Home Opinion and Features Treasure unearthed by serendipity

Treasure unearthed by serendipity


We know that Sri Lanka and South Africa were recently engaged in various formats of the game known as cricket

File image

These days, much of my reading is serendipity. The word means making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident.

The word comes from the characters created by Horace Walpole in 1754 in the fairy tale “The Three Princes of Serendip”, which was first Ceylon, and is now Sri Lanka. These three chaps made discoveries accidentally which gave them great pleasure and lots of unexpected knowledge.

We know that Sri Lanka and South Africa were recently engaged in various formats of the game known as cricket.

If you look at that sentence you will see the varied connections which we make by just checking on a word, in this case serendipity.

Some of the more senior of my five readers (oh, yes, I grow apace) will remember a vocal group called the Serendipity Singers.

There is another connection, a discovery, unexpected and perhaps a reason to go and find their music, which was middle-of-the-road folk and very pleasant listening.

This train of thought was triggered when I had to solve a crossword clue in the Cape Argus which asked for the name of the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of hell.

The answer is Cerberus, which prevented shades, or ghosts, from escaping from Hell and returning to Earth.

And, we find, Hades and Earth are separated by a river called Styx.

And can you tell me off-hand the name of Alexander the Great’s horse? Okay, so you got Bucephalus. But do you know how he got to ride this wild horse which threw every rider who attempted to mount him? How did Alexander stay in the saddle?

He noticed that all riders approached the horse when it faced away from the sun.

It was skitterish because of its own shadow.

When a rider tried to mount, the changing shadow configuration made the horse even more bucephalus.

What did wily old Alex do? He turned the horse facing into the sun, so that its shadow was behind it.

And he could mount, control and eventually ride the horse into and out of many battles.

Useful? Useless?

I don’t know. But it has a fascination of its own.

And you might know about lady Godiva who rode naked on horseback. But through which town?

Why? And when?

You might not take me seriously. Or you might assume I am reaching blindly to complete a column.

You are so wrong.

It has always been my willingness to read, or dip into books, or page through books and generally sniff around that sometimes found me fun stuff, sometimes rubbish.

But I always had things to say or think about because I was, and am, and will always be a reader.

Will you make April a Read-Anything-Month and we revisit in May to see how it went?