Serendipity: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

As they leapfrog from South Africa to Singapore in search of local delicacies, the authors prove again and again that serendipity is the traveler’s strongest ally: many of their most memorable meals issue from the hands of generous strangers …— Sarah Karnasiewicz,  Saveur,  June/July 2008

If reporters fail to keep these files, they seldom luck into bigger stories. Their investigative work typically happens only by design—analyzing the news, for instance—not by serendipity.— Michael J. Bugeja,  Editor & Publisher,  13 Jan. 2003

In the mid-1700s, English author Horace Walpole stumbled upon an interesting tidbit of information while researching a coat of arms. In a letter to his friend Horace Mann he wrote: “This discovery indeed is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word, which as I have nothing better to tell you, I shall endeavor to explain to you: you will understand it better by the derivation than by the definition. I once read a silly fairy tale, called ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’: as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of….” Walpole’s memory of the tale (which, as it turns out, was not quite accurate) gave serendipity the meaning it retains to this day.

Susan calls it serendipity, Jane calls it God’s will.

Photography, like architecture, can be the art of serendipity.

There is the well-known adage that “Behind every great man there’s a great woman” but I’m here to tell you there’s another, “Behind every great event there’s a great dog“. Not to detract from the 1960/70s feminist movement (which first used the slogan in the 1940s), it is a peculiar narrative that in two instances – both sparked by a French bulldog – we developed meaningful and otherwise quite unrelated relationships. Both relationships – though having commenced years apart and never having collided – continue not only to this day but literally to this very day! This morning we brunched with the Diners; this afternoon we received an email from the Andersons. All of us are Canadian. We’re all in the southern United States of America at the moment, the Andersons on Hilton Head Island, SC; the Diners on Anna Maria Island, FL; and we on Longboat Key, FL. Only a moment ago I received a current beach photo of Max (Jay and Alana Andersons’ French bulldog).

The connection between us and the Andersons arose when visiting Hilton Head Island in 2012:

I received an email from J. A. this morning (December 25, 2013).  He wrote to invite us for a visit to their nearby “cottage”.  Last year J. and his wife, A., were walking their magnificent French bulldog Max on the beach.  I was bicycling on the beach towards them.  Upon seeing Max I dropped the bike and rushed to see him.  As fate would have it J. and A. (whom I had never met before) are from Canada.  What however is even more serendipitous is that this year on Saturday morning after our arrival, just after we had settled in at the condo, we were taking our first bike ride and within minutes I saw this marvellous French bulldog.  Once again I made a commotion about seeing the dog.  The owner then said, “Are you from Canada?”  Of course the whole affair came crashing back to me.  This was Max!  We rekindled our acquaintance.  Subsequently I sent a photo I had taken of Max to them.  I still had their email address on my iPhone!

Since our first meeting we have rallied with the Andersons (and Max naturally) on numerous occasions in Ottawa, Burnstown and Almonte. It is another odd but amusing detail that we are by far the old fogeys of the relationship with the Andersons (as we are similarly with the Diners). I don’t hesitate to account this information as it obviously arose entirely by chance and is otherwise of no discernible import.

As for the Diner connection (and its underlying canine provocation) I can do no better than include below what I wrote about it years ago.

The Diner Connection:

Life never ceases to amaze me! From my public school days I remember very clearly “The Mayor of Casterbridge” by Thomas Hardy. Its memorialization of coincidence and the significance we derive from it has never left me. Perhaps it is the romantic element in me that causes me to embrace, and even at times champion, coincidence and to a lesser degree its sister destiny. But rather than viewing coincidence as anything as foreboding as fatalism, I prefer to see coincidence as an opportunity in life to profit by the concurrence of events, to bring about an ultimate conclusion which is a correspondence of substance, nature and character, not merely fate.

This esoteric introduction is meant to lay the ground-work for the day I met Alan S. Diner. It was a hot summer day in late August in Ottawa, about 1995 or 1996. I was sitting alongside the Ottawa River with my friend Janet Rintoul having a pic-nic of bread and cheese. My dog, Monroe, was with me, occasionally stealing bits of cheese as he cautiously waded in and out of the water’s edge. During this tranquil event a jogger came along. It was Alan. He was scantily clad in a pair of red onion skin shorts and of course the statutory pair of running shoes which always look to me like something one would use to outfit a small truck. Alan had obviously been running for some time because the sweat was pouring off him and whether it was that or Monroe that caused him to stop I am not sure. But Alan clearly had an interest in Monroe and I then engaged in what had by now become a thoroughly standardized explanation of what type of dog he was, that no he wasn’t growling, he just can’t breathe; discussion of his age, etc. I then turned the conversation to the interloper. When I asked him whether he were from the area he said he lived here for the past summer but was returning to Toronto tomorrow. This immediately prompted me to ask what law firm he had articled with. This caused Alan to step back a little. He replied that in fact he had been clerking to one of the Justices of the Federal Court. I asked which Judge in particular and he replied Mr. Justice Hugessen. “Jim and Mary Hugessen!“, I proclaimed, “Wonderful people! They go to the same Church as I do in Almonte“. I suppose I should have put it the other way around, “That I go to the same Church as they do“, especially considering Mary’s family – the Rosamonds of the woollen mill fame – effectively built it!

