Look out for Signposts


Following on from our recent synchronistic weekend, I have been recalling the seemingly random occurrences which crop up that bring comfort in unexpected ways.

Earlier this year, we were on holiday in Phuket, Thailand, and were on a boat trip that involved time spent on the main boat, and also going around caves/lagoons by canoe, with a Thai crew member acting as our guide, and paddling the canoe for our safety.

There were seven couples on the boat and we waited in turn to be allocated to a crew member and step off onto our canoe. Thai names tend to be unpronounceable to Europeans so the guys adopt short names that are easily remembered. Somehow I was not really that surprised that our crewman introduced himself as James. He was about as unlike our James as you could possibly be, a thickset, stolid looking chap. But he was kind, courteous and funny as we have found most Thais to be.

How strange it felt to be saying, “Thank you, James”, after all this time. Also sharing little jokes and saying, “You are funny, James, you do make me laugh”, and so on.

There was an acute poignancy in those few hours in having my son’s name so frequently upon my lips.



Strangely, later on in the day I overheard a conversation on the boat between two of the passengers. It transpired that one of them, a lady from India, had also lost a son. What are the odds, I wonder, of there being two bereaved mothers from either side of the world, in such a small group, on the same boat trip, on the same day?   I did not get the opportunity to speak to the lady before we went our separate ways, but I found it an odd coincidence.


It is indeed true that everyone has a story, and sometimes we are destined to share these, sometimes not. Circumstances did not dictate that our paths crossed directly, but I still find it unusual that we were in the same place at the same time. Perhaps it was a missed opportunity.


Another seemingly random sign came our way recently. We were invited by the RNLI to their headquarters in Poole, Dorset, partly because we are involved with an ocean and inland water safety campaign which will soon be launched.

We attended a meeting at the campaign office and were then free to enjoy the hospitality at the RNLI College which is also a hotel (and highly recommended as a base for a weekend away). We were booked onto a complimentary guided tour of the college which is offered to visitors. This was very interesting and gave us a much better insight into the work done by the RNLI.


We moved as a group into the area above the training pool where we were told about the exercises which are carried out there. My eye was immediately drawn to a table on the far side of the room. On the table, incongruously, sat a vacuum cleaner. Nothing odd about that, you may say … but the vacuum cleaner was of a make which produces machines with names (most commonly Henry). This bright yellow model sported, in large letters, the name JAMES.   “Psst …” – I nudged Shaun. “Look at that!”

He followed my gaze and neither of us could help laughing at this unusual spiritual sign. Later we toasted James as we sat in the evening sunshine overlooking the harbour – and marvelled at the mystery of it all.




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