Meetings with strangers #4

I took the train from Brighton to London thinking I would get an hour's writing reflecting. I like to travel by train as I am in oblivion and in no man's land in transit.  Thoughts come and go. Past memories appear and disappear. A time for thinking and reflection. I had, as usual, synchronicity in mind thinking of another stranger I had met on the same Brighton to London train years earlier.

An intelligent looking middle aged woman got on and sat opposite me by the window carrying a gigantic rucksack. An obvious looking hiker, she put her enormous treasured possession down on the adjacent seat and smiled at me. She had an A4 envelope in her hand, for sure the morning's post and placed it alongside her baggage on the seat. 

I commented like, Little Red Riding Hood, what a big rucksack she had and why not place it in the rack above out of the way. She agreed with a friendly smile and I detected an pleasant American accent. Another typical American tourist I thought because she was wearing a sludge green zip up blouson over a insipid beige blouse. Definitely not, like me, a Fashionista! 

She observed colourful ME - Sultana Jilliana and asked if I was going somewhere special or if I was wearing my normal daily attire. I smiled because people often ask me the same thing. What is 'normal' for me I wonder? Even at the Bognor Regis annual Clown Convention this year, I was complimented on my costume - my 'normal' attire!

I had come from the radio station BHCR where I am the co-presenter of 'Your voice matters' so I was dressed in my 'normal' daily attire. A bejewelled Turkish turban with silver and lapis Greek earrings from Ionnina, the hub of the silversmiths in Northern Greece close to the Albanian border. a multi coloured turquoise blue to purple mixed spectrum silk jacket bought but created by a talented Turkish fashion designer with her own label who I had met at the Anjuna night market in Goa. Under this apparel I was wearing a blue, yellow and red Indian  diaphanous top bought in Jaipur. The lady asked me where my handmade trousers came from. I explained my tailor, Sunil in Udaipur, had made them for me from a blue and gold hand-blocked silk fabric. She went on to tell me she also had a tailor but I forget where.

The stranger asked me if I worked to which I replied I had retired but now my passion was the radio and interviewing creative people and putting my videos up on You Tube. 

     'Oh well I'm very boring!' She retorted pointing to her dull clothes.
     'I think not' I politely convinced her.

Boring? No! It's amazing what I can find out in an hour's journey about an individual. She turned out to be a working journalist and editor. Had lived in several countries including East Africa and briefly even in Ubeckistan. I got interested. She spoke intelligently of the decline of journalism in the US and The New York Times now owned by a Mexican billionaire, without mentioning that she had been one of the contributors. Hailing from Wyoming of Swedish and Scottish heritage she  wouldn't stop talking because she had an eager listener. ME! 

But why was she, an American not working for American Express, living in Brighton? She just loved our city, so she said, and the culture but worked in London as she had not yet retired. However, as she wanted to buy a house, Brighton was too expensive for her means and so sadly she was relocating to Canterbury. She started to talk about pensions and her lack of money and even wanted to know how I could afford my travels! I ignored her question and spoke about my vignettes, Spoken Word performances and the local Brighton internet radio. Immediately then and there she looked my site up and BHCR. On her phone. Like myself, an ardent researcher and it transpired she had been an investigative journalist.

At that moment I thought again about the other American stranger I had met on the train who I had written about. That man had lived at College Terrace next door to my late friend Alice Sutton, the Countess of Belleroche who had owned #7. I had always had a strong connection with Alice and her daughter Nina, the Paris journalist since the early 70s.  I visualised my old friend Alice sitting in her College Terrace Edwardian living room against the backdrop of the giant floor-to-ceiling portrait of Lili, the mistress of her father, the painter Count Albert de Belleroche. Alice, who was born in Brussels, spoke English fluently with a delicious French accent and French with an English accent.  She was an accomplished classical guitarist having studied with Segovia in her early years.  I nearly told Paula Parke my 'stranger on the train' story and would have, except she hurriedly got off the train at Blackfriars waving a cheerful goodbye and Bon Voyage.

I looked at the empty seat and saw the abandoned envelope languishing there. I instinctively knew it would have her postal address on it.

I was right. It was addressed to Ms Paula Park, 7 College Terrace, Kemp Town, Brighton BN2 OEE!!!

To be read in conjunction with 'The stranger on the train.'

Written at Anna Mae Silver's kitchen in Temple Fortune in North London on 12.8.17. 

This true story, and the evidence of the envelope together with my 1980s Filofax with Alice Sutton's Brighton address, was told to the paranormal researcher Adrian J Andrews who thought the synchronicity was 'out of this world.'


Google - Paula Park.  Award winning newspaper reporter and editor. Member of the Association of British science writers. 25 years of experience with The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. 10 years investigative journalism that promoted  education. Lived in East Africa for BBC World Service. Not exactly a 'boring' life!

Google - Alice de Belleroche classical guitarist - photo with Martin Breese in my kitchen London W11
Google - Nina Sutton - Daily Beast
Wikipedia - Nina Sutton
Google - Albert de Belleroche
Wikipedia - Albert de Belleroche

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