Here's a little tale that some of you will relate to, I'm sure.
About ten years ago, I travelled, with a colleague, to attend an event at the British Newspaper Library in Colindale, North London. We arrived at Waterloo and had a bite to eat before boarding the tube train which would take us along the Edgware branch of the Northern Line.
Now, you know how it is with any train journey. When conversation dries up, the clickety-clack of the wheels on the track can be quite hypnotic. I remember casually gazing at the passing scenery as we made our way on the overground section of the line. Viewing the backs of houses from a seat on a slow moving train has always intrigued me. So much to see, especially at dusk, when families are settling in for the evening. In a moment, it's possible to make out a father padding around the dining room, children agog at the TV, someone answering the telephone or merely reading the newspaper.
So, here I was, mid-afternoon, on a winter's day, enjoying the snapshots of people going about their everyday lives. But, at some point between Golders Green and Brent Cross, something strange began to happen. The passing view was becoming more and more familiar. At first, I resigned myself to the fact that, after a while, the houses were bound look the same, so there would be a degree of predictability. Yet, with each clickety-clack, I could envisage exactly what I would see, before it came into sight. In short, I knew this place like the back of my hand, even though this was absolutely the first time I had ever been here. It was all beginning to get a bit disconcerting, when my colleague tapped me on the knee and asked me if I was okay.
"I know you'll think this sounds barmy," I said, "but I know this place. I've never been here before but, for a while back there, the houses, the skyline, it was all so familiar."
My colleague looked through the window for a moment, as though he was trying to gather evidence to support my claim. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders. "Déjà vu," he said.
Although Déjà vu continues to baffle those studying the phenomenon at a scientific level, there are some claims that it can be induced under hypnosis. Which leaves me wondering if, somehow, the clickety-clack had momentarily taken me a little off route.
© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges