Some thirty years ago I opened a shop for prints and posters in Cambridge in King’s Parade. A wonderful site. Every now and then I held exhibitions for new artists whose works I liked. As a result the shop became enormously popular. My customers said “Why can’t I find such an interesting collection anywhere else?” The answer to that was clear. I only ever bought work that I liked myself. Whenever a rep came to show me his wares I would look through his books very quickly since I always knew at once when I liked something and when I didn’t. It got to the point when I badly wanted to paint again. I began to feel that I could paint well if I could find the right teacher.

Sadly, I had to give up my business for reasons that had nothing to do with me. However this,was one of those blessings in disguise that Jung called synchronicity. Much as I had enjoyed my three shops which enabled me to help bring up our three children, I felt it was time for a change. I had always wanted to be a psychotherapist and I set myself up in private practice.

Once again I had made a choice that I badly needed and I soon began to enjoy my new career and earn money. Now was the time for me to find a good art teacher. I saw an article in The Daily Telegraph about a man who had achieved remarkable results as Head of Art in a well-known public school in Wiltshire. He wanted to retire early to teach older people privately. I wrote off to him straight away and so did some 400 other people. I regularly went for art lessons with a remarkably able teacher. over a period of five years. I had always believed I could be an artist if I could ever find a good teacher. I was right.

Robin would sometimes run a weekly course away from his base. He chose to do one in Cambridge to give his students the chance to paint some beautiful views and architecture. Of course I went.

Our easels were set up in a room in one of the colleges. After a while I went out to get myself a drink. Outside in an adjacent smaller room than ours sat a solitary lady painting. Following my usual habit of wanting to know what was going on around me, I asked her if she was one of us. She looked up at me with a face that reminded me of a stuck-insider. She just said “Yes.” Curious as ever I said “Why aren’t you painting with us?” A pause. “Well I came in late.”

“You have a foreign accent. Would you mind telling me where you come from?”

She frowned and said “I come from Germany. “Why do you ask so many questions?” I felt that she didn’t want to tell me. After another pause I said “Why did you come to England?” Her face tightened up a few notches. “Well, I am Jewish”. Her words were delivered in as much of an aggressive way as she could manage.

Now I had got my answer and understood why she guarded her privacy. Like most of the rest of us she was old enough to have had to get away from Germany in time. “I am getting a cup of tea. May I get one for you too, or coffee if you prefer?” We drank together and she softened. We had a pleasant chat and her manner changed.

I was pleased that she opened up to me. It was worth the trouble. The more I start a conversation with one of these outsiders the more confident I feel. When you meet a stranger and speak to him or her first you never know what will happen and what locked doors may open. My research is not all reading and studying at home, I keep my eyes and ears open in all kinds of places I learn more and more about people and I know not to hold back when I see something interesting. Research isn’t only reading and thinking it is also learning from everyday experiences with other people.


Lucky for Some!

There are two kinds of luck: the kind that hits us out of the blue and the kind that we create for ourselves. The first kind is very rare and we have no control over it. This is the sort that most people believe in. That is why buying lottery tickets is so popular.

When I was very young, every Saturday night at tea-time we all had to keep quiet while my father

listened to the football results to see if he had won a prize. After each check of his completed entry forms he threw down his pencil and recited the same words: “They’ve let me down again!” We all got on with our tea and he got on with his disappointment. I was only five or six at that time but I formed a lifelong promise to myself that somehow or other I would learn how to make my own luck. Talk about role-models! Mine were not of the usual variety, I didn’t copy from my elders, I learned from their mistakes.

After my husband died a few years ago, I moved to a rented house close to my daughter. I looked for a new hairdresser. We chatted together and she asked if I had retired. “Certainly not!” I said “I shall retire the day I die!” I told her I was a writer. “We have a writer in our village. She, too, is an older lady. She is German and has written the story of her life during World War 2.”

“How surprising!” I said. “I have also written a book about my experience during the war.” My first thoughts were “I must meet this lady”. I met Heide Elfenbein and her husband Josef, a professor emeritus and soon made friends for life. I don’t make friends easily. We had so much in common that it was uncanny.

Our discovery of each other could hardly have been a coincidence. It is an excellent example of synchronicity , a discovery of C.G. Jung. We not only have an awareness of our own inner being but there is also such a thing as a connected, or universal unconscious. The more we keep our eyes and ears open the more we increase our creativeness and notice opportunities and most important of all, we feel we are in touch with all living people and all our ancestors.

Our stories were about the same length. Our lives had been so different that I thought if we published the two books in one, they would make a powerful contrast with each other. Heide is well-known in Germany and has published many books including poetry. I was not well known in England. Heide wanted her book to be published in English. I suggested that we should translate her story together. I knew a little German, but I am also a linguist and had some experience of translation from Spanish into English. Heide speaks enough English to get along, but not enough to put her book into a literary style.

We worked together very well and liked each other’s stories. In six months we completed her book into English. Heide had published her book in Germany already some few years ago. We set about looking for publishers in England and Germany. This is not a good time for publishing. So far I have been unable to find one, but I keep looking. Heide found a renowned publisher in Germany and our joint book will be published in March, 2011. As she is well-known in her own country, we have both been invited to Germany for the day of publication so that we can talk to people and sign books. I am learning German as fast as I can.

Heide and I are both entrepreneurs. We both write and paint. We have become very good friends and work well together. Moreover, our outlook on life is very similar. Because of the inevitable influence of propaganda in all countries when wars break out, it has often been taken for granted that the entire German population was firmly supportive of Hitler and his party. Not so. We agree that wartime propaganda lingers on and everyone should know about all those brave German people , including some who were members of the Nazi Party, who risked their own lives because they did not agree with all of Hitler’s ideas, especially the Holocaust.