Most unlikely coincidences

by Mark Hinds

It is said that a stranger is just a friend you do not know, but one has to be so careful because you never know who might have a connection with your past.


Year before last in winter I received a call from a lady in Underberg Natal, by the name of Pam. She had apparently bought a house in Steytlerville and in due course was about to move down. Amongst her treasured possessions was a Steinway upright piano and she was seeking advice on how to move it and as to weather I would be able to tune it for her once it had settled.


Several months later, my parents were here on a visit from Johannesburg and were watching sport in the television lounge when some people arrived to visit. The latter turned out to be Pam and her companion John. After the formalities, tea was ordered and everyone sat on the stoep indulging in small talk. The sport having reached an end, my parents came out and joined us and I introduced them. "Where did you say you were from" asked Pam. "From Sandton" replied my Dad, " but prior to that we lived in Parktown North for 45 years." .........Stunned silence."Where in Parktown North" replied Pam.  "No.7, 8th Avenue, replies my Dad".  "I, don't believe it, I grew up in the house opposite you. We were the Ellenburger family".


Mr. Ellenburger was an architect and a fine musician. In his living room he had two Steinway pianos, an upright and a grand. Every evening he would play and as a young child I would crouch at the bottom of his garden wall intently listening and absorbing every sound. What an impression that man had made on my life!


Sometime later a lady by the name of Gerry Osterbrook moved into the retirement village. We became acquainted and from day one I had this particularly strange familiar feeling. We indulged in much conversation and there it came out that her child had been in the same primary school as myself and shared the same teacher - a Mrs. Gunn. They had lived a very close to us in Parkhurst. She even described a run in which she had with the school master - a Mr. Duncan. Her children took ballet lessons - my biggest dream - but my mother insisted that I focus on Piano.


A few months ago a lady who farms just outside De Rust booked in for a Saturday night stay with her mother. Mother, a delightful English lady, kept on reminding us of how happy she is to have finally left crime ridden Johannesburg to live on a farm in the Karoo. I enquired, "Where in Jo’burg did you live?  My Dad also lives in Jo’burg". She replied, "Where does he live?"- "12 Fairway – Kelvin in Sandton" I answered. Her reply was, “Is that the Hinds' ?  I lived in no.13 - across the road from them!


And that is not all………


My mother danced for African Consolidated Theatres and my Dad was in the medical corps during the Second World War.  During a break in Pretoria he drove through to Johannesburg on a Saturday outing. In Hillbrow he spotted a friend - Rigby Foster - chatting to two young girls. Dad, immediately attracted to one of the girls, took Rigby aside and got him to organise a date. That girl turned out to be my  Mom!


A gentleman, originally form Johannesburg, recently moved into the retirement village in Steytlerville. My partner Jacques’ mom celebrated her birthday here in August and we invited all the people from the retirement village for dinner and a show. This gentleman got so excited about the show and started talking about his previous involvement with the theatre and actors. He started talking about an old friend of his, Rigby Foster.


Now tell me, how small is this world???


But that is not yet the end to the story.


I remember how Rigby Foster visiting every now and again. He was an extremely flamboyant egocentric character who talked non stop, always with a cigarette in his hand. He smoked like a chimney and was a role model for any  true eccentric. He made a lasting impression.


One day we were told that Rigby had died: he fell asleep with a cigarette - the bed had caught alight and he burnt to death. We were terribly upset.


About a year later there was a knock on the door and there stood Rigby - his usual self!


However, many years later, Rigby really did fall asleep with a burning cigarette and he was discovered dead in his burnt out room.


And, yes, this is a true story.

Stoep Stories

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