TWO degrees of synchronicity…

and how i nearly know judi dench

There’s nothing remarkable about spotting famous people in Hampstead and its environs; especially people famous in the performing arts, for whom it’s something of an English Beverly Hills. At one time or another, NW3 has been home for everyone from the Pythons and Peter Cook to Daniel Craig and Ridley Scott, and hundreds more. So, the fact I’ve had an unplanned beer with Robert Plant, and almost had my head removed from its shoulders (accidentally I hasten to add) by Ricky Gervais (whilst performing some kind of Capoeira-cum-Taekwondo / jogging exercise in the street) is hardly surprising.

The walk up Holly Hill…

In fact, it’s no exaggeration to state that I spot at least one notable each and every time I take a stroll down the High Street. However, in all these years of involuntary celebrity spotting there’s one such incident that stands out for the way it highlights both Karinthy’s hypothesis of six degrees of separation (more properly just two in this case) and perhaps also a classic “Jungian” synchronism…

Approaching the pub in Holly Mount…

The Holly Bush was and is Hampstead’s quaintest and most picturesque public house. Originally part of the home of the great portrait artist George Romney, it retains an 18th century charm and warmth irresistible to lovers of traditional English watering holes. And being just such a fan, I would often go there during my lunch-time break from my work in a nearby picture framery.

So it happened on one such occasion, when sat in the main saloon, I looked up from my newspaper and spotted a familiar face propping up the corner of the bar, who I instantly recognised as the actor Michael Williams. Although I knew him from his TV roles, he was more famous to me as being the husband of Judi Dench, already established as one of the greatest stage actresses of hers, or anybody else’s generation. Funnily enough, it wasn’t so much Michael Williams who caught my attention as it was his drinking partner – a gentleman in late middle-age with a strikingly luxuriant mop of silver hair.

The corner of the bar where Michael Williams and Leonard Nicholson used to drink…

Over the following weeks, during subsequent lunch-time visits to the pub, I was greeted by this same scene on a regular basis – Michael Williams, and the silver-haired gentleman, always at their allotted places, at the corner of the bar. All of which would have remained nothing more than several in a long list of similar such celebrity sightings during my time in Hampstead.

However, the following year I met my future-wife, Dido Nicholson, whose mother and younger sister it turned out had been at school, with none other than Judi Dench. The fact that Dido’s aunt remains close friends with Dame Judi to this very day is merely interesting of itself, but what is far more intriguing, was the fact that Michael William’s silver-haired drinking partner turned out to be none other than Dido’s paternal uncle John Leonard Nicholson (a noted professor of statistics who had worked for several British government administrations in the 60’s).

The front of the building on Holly Hill with the blue plaque indicating this was once the home of the great portraitist George Romney.

In other words, about a year before I met Dido or knew anything about her, I had regularly shared a pub bar with both her uncle, and her aunt’s best friend’s husband. And perhaps even more remarkably, Leonard’s friendship with Michael Williams, and Dido’s aunt’s friendship with Judi Dench were totally unrelated to each other – the former having met socially in Hampstead, while the latter met at school as explained above.

Despite this apparent synchronicity I remain separated from Dame Judi by those aforementioned two degrees, as I have yet to meet her in person…

6 thoughts on “TWO degrees of synchronicity…

  1. Well, perhaps you will still make the connection some time.
    Actors and politicians in the U.S, have had a long affinity for one another, so I would occasionally see an actor from a distance during the years we worked in Washington, but my “separation” was always quite distant. The closest physical approach came when Jim, a colleague, and I attended a fundraiser for then Senator John Warner. We went through a reception line and met Elizabeth Taylor who was married to Warner at the time. Jim said something to her and to my surprise [and his], she kissed him. It turned out that at some point she had converted to Judaism, it was a holiday, and Jim had greeted her appropriately.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Adam
    Having a quiet snatched moment in the belsize kitchen reading your blog…… and surreptitiously glancing around to see if anyone ‘famous’ is hiding in the corner today…… not that I am competitive 😇… the old days when George Michael had his favourite secret table and tete a tetes in Artigiano or Nigel Williams grabbing his favourite bottle of ‘red’ Donna Helena from the belsize delicatessen or Helena Bonham Carter stocking up with Sage rosemary and thyme at the crescent fruiters…. but today it’s just lovely old local… Maurice and his peaky blinders flat cap and Nordic poles off heading out to walk off his rissotto and the architects hub crowd having a garrulous lunch and demolishing the fresh home baked cakes stand…. and me with me flat white with oat milk…..
    Loved your blog full of wit wisdom and larfs….. as usual…
    Love to you both xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Angela, and very eloquent and amusing yourself! As it happens I saw HBC two days ago as I passed the Royal Free – as sartorially challenged as ever, and yesterday, the Spurs midfielder, Eric Dier, trying to hide beneath his hoodie. This could be the basis of a game, don’t you think? 10 points for a film or sports star, 5 for a “TV celeb” and minus point penalties for politicians and TV journalists!! XXXs


    1. Wow Ana! Only a year late!! 😉And yes please to chivo! We made it here yesterday from Gibraltar again without any problems. It’s wonderful to be back in our lovely home and our land is loving the rain. 😘


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