Sunday, July 18, 2004

Life's funny turns

There are times when you just know something is right. Not right in a mathematical 2+2=4 type of sense, but right in a completely non-rational, subjective This is the right move for me type of sense. My being in Toulouse is one of those things.

My first experience of Toulouse came about as a bit of a fluke. In early '96 I was in the UK at university, pondering over my options for my industrial training year. Almost hidden at the bottom of a faculty questionnaire, a tiny tick-box gave me the chance to express an interest in going abroad.

Whenever I'd popped over for a holiday, the French had always brushed against me pleasantly with their indulgently sensual land, food and language. So with the seed of my interest in culture starting to germinate, I ticked that fateful box.

A few weeks later and my tutor calls me in for a chat saying, Well Daniel.. I have some choices for you.. You can go to work for this company on the fumey grey outskirts of suburban London, squashed between the M25 and Heathrow airport, or you can go and work for this other company in Toulouse, a sun-kissed city in the south of France where the girls dance on the tables and where you can be snowboarding on the mountains within 2 hours.

Looking at that those options today, the choice seems easy. But back then I had to answer the vital, Do I want to leave my friends and family? question. I had more or less decided to follow the path of dullness, urban pollution and early death by heart disease. But on the same evening I was leaning towards staying, there was an impressive tv program about the Toulouse company I was being offered the chance to work for.

To say this is a weird coincidence doesn't really sum it up. I'd never heard of this company before their job offer, so to hear about them from two unrelated sources at such vital moments... That's what's called Synchronicity.

As a result of that tv program I made the choice to go, and came over with 2 great people. The year I spent here as a student was so abundant with people and passion, fun and exploration that it marked the highest tide of all my experiences.

As life ebbed and flowed over the next 5 years, that mark always remained. Its brilliant memories were left scattered so impressively across my conciousness that I would regularly wake up from vivid dreams of being back, going back. And so, in the summer of '02, a string of further coincidences nudged me to make the move I was literally always dreaming of.

First, I went on a stag-night with one of the guys from that year, after not having seen him for a very extended period. Then, while I was buried in tedium in Farnborough, the aircraft products of my previous training company started flying around outside my windows. Fuelled by the contrast of roused passions and intense boredom, I checked out their recruitment website and found a job advertised for the same team I had done my training in. Pure coincidence?

I spent the next week thinking the idea over, mulling the now old Do I want to leave my friends and family? question. By Sunday I had decided to go for it, and was set to spend Monday morning filling in my CV and completing the online application. Just before starting that though, I happened to check my hotmail and was hit right between the eyes by one particular message.

The mail in question was from another friend from my training year, again someone I hadn't heard from for ages. He was writing to tell me that he'd left New York, had moved to Toulouse, and was working in the same department where he'd done his training. I reckon that that is just too spooky for any rational explanation.

Anyway, after all that I didn't need any more prodding. I applied, I got the job, and within 4 months I was back in Toulouse.. dreams fulfilled.

Since then, life just keeps getting better.

If you want just one example of how, let my friend Thomas Le Danois tell you about the start of my weekend, while I tell you that yesterday afternoon I was napping in a country garden, the sun on my back, pigeons cooing overhead, ants tickling my toes, chill-out on the stereo next to the pool, enjoying life together with new friends from France, South-Africa, Senegal, Algeria, Cape-Verde, Indonesia and Sweden. Thanks for that Alex, much appreciated.

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