Wednesday, March 08, 2006

(80) Passing people in the street

Just before midnight on February 14th 1992, I bumped into an ex-England international chessplayer at the top of some stairs outside London’s Kings Cross railway station.
I did not meet him again until early November 1992, when I went to Kings Cross Thameslink station.
As I descended the stairs to the platform I saw this same man ascending towards me.
He laughed and said that this was the only time since the previous occasion that we had met that he had been to Kings Cross.

On the afternoon of April 9th 1994, a work colleague, Michael Gittens, announced to me in front of the office that a girl he had introduced me to had told him that had I played my cards differently then I would have succeeded in getting to know her a lot better.
That evening I mentioned this information to Murray Sharp.

The following afternoon Murray and I were taking lunch in The Little Bay restaurant in Belsize Road, West Hampstead and I mentioned my botched chance again. Less than ten minutes later I glanced up and saw Mike Gittens walking past.
I ran out and hailed him.
He mentioned that he would be seeing this woman at a party that very evening.
I never again ran into him outside of a work context.

Not long after on that same afternoon I mused upon passing people in the street.
I remembered how years earlier I had heard Stewart Reuben recount how he had lost touch with the aforementioned England chess international when the latter dropped out of chess in the 1960s, but that he had passed him twice in the street in ten years.

At 4.10 I caught a train from London Charing Cross to Hastings.
As I alighted at Hastings the first person that I saw was Stewart Reuben. He lived in Twickenham but had been attending a meeting of the British Chess Federation.

See also Entry 172.

When I mentioned this coincidence and the thought that had preceded it to Fiona, who became my wife, she responded that she knew the chessplayer’s first wife, who, like her, was a poet. Indeed they had even read at poetry meetings together.
The only time in my life that I ever saw this lady was when I ran into her and her husband in the spring of 1979, at Charing Cross.

On May 27th 1997 we attended a party at Grosvenor Place in London. Afterwards my wife wanted us to walk to Victoria station and take the return train from there. We were aiming for the 9.50 when we left at around 9 p.m.

We walked past an amusement arcade near Victoria.
I recalled that Nick Foster had told me the previous year that he had looked out of the window of his office near Victoria and had spotted this chessplayer lingering furtively by an amusement arcade.
I had heard from others that he had a problem with fruit machines. I had even made inquiries from mutual associates about a year earlier as to tracking him down with a view to giving him a talking-to about it all.

As we passed this arcade I scanned inside, looking for him. My wife, who had no idea what he looked like, remarked that this could be the very arcade that he was apt to frequent.
I spotted him in a corner.
He greeted me, and we all went into Victoria for coffee.

Around 3.30 p.m. on September 9th 1997, my wife and I left from a lunch with some poets in a restaurant in Swiss Cottage.
During it I had remarked to Brian Mackie that I had a gambling problem and he had said that he had loved gambling as a younger man.

We exited the restaurant in Finchley Road and as we passed by an exit of Swiss Cottage Underground were hailed by the ex-England player.
He, like myself, was now about to give a chess lesson in that area.

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