Thought Leadership

A surprise meeting

By Colin Walls

I am always fascinated by coincidences and wrote about an interesting one a while ago. Although experiencing such events can make me feel as if there are hidden forces at work, I do not actually believe that. A coincidence is just the surprising alignment of things/people in time and space.

One such alignment occurred recently that proved very interesting …

First, some background. I moved into my house about 2 years ago. It is a Victorian place, built in 1889. I have owned a number of houses over the years, but this is the first time that I have owned one that is older than I am. I am very interest in the history of the house and the area around it, which has changed immensely over the 120+ years that it has stood. The previous owners had been here for about 5 years and had done a considerable amount of work on the house. When they arrived, it had 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom and an outside toilet. It now has 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms and the outside toilet is now inside. All of this was done without actually extending the house. Victorian builders were quite wasteful with space and often incorporated voids that could be converted into rooms. I had often wondered what the house was like prior to the conversion work and found out in a surprising way.

The last owners of the house purchased it from a family with the last name Conrad – I believe that the owner was the son of the novelist Joseph Conrad. [I am less excited that my house has famous connections because some friends have documentary evidence that Elizabeth Barrett-Browning stayed in their house several times while conducting an affair with the owner.] They had lived here since the early 1960s.

A few days ago, we went to a country pub near here for an evening meal. This is not something that we commonly do. The choice of pub was almost random, as there are quite a few to choose from. While we were waiting for our food to arrive, my wife got into conversation with the people at the next table. [This is not common behavior for English people, but it is for her!] These people were just visiting the area and were interested in the history. Somehow, the conversation spread to the next table. This was another couple visiting from the other side of the country. The guy knew some stuff about local history, as he used to live nearby. I asked where he had lived and it was the same district as we live. A little more discussion revealed that he had lived in my house. His name is Conrad and he is the son of the earlier owner. What are the odds of encountering someone like that?

Naturally, I invited them to visit and they were keen to accept my invitation. So, a few days later, they arrived and took the 10 cent tour. He was intrigued by how the house had changed and, at each point, described to me how it was in his time. We both thoroughly enjoyed the visit. On the way out, the woman [I presume his wife] spotted a basket of pears by the front door, which we had just picked from a tree in the garden, and asked if they might have a couple. It seems that the tree was planted by the Conrads during their tenure. How could I refuse?

Leave a Reply

This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at