I’d like to start by making a confession: I often dread the last few days of a long tour. It doesn’t matter where we are, or where we’ve been. Even in some of my favourite places, I find myself thinking that I’ve been away for too long, and that I miss everything about home too much.
Now I don’t know why, but somehow the end of this trip is different. Right now, I’m the only person left on the West Coast. After our last concert at Stanford University on Sunday, Jules flew over to the East Coast to be on tour with his fiancée for a few days (he’s the only person in the world who could endure a second tour at the end of his own, I’m know), while everyone else flew home from San Francisco last night. I flew down to LA yesterday morning, determined to soak up some sun and have some time to myself, before returning to late Autumn in London, which right now is barely distinguishable from Winter, both in terms of how cold it is and also how dark. Right now, I’m in one of my favourite situations: on a rooftop, by a pool, in the sun, thinking. It takes me back to January, when I was also in LA, just under two weeks after my mother had died. Then, I was in Malibu, gazing out over the Pacific Ocean, and reflecting on my mother’s life. I’ve always been hugely comforted by large expanses of water. On a recent flight back from Mykonos after a friend’s wedding, a woman from New Orleans told me that it was the presence of so many negative ions that made the ocean so soothing. I can’t say I’ve read up on her theory to check its veracity, but whether it’s true or not, I currently feel very peaceful and able to reflect on the last few weeks like I did in January. The theme that keeps coming back to me is this one: serendipity.
In many areas of my life, I think I’m far from being a control freak. I have no fear of flying, nor of many things much more horrifying. If someone qualified strapped themselves to me and told me to jump out of a plane, for instance, I’d have no problem doing it (although thank goodness my mother wouldn’t need to know about it now). But the one area of my life where I do often feel terrified is in the field of social engineering. I obsess about seating plans at parties, and about how best to introduce friends of mine to each other for the first time. I’ve always liked to be seen in the right places, wearing the right clothes and doing the right things. Now, often, this has stood me in good stead – I have wonderful friends, I always enjoy my parties and I love my wardrobe. But this trip has given me countless evidence that, sometimes, the best things are unplanned.
On my first day in New York, a friend unexpectedly messaged me to say that she happened to be back in the city two days early, and wondered if I wanted to join her for dinner. She was already with two friends – whom we then realised I knew already. I had a brilliant time. Five days later, I was approached in Chicago Airport by a man once I’d finished a phone call. He told me he wanted to say hello, because he admired everything The King’s Singers do (he also apologised for eavesdropping…) and wanted to make a real-life connection with us. He happened to be the global head of a major international record label. Back in New York, I went for drinks with a friend from university. He had been at a dinner the night before with an extraordinary man who’s recently organised one of the greatest events I’ve heard about in the realm of finding harmonyin our divided world through music. We’re now in telephone contact, and I hope there’s a collaboration in the pipeline. Then of course, it’s major serendipity that Madeleine Albright’s favourite concert series is also one of ours – in Georgetown. The fact that she spontaneously shared how valuable music was in her diplomatic life, and how she’ll continue to share it, if we’d like, was amazing. Finally, there were two gorgeous chance encounters yesterday. The first was with a friend from university on the roof of this hotel. We grew up about 20 minutes away from each other but haven’t crossed paths in about ten years. This was a perfect setting to catch up. The other was even more surprising – in the queue to check in at San Francisco Airport. There I found all five members of a brilliant, LA-based a cappella group, all of whom were flying home after a concert in San Francisco the night before. I know and love them already, but as we’re based over 6,000 miles apart, it’s very rare that I get to see them. We happened all to be on the same flight, and today was a rare day in their hometown, so there was time to catch up over breakfast. It wasn’t the start to my one full free day in LA that I had planned, but it was way better.
Don’t get me wrong. There were lots of wonderful occasions and meetings on this trip that I did plan, with people I knew I was going to see (including my wonderful housemate and her whole family in Missouri). But it’s always good to remember how we don’t always need to feel like we’re in complete control of everything in order for good things to happen to us.
So, upon further reflection, as I continue to look out towards the Pacific Ocean, it’s pretty clear to me why this long period of time away from home has been without its element of dread at the end. Thank you to all of you – including all of you who came to our concerts and said hello afterwards. It’s really lovely when you feel like you’re enjoying your job as much as I am right now. And thank you to so much serendipity – it’s great to know you can have so many moments of joy when you least expect them.
Let’s just see if I feel the same way once my eleven-hour flight has touched down in London, along with its eight-hour time difference, and the potential absence of sun at the other end….
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