.
‘Right... nothing for it..’ my Dad, slowly but with a little hint of a smile, said...’were going to have to call 9-9-9’
My heart sank, holey moley, the emergency services, this was suddenly a lot more serious - and there was going to be no way of keeping it from the neighbours!
A police car, an ambulance and two fire engines later and the erection of some spot lights and the back of our house looked like a crime scene of epic proportions.
I never thought that my father or older brother were particularly muscular or athletic but do you know, we found out that night that they were no weaker than a half dozen fire-fighters as none of those guys could manage to pull me up and out over the wall either.
Nor could they pull me through the gap at the side - I mean did they think I was made of rubber or plasticine or something?
After a few more minutes for discussions and musings it was decided that the team that was assembled would line up around one corner of the building and lift and move it enough for me to be able to slide out.
And when that didn’t work I caught the expression on one of the fireman’s faces and thought - he’s definitely regretting putting his name down for being on call this weekend.
‘Right...nothing for it..’ the head fire fighter started to say and I thought for a moment he was going to call in the army, but no they were pulling out all the stops but not that.
It was time for the air cushion to be unleashed, not to lift up a crashed car but a fully intact mobile office. There was a bit of a sense of an anti-climax as one fire crew and the police headed off at this point. The idea that there was much craic left to witness has subsided I guessed.
I wouldn’t want to say that it went entirely smoothly, there was a hairy moment when it looked like the building was going to fall awkwardly in my direction but the compressed air did it’s job and I was soon able to get out and sheepishly into the arms of my mother and father and then quickly wrapped in a silver foil heat blanket and taken by a paramedic to the ambulance to be checked over. Whilst I was wet and cold I knew I was fine but having seen the gawking eyes of our least favourite neighbour peering over the back gate I was tempted to take up the offer of a trip to Craigavon Area Hospital!
The firemen concluded their mission by putting the portakabin back in a position were it was much closer to the wall and hence there’d be no more incidents of anyone getting stuck again.
I’d like to say that the moral of this story is that my clients can feel assured that if they place their business with me that I am well experienced at getting out of a tight spot but it’s more about having to realise that there are some times when you need a bigger team around you to achieve something that turns out to be a bit more complicated than first appears.
When she was introducing herself to her new neighbours years later, my mother mentioned that she had been previously living on the Lough Road in Lurgan, and without giving her time to say anything else the man said ‘Oh I used to be a fireman and I remember one time we had to rescue this little fat kid from between a mobile caravan and a wall out the back of a big house down that way.’
‘I think you’ll find it was an office in a Portakabin.’ my mum said to the now silent figure who had learned the lesson that Northern Ireland really is a small place.