Of all the cities, in all the world!! Million-to-one chance meeting, in Paris.

Bourke (in the far north-west of NSW) was dry and hot as always, in December 1968. Certainly in the demountable (temporary) classroom, where my pupils and I were in the second-last week of the last term for my 6th grade class.
Exams over.
Work finished.
Just waiting for the year to end.
Then, next year, they could go on to high school and I’d be transferred to a school of my choice (almost), near the international airport, in Mascot, a suburb of Sydney (So I could commence the Art Teachers Conversion Course).
The school was still called an Intermediate High School (Primary and High School combined, except that we were already in different locations.)
A letter arrived from East Germany. The letter had been sent to the secondary department but the high school students, after end-of-year exams, seemed to have other things to do. (Like possibly not coming to school.)
My pupils were not interested in this request for a pen-friend.
It was over. They had holidays and high school on their mind.
I took the letter back with me to Sydney.
My two-year stint in the far west of New South Wales was over and I wrote to Bärbel, explaining the situation.
She wrote back, in German. It’s similar enough to Dutch for me to get the general idea of what was in the letter(s).
We became penfriends. Although, in later years, a letter and or card at Christmas time sufficed.
On the subject of time……it moved on_.
The most telling letter that Bärbel sent me, during those years was just after the wall had come down.
My children’s mentor, who taught German, here in Sydney was delighted to be allowed to share this with her students. It said so much about what had now happened to the people of the former East Germany.

Then, suddenly, early in 2004, I received a letter from Bärbel’s daughter, Sandra. She was coming to Sydney, with Tilo, to marry him, at Mrs Macquaries Chair.
Tilo had back-packed around Australia previously and loved the place.
Maik, Bärbel’s son, also came, to give the bride away.

So, on a sunny day, I met up with Bärbel’s daughter and son and prospective son-in-law, at Circular Quay and two days later I attended the ceremony.
Photos were taken, Sandra, Tilo and Maik (_best man
, having given his sister away) returned to Germany.

In July 2005 I visited my daughter, in Paris, where she was teaching at the Wall Street Institute. (English to adults who need it for business, etc.)

As she was working, not far from l’Opera, we arranged to meet for lunch there.
She recommended that I should go into the big department store, in the street behind l’Opera to take a look at the roof, to fill the time.

I did. Came back down again.

It was drizzling.

I hurried across the street, watching where I was walking.

Stepped onto the footpath and was standing next to Tilo!! and Sandra…..and Bärbel and her husband, as well as Sandra and Tilo’s baby.
Not knowing a soul in Paris, (although that’s not quite true. I’d also have lunch with internet friends later.) it is hard to describe what it’s like when you feel you’re on the other side of the world, totally relying on your daughter to find your way home and you look to your right and you’re literally two feet away from someone, from Germany, whom you’ve met in Sydney, because you answered a letter from his mother-in-law, in 1968!

I was invited to turn around and go back across the street, to sit outside the café on the corner and I got to speak to Bärbel, for the first time. (She spoke German. Her daughter and son-in-law speak English.)

Later, Bärbel and I sat on the steps, outside l’Opera, while her husband took the baby for a walk and talked some more.
My daughter came along, as arranged.
She and I went to have lunch and we said Goodbye to Bärbel.
Now we exchange Christmas greetings again.


Danielle and Luc I DID know I was going to meet. (Internet friends.)

Of all the cities, in all the world!! Million-to-one chance meeting, in Paris.


Ramsgate Beach, Australia

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Artist's Description

It does happen, all the time but still. A chance meeting like this. The chances of me ever winning the lotery should be better than this!

Artwork Comments

  • Martin Derksema
  • Pagly2
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