It’s such a long time since I last posted an entry but hoping to re-instate the habit of getting out and taking pics, writing book reviews or writing something on a Monday morning.
On Tuesday 5th January, Kate Davies, writer and knitting designer, whose work and writing I admire, wrote a blog entry entitled Serendipity. She explained how she had met a Swedish woman who enthused about the World Service and Radio 4 – “She enjoyed the intelligent in-depth programming of these stations, but most of all she loved them ………, because she never knew quite what she might hear next, and what she might possibly find interesting”. Kate uses the term ‘serendipitous discovery’ to describe this attitude or experience and how importance this is to her intellectual life.
This blog post led to much discussion amongst a group of those who appreciate her work on a knitting forum and had resonated with various readers and they explained what it meant to them. For one person it was a “chain of coincidences and chance discoveries” such as reading Ali Smith’s book featuring a character called Burning Lily and Jill Liddington’s book Rebel Girls: Their Fight for the Vote, that has resulted in her writing a book about Lilian Lenton who burnt down the tea pavilion at Kew Garden. To another its “when seemingly random elements in the universe come together to create a pattern with personal meaning ……… like the Universe handing you a piece of your personal jigsaw which you didn’t know was missing” whilst someone else described it simply as a “happy accident”.
For Kate it is linked to an open-minded approach to life and what she sees, reads or listens to, and has opened up her world to “writers, inspiring individuals and interesting subjects” and has led her to “think a little differently, or to explore a topic in greater depth”. Reading the discussion, it became very apparent that for intellectual serendipity to exist, the person experiencing it must be open minded and this was a common trait that was shared by those involved in the discussion. One of the group put forward the view of how interesting it would be if those involved got to meet up in real life such as at the Edinburgh Wool Festival. A feature of this group is the open mindedness of the members, like Kate’s and the subjects discussed and views expressed are a breath of fresh air.
My experience has not been as life changing as to lead me to write a book although the way I have found more books written by, and the way Stella Gibbons crops up in my life perhaps is more serendipitous than I initially recognised, and there is definitely scope for me to write about her. Through widespread reading, odd tweets and listening to the radio I have found much to inspire me and have been led down various rabbit holes. Just over a year ago I had finished reading A Single Thread by Tracey Chevalier and shortly afterwards discovered that a course on Medieval Embroidery was being run locally. My attendance led to me taking up and thoroughly enjoying a new craft and almost a year on I am still fizzing with ideas.
I’m fortunate in that I’m able to share this open mindedness to music, art, history, nature and what life has to offer with Mark who I describe as ‘a man of many interests’ and it’s not unusual for us to spend the best part of a Saturday morning discussing something (that others might find totally bizarre) that we’ve seen, read or heard as a passing reference and immediately gone on-line or found a relevant book, to find out more. During the early hours of one New Year’s Day, we were sat up in bed with large mugs of tea pouring over a numismatic sales catalogue appreciating the artistry and portrayal of real figures from so long ago.
Whereas the fact that I’m interested in both arts and sciences (and have qualifications in both) has meant that I am more open minded, it has also occasionally set me apart from friends and work colleagues. However, I consider open mindedness a gift and perhaps if education were not so restrictive in the way it forces us to take one path or another, we’d all be more widely educated, open minded and perhaps better, more tolerant humans.