Darwen Online contributor Richard Smalley left Darwen in 2001 to travel the world. He has now agreed to share some of his experiences with people back home through regular blogs.
Back in November 2004, I was wandering through the main square in Santiago, Chile. In the distance and through the tropical plants and trees, I could see many painters painting and selling their work outside the church.
Then all of a sudden I was handed a piece of paper off a small, dark Indian-Chilean man. I looked at it and the paper had poems wrote on it, I said “Thank you” And went on my way.
“Are you from England”? He replied in broken English as he stopped me in my tracks.
“Why? Yes, I am” I said
“I used to live in England” He said with a big smile on his face.
“Did you? Where about”? I asked quizzically.
“Hoddlesden” He answered.
No way. I spun round 360 degrees to look for someone who must of told him that. I couldn’t believe it. However in the world would he know of Hoddlesden? It’s just a little village over the top of Darwen where my football manger used to live when I was a teenager.
We had a brief conversation and he told me that he lived there for a few years when he was just seven years old with his father. Still a bit bewildered I put my arm around him and said “Come on, we are going for a beer”.
He led me to an old bar around the back of the church on the main square and said this is the only traditional Indian-Chilean bar left in the centre of the up and coming Santiago.
We walked down a ginnel and entered the bar. On my right hand side there were a long wooden bar with pint glasses full of white liquid, that’s what the locals were drinking. I asked and it turned out to be a drink called Earthquake which contained a double shot, half a pint of white wine and a huge blob of vanilla ice-cream with two straws. I ordered one and bought the man formerly from Hoddlesden a beer and a rough looking but very tasty pork butty for us both. He taught me some Spanish over another drink as he told me it is very rare to see a white man in this particular bar.
It was a really odd coincidence and I returned two weeks later on the Monday and found him on a stall where I bought one of his paintings of Valparaiso. That very painting hangs on my Mums living room wall today.
Have you had any crazy coincidences like this happen to you on your travels? I would love to hear any stories you have related to this column, however big or small the comparison.