When I was 17 I worked in a hotel on the edge of the beautiful Peak District in England. Was I a chef; a sous-chef, maybe; a waiter or a gardener? No I’m afraid none of those glorious positions could be called mine; instead my job was to wash pots, clean the chimney, and every now and then, with the help of my cousin, unblock the drains. This involved putting together a long, thin rod and getting stuck in with some twisting and thrusting motions until it started to run clear (yoink!)
I’d been doing this for over three years when I decided it was time for a change. I wanted an upgrade to a shelf-stacker in the local supermarket and I made it to the last four in the interviewing process. A week later a letter arrived through the post and my dad brought it up to me in my room. He waited patiently by the door as I opened it, only to have to tell him that ‘unfortunately on this occasion I had not been successful.’ Even my dad couldn’t believe it and actually told me to stop messing around. I plodded in to the pot-wash area that Friday evening and spent another seven hours bent over a sink full of burnt pans, stubbon stains, and murky-looking water. If I had been able to see my own reflection it would have looked vexed and mardy. I felt rather low.
Oddly, this failure has led me to where I am today. Not because I went on a life-changing voyage of discovery; learning to discover who I was and determined to never fail again – but because of two people I met. Not long after the job refusal, two young university graduates swaggered in to the hotel looking for work, and with them they brought stories of travel, adventure, rebellion, debauchery and knowledge of the world outside my quiet little town. Six months later I had followed them both to live and work on a small island, turning down a university offer in the process.
I’ve always seen Chris and Nathan as being the two most important people I’ve ever met. There was a considerable age difference between them and me, and mentally none of us were sound. But, unbeknown to them, ideas were starting to form in my adolescent mind – ideas inspired by the subtle conversations we – or they – had. Every step I took after that led me somewhere new; somewhere interesting. Backpacking around America; working in a cocktail bar in the alps; moving in to a run-down terraced house in Nottingham and meeting this feisty Danish girl who just so happened to be a good cook. Twelve years later, it has led me to working as a freelance photographer in Denmark and learning to speak a language I never even considered might actually exist.
Looking back I’m sure we can all say that we’ve met these kind of people. Our pushers, as my old picture editor used to say. I’ve met a few others over time, but neither you nor your pusher is aware that a personal history is being moulded invisibly right before your very eyes. It only becomes obvious later on in life.
Whilst travelling around Australia earlier this year I met a pair of Danes in the hostel I was staying at. It transpired that we were all part of the same group trip to Fraser Island, so we ended up spending a few days together.
The next time I saw them was in a park by the sea, further up the east coast. Then again one evening outside a shop. Then again in an outdoor swimming pool even further up the coast. We just kept bumping in to these guys. So of course you won’t be surprised to hear that, as I was sat slurping away on my coca-cola waiting to go in to the cinema two nights ago, I bumped in to him again. Jonas.
So far, my meetings with Jonas have not triggered any urges to fight the system or adopt a dolphin. In fact, after several meetings I still don’t have his contact details or have a clue where he lives. But that part of me that wants to believe in ghosts and Jesus also wants to believe that Jonas has been sent to me as a messenger. So, because all other meetings with pushers have only ever been in hindsight, I have decided to publish my prediction here. “Oh Jonas, 19-year-old trainee teacher from somewhere 30 minutes away by car from Copenhagen, what is it you want me to do? Is it a wedding; a private party; or maybe some artwork for your bedroom wall. Surely our meetings are no longer coincidence.” Seriously, I am available for weddings, by the way.
Stay tuned for any Jonas-based updates.