The Honourable James K. Hugessen. Born July 26, 1933 in Montreal, Quebec. Education at Oxford University; McGill University and University of Montreal. Called to the Bar of Quebec in 1958. Appointed Puisne Judge of the Superior Court of Quebec in 1972; Associate Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Quebec in 1973; Judge of the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada in 1975; Deputy Justice of the Supreme Court of the North- West Territories in 1977; Judge of the Federal Court of Canada, Appeal Division and ex officio mem ber of the Trial Division on July 18, 1983, Judge of the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization, Geneva on July 1, 1997 and Judge of the Federal Court of Canada, Trial Division, June 23, 1998 to July 26, 1998 at which time became Supernumerary Judge. Since July 2, 2003, the date of the coming into force of the Courts Administration Service Act, Supernumerary Judge of the Federal Court. Retired on July 26, 2008. Appointed as Deputy Judge of the Federal Court on July 28, 2008. Address: Federal Court, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0H9.

This flurry of conversation, the sudden recognition of something so totally unexpected, had the effect of opening up a floodgate of possibilities. I then indicated I had plans to have some people to Almonte that evening for one of the last summer evening barbecues and would he care to join us? He hesitated a moment, since he had apparently made arrangements with certain friends to spend the last few hours in Ottawa with them; but, he accepted the invitation, and we then made plans for him to meet other friends in Ottawa before heading out to the country.

As so often happens in circumstances such as these, where spontaneity and coincidence are at their playful best, the evening turned out to be a smash hit. Alan was of course the star of the evening, not only because of his charm, good looks and worldly interest; but he stunned us all at the end of the evening when he sat down to the Steinway grand and played numerous classical pieces at the level of a concert pianist. As it turns out his mother had wanted him to be a concert pianist but he opted for law. To jump ahead a bit on this point, as recently as September of 1999, Alan had determined to head back to Toronto again (he had in the meantime been with law firms in both Toronto and Ottawa) to take up digs as in-house Counsel for a firm specializing in entertainment law which perhaps combines the two occupations.

Alan has always made a point of including me in his visits to Ottawa. Most recently he and his delightful lady friend, Lisa Cameron (to whom he is now engaged to be married) visited for a couple of days in Almonte. They are both considerably younger than I but we do not seem to get bogged down on that point. Alan is also good about reuniting with Jim and Mary Hugessen, and Denis and I have on more than one occasion foregathered on a Sunday morning at the Victoria Woollen Mill in downtown Almonte for brunch. Alan has since been appointed as a Justice to the Federal Court of Canada. Alan and Lisa have four fabulous children.

Justice Diner received a Bachelor of Laws in 1993 and a Master of Laws in Trade and Competition Law in 1998, both from Osgoode Hall Law School. He was called to the Bars of Ontario (1995) and New York (2005). He received the Certified Specialist in Immigration Law designation from the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2013.

Prior to being appointed to the Federal Court in June, 2014, Justice Diner headed Baker & McKenzie LLP’s immigration practice, where he was recognized as a leading practitioner in peer-reviewed services such as the Who’s Who, Lexpert, Martindale Hubbell and [UK]. He published widely in various legal and industry publications. He also practiced administrative law with two other leading firms in Toronto, including immigration, trade and competition law. Justice Diner’s prior roles included managing the establishment and implementation of Ontario’s Provincial Nominee Program for the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, as well as other public sector work. Prior to his call to the Bar, Justice Diner served as a law clerk to Mr. Justice J. K. Hugessen of the Federal Court of Appeal.

Mr. Justice Diner has always been active in community service, having served on various not-for-profit Boards. He mentored various individuals from new immigrants to new lawyers, and spoke on behalf of organizations. Pro bono work included representing refugees. Recognition for his civic involvement includes being named one of Canada’s Top 25 Canadian Immigrants (2014), and receiving awards such as a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, Sue Ryan Memorial Award (CERC), and Crescent School’s Alumnus of the Year (2013).