More about that later, because this post is about a wonderful woman called Lusca (sorry about the bad spelling - it's pronounced 'Lootshka') and a series of very strange coincidences which make me realise how small the world really is.
I first met Lusca in her home country of Slovenia, which - at that time - was part of the wider Yugoslavia. She was our guide and fixer for a series of theatrical performances in Ljubljana, and had somehow managed to gather together our fee of about $3000 U.S. in cash, which she handed to us in an old shoe box as soon as we arrived. How she did this was incredible, and must have involved some dealings with the underworld at the time. They were all very poor, but very proud and extremely resourceful.
Lusca introduced us to her son, who had red hair and was around 7 years old at the time. She told us this amazing story:
When her boy was about 4 years old, they were traveling at night on a train from one town to another, passing through the very rocky, hostile landscape which makes up a lot of the flatter parts of Slovenia. The train was moving at high speed, and Lusca did not notice the boy fiddling with the door handle. Without warning, the door - which opened to the front - flashed open, and her son was sucked out and thrown into the rocks below. Lusca screamed and pulled the emergency cord. Because the train was traveling at about 90 miles per hour, it took about 3 miles to stop. The guard told her that the best thing to do was to carry on to the next station, then send a party out to look for him.
When they arrived, a group of sombre officials told her that to search for the boy in the dark was futile, and that he was sure to be dead, so they would begin looking for him in the morning. By this time, Lusca was almost hysterical, and began walking back up the track in the dark, ignoring orders for her to stop. She walked alone for miles in the rocky landscape, back up the tracks.
After several hours, she noticed a small figure standing by the tracks in the darkness, and as she ran toward him, she saw that it was her son - alive and well and completely unscathed. When she embraced him, he said in an angry voice,
"Mummy - where were you? I've been waiting for ages!"
She asked him what happened, and he said, "Oh nothing. I just flew like a bird".
I next met Lusca in the Swiss Alps, where she was living with her boyfriend, but when I went over to Quebec a few years later to 'represent' Britain in the annual snow carving festival, I noticed a familiar face at the reception. It was Lusca.