Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Clickety-Clack, Takes Me Back.

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


  1. A very interesting post. I am quite sure you had been there before, in a dream. It is not uncommon for us to dream about a place in which we will one day visit, only to forget that dream upon waking up.

    CJ xx

  2. Hi Martin

    I seem to remember that deja vu can be explained in terms of the brain's perception and the eyes/visual input being slightly out of sync...the brain registers the visual input almost faster than you see it hence the feeling that you've already seen it as you see it...does that make sense?

  3. Think Delwyn has it right but far less romantic

  4. Déjà vu exists - never mind about explanations why - just enjoy and marvel at it says I! :)

  5. I have seen hypnotists cause some funny antics on stage with some students. Funny how the brain can be induced.

  6. Maybe it was some of your deep DNA speaking?

  7. This happened to me once when I was cycling around my home town and I thought it was deja vu. But I was just going round and round in a circle, lost. The houses I was seeing were in fact houses I had already seen. I'm sure this wasn't your reason ...

  8. I thought you were going to say you'd fallen asleep and this was your second trip round! But I totally agree about the pleasure in seeing all those momentary glimpses into other people's lives. I like how you can sometimes see several people in one house at the same time through different windows, when they can't see each other.

  9. A fascinating phenomenon, déjà vu! I have always found it intriguing... and puzzling. It strikes you in a moment and leaves you feeling nostalgic... for something that never happened. Amazing, indeed!


  10. Your deja vu would make a very interesting starting point for a short story...Delwyns explanation is interesting and sounds possible, what about those moments of deja vu where the recognition isnt just something you see but something that is happening ?
    - it has occured to me once or twice, and I recall saying - "this has happened before" and the feeling of deja vu extended to that sentence as I said it...
    thanks for posting!

  11. Crystal Jigsaw - I like the idea of dreaming about a place we will, one day, visit. I mentioned your comment to my daughter and she immediately told me that this has happened to her once or twice. A kind of premonition, I suppose?

    Delwyn and geraldgee - I think a definitive, scientific explanation is still some way off. But isn't it fascinating to speculate?

    jinksy - I can't help being curious. It's just the way my mind works....when it works!

    Paul C - Ah, hypnosis. Another area of mystery.

    willow - You are reading my mind. The thought that I might have inherited a memory is an appealing one.

    Fran - No, this was the Northern Line, not the Circle Line.

    jennyfreckles - Exactly. Who needs a books to read when there's so much going on at the backs of houses?

    Nevine - It is that initial moment of surprise, that melts into a predictable sequence, leaving you with so many questions you feel you should know the answers to. Amazing, indeed.

    Words A Day - I know exactly what you mean. That has happened to me as well. So bizarre.

  12. I have the strangest feeling I've read this blog before!

    hahahaha.... *gets coat***


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