When I was a teenager things were tense for me at home. A lot of my friends had gone off to university, and I hankered to spread my wings. After I left school I worked at the travel agency my mum and stepdad ran. I loved helping people plan a nice holiday, but found working so closely with family a bit tricky. So, at 17, I left my home in the Lancashire town of Accrington and headed for the bright lights of London. I rented a room in Rayners Lane, Middlesex, and landed a job with a tour operator.
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At weekends, though, I barely saw my little bedroom. Middlesex was too far out of central London, so kipping on the sofas of my friends who lived in the city was far more appealing. It was a great time, but I was young and naïve, and the proud owner of an array of Mary Quant miniskirts. Unsurprisingly, I got into a few scrapes, but something or someone always happened to save me from real harm. At the time I didn’t give it a thought, but I was being protected by my guardian angels, who, although I’d talked to them as a child, were far from my teenage thoughts. A message from home One particular weekend, I’d been to a 21st birthday party, then a disco, and on the Sunday evening had enjoyed dinner with a friend and her family, before jumping on the Tube for my long ride home to Middlesex.
I’d literally just sat down in my carriage when I got the strongest smell of Grandad’s pipe smoke. He’d been ill for a long time and we were close. I’d lived with my grandparents for a time just before I left home, and it was his illness and my gran’s worsening dementia that had led my stepdad to encourage me to experience life beyond our home town. He felt that living with two ill, elderly people wasn’t a healthy environment for a 17-year-old, and that it was right and proper that he and Mum made sure Gran and Grandad had all the help they needed. But since I’d moved to London they were never far from my thoughts. When I got the whiff of Grandad’s pipe it came with a powerful urge to call home, which grew stronger and stronger until my head was filled with Mum’s worried voice, saying ‘ring me now’.
A chance to say farewell I couldn’t ignore the urge and jumped off the Tube at the next stop. Tearing up the stairs out of the station, I ran to the nearest telephone box. ‘Oh, thank goodness,’ Mum sighed as soon as she heard my voice. ‘I’ve been willing you to call home for hours. When I didn’t hear from you, I asked the angels to find you and get you to call.’ Heart racing, I knew what she was going to say next, before she said it. ‘It’s Grandad – you need to come home straight away,’ she said. As luck would have it, I’d got off at Euston station. Not only that, the next train back to Accrington was leaving in less than half an hour. The next day I got to spend precious time with Grandad before he sadly passed away, but I was so happy I’d been able to see him. There are so many occasions in life when we think we’ve experienced a happy coincidence or a stroke of luck – a sudden urge to call home or take a different route to work. However, so often these are evidence of the angels at work; divine intervention placing us in the right place at the right time, to bring about the best possible outcome.