Back in December 2010, when I was coming to the end of radiotherapy sessions to deal with the Massive Inconvenience, I wrote this post about a sublime moment on the riverbank. I wrote about the white house on the hill and the haunting notes of Bach's Goldberg Variations (played, I felt sure, by Glenn Gould) resonating across the river. That moment has remained with me ever since and I have always thought of it as one of the significant points in my journey to recovery, when I knew with absolute certainty that I was free of cancer.
The dogs and I have walked along the riverbank many times since then; occasionally there was music and I would pause and listen and remember. And then the music stopped. There has been no music for many months.
We were there again today, in very different weather (sunshine, yes, real, proper sunshine); we walked along the river to the weir and then stopped beside a calm point in the river - Miss P's favourite swimming spot, where she does her best Tom Daly impersonations - and then turned to head back. The Edinburgh Boy takes things at a gentler pace these days; he has just been diagnosed with arthritis, for which he is about to start a course of treatment, so no running around for him. But even if he can't romp with Miss P, there are always other dogs for her to chase and be chased by and, it being a convivial sort of riverbank, other dog owners for company.
Miss P soon spotted a friendly-looking Jack Russell and, while they had a bit of a run-around, I fell into conversation with his owner. As sometimes happens, it turned into one of those profound conversations that one can have with a stranger; we covered some deepish stuff in a very short space of time. And then she mentioned that, a few months ago, she and her husband had moved to a nearby town and how different it was walking along this side of the river when, for 30 years, she had watched dogs and their owners - from the other side. I asked her where she had lived.
'The white house, up on the hill. I am afraid that we used to play very loud music . . . I always wondered if it was too loud but I've spoken to people on this side since and most seemed to like it.'
So I told her about the sublime moment and Bach and Glenn Gould and recovery from the Massive Inconvenience. And thanked her. Cue: another profound moment.
Our conversation turned to the small town just a few miles away where she now lives and I mentioned that this is where I hold my writing workshops.
'Oh, that's you! A great friend of ours, X, has just enrolled; she's so looking forward to it.' She mentioned a name I recognised.
We thought this was something of a sign and agreed how good it would be to repeat the walk. However, since we were both geared up for dog-walking and nothing else, we had no pen or paper to write down phone numbers.
'But you can contact me through X,' I said.
'Of course.' she replied. I do hope she will.
Just before we reached the gate, on the other side of which our cars were parked, we caught up wth her husband and their other Jack Russell. Introductions completed, another conversation about music and Bach and Glenn Gould ensued.
'I used to play music when I was working in the garden,' he said.
I was, I told him, very glad indeed that he had.
One never really knows how or why these things happen. Chance, fate, serendipity . . . ? But how good it is when they do.