Blogs by A. Colin Wright
Chance or Fate?
7/21/2009 5:34:10 AM
At some stage I’m thinking of writing a novel (perhaps with the title “God’s Computer” or similar) based on the role played by “chance” in life. Each life, it seems to me, depends on so many events over which we have no control that it would need a huge computer to sort them out. How one’s parents met, where they decided to live, what house they bought and hence who one’s neighbours were, what schools one attended, who one’s friends were: a slight change in any of these and one’s entire life could have been different.
A favourite story of mine illustrates this. At school in England, I had always loved languages and got a scholarship to Cambridge University in French and German. But in those years one was faced with doing two years of National (military) Service. With my place at Cambridge assured, I had the choice of doing this first or deferring it until after university. The conventional wisdom was that it was better to get it out of the way so one could enjoy university more afterwards—and that’s what I decided, giving the matter no serious thought at all.
Now I happened to have a distant cousin who was a warrant officer in charge of trade selection in the Royal Air Force. Knowing my love of languages, he guaranteed that I would get onto the forces’ Russian course if I chose the RAF (otherwise I would probably have gone into the army). So I learned Russian in the RAF, getting onto the advanced course to be trained as an interpreter: after the war, it was decided that there should be a reserve of people who spoke Russian in case of necessity. The advanced course also took place at Cambridge, where we had the happy rank of Officer Cadet/Acting Sergeant (all of the privileges but none of the duties of officers!), wore civvies, and had a minimum of military chores—but we had to work seriously, with the threat of being “returned to unit” if we failed one of the weekly exams.
At the end of this, I then went up to Cambridge as a student and, after almost two years of intensive Russian, I naturally took Russian as well as French and German.
Then another “chance” event took place. After graduating, I got a job that I decided wasn’t for me, and so found myself out of work—it was then that I saw an advertisement for a teacher of English in Sardinia, in what turned out to be a pretty dreadful Berlitz school, providing the basis for Sardinian Silver. The following year I was teaching English again in a better school in Reggio Calabria, in the toe of Italy. But there I found I was forgetting my Russian, so I wrote to my former professor of Russian, who suggested I apply for a position teaching it at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. I didn’t get the job—the Dean explained it had just been offered to someone else—and I forgot the very name of Kingston, Ontario.
Instead, I got onto the Anglo-Soviet Exchange. While I was in Leningrad, I received another letter from Queen’s, from a friend of mine who, with myself, had learnt Russian in the RAF, and who, unbeknownst to me, had got the position I’d applied for. At Queen’s someone else was needed, and the Dean had shown him my original letter, saying “Here’s someone from Cambridge: perhaps you know him?”
So I went to Canada, for only a couple of years, as I thought.
Now the point of this is that had I decided to defer my National Service until after university, I wouldn’t have done it at all, since National Service came to an end in Britain in 1960. I wouldn’t have learnt Russian (which I then taught for 35 years), wouldn’t have gone to Canada—and wouldn’t have gone there anyway without my friend who’d got the job I’d also applied for. I wouldn’t have met my wife, and my two children wouldn’t even exist. And how my wife came to meet me is another story altogether.
All because I made a decision with no thought at all to do National Service before university, not to mention the other things and people involved! Chance? Or is it some kind of fate?
(I hope next to put an article on this site about literary fiction and what we mean by literature. But it’s taking longer than I thought. Well at the moment I’m supposed to be on holiday!)
A.Colin Wright's novel Sardinian Silver can be ordered from any bookstore, from www.amazon.com and other amazon sites, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.iUniverse.com.
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More Blogs by A. Colin Wright
Who am I? Who are You? - Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Sardinia Then and Now - Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Love Travel? Do it at Someone Else's Expense - Wednesday, August 17, 2011
What I believe - Thursday, March 03, 2011
Return from New Zealand - Monday, January 31, 2011
Allbooks Review Editor's Choice for Sardinian Silver - Sunday, January 02, 2011
New article on Mikhail Bulgakov - Monday, October 25, 2010
Rewriting St. John - Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Mikhail Bulgakov and the Question of Greatness: a Reassessment - Tuesday, September 07, 2010
literature & Fiction Interviews Volume II - Tuesday, September 07, 2010
Article soon on the Oberammergau Passion Play - Sunday, June 06, 2010
Faith, belief and knowledge - Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Few places to list plays/screenplays - Friday, February 19, 2010
Generally a difficult time - Friday, January 01, 2010
Bethlehem (a Christmas story, in two versions) and other stories - Friday, December 18, 2009
85 ; 15 - Monday, December 07, 2009
Time versus Eternity - Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Hoping to put on more articles - Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Return from East Africa - Friday, October 09, 2009
Blogs or articles? And I'm going on holiday. - Monday, September 14, 2009
More readers' comments invited! - Friday, August 28, 2009
Chance or Fate? - Tuesday, July 21, 2009
On Michael Jackson, Celebrities, and becoming Famous - Tuesday, July 14, 2009
More on what I believe - Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Writing and what I believe in life - Friday, May 29, 2009
Likes and Dislikes in Reading - Tuesday, May 19, 2009
What you can do to help - Tuesday, May 12, 2009
What happens next? - Sunday, May 03, 2009
How Sardinian SIlver and other things came to be written. - Tuesday, April 28, 2009
More on what I want to write about - Tuesday, April 14, 2009
- Monday, January 01, 1900