I didn't know anything much about reincarnation, except in the vaguest way as part of a superficial investigation into comparative religion. I didn't much think about it either, until the night that I shook hands with a stranger in a pub in Harrow.
My husband and I were in a pub quiz team that played other pubs in the region. We would sometimes play at home and sometimes in the pubs we were playing against. The normal routine was for us to travel together with the landlord of our pub, have a drink, meeting the other team, play the quiz and go home.
I wasn't expecting anything different when I arrived in the pub in Harrow, and I didn't know any of the members of the other team. However, when I shook hands with one of the people, I received a jolt... I felt immediate warm feelings of recognition, like an old friend not seen for many years, and a jumble of memories and snapshots fell into my head.
I saw myself ironing in a dark flat, with someone I knew to be my sister Amanda next to me and this man. Then I saw us in a club, dancing. The club was clearly from the 1950s and I was born in 1958 and so I fairly quickly realised there was something very strange about the experience. I had vague impressions of us together as a threesome, and snapshotty impressions. I soon realised that despite the great warmth of love and affection, it was based on nothing, I couldn't grasp any actual fact from that apparent memory which would link it to a time and place.
I have to mention here a circumstance which isn't strictly relevant, but helps to explain my interest in things spiritual. When my daughter was very small, I went to my first Quaker meeting. I had the impression, not that I wanted to be a Quaker, or could understand Quakers, but that I had always been a Quaker and just hadn't realised it. When I was a teenager, I had repeated dreams and visions about being in a very simple room, dressed in grey. I thought I was a nun, but now I wasn't so sure. Maybe the grey was Quaker dress?
About that same time, when Kate was three months old, I was walking down the local high street when I had a transcendant experience of God. Unexpectedly. I don't know quite how to describe the feeling, but I felt I was high up and that I was both part of God and my own individual self. I had been worrying about the idea of being subsumed into God, as the end result of life, and I wasn't sure I wanted to be subsumed - I liked my individuality. I found my fears were assuaged by this experience when I understood how it was possible to be part of a greater thing and yet retain individuality. I also experience an overwhelming sense of love for everyone and everything I could see.
I don't know how long that experience lasted but of course that experience made me know that I was part of God and that God was a part of me - and all that is - and that He loves us unconditionally. It changed it from a matter of faith to a matter of experience, for me.
Several years later, I went for an anniversary weekend to Rye in Sussex, which is where we spent out short honeymoon on getting married. We went to the Martello bookshop, which was then still run by a rather eccentric woman called Cynthia Reavell. She used to handwrite reviews of the books on card and place them on the books in the shop. She seemed to spend her time doing that and protesting at any article which claimed that E.F. Benson, local author, was actively homosexual.
I picked up a book called Destiny, which is the book by Martin Heald about his gradual understanding that he was an airman who had been shot down in the Second World War. I didn't read it until I was on my way home, and about three or four days after I started reading it I came across the description of his remembered experience between lives... which I had dreamed about in extreme detail a few weeks before, long before I had bought it or even knew of its existence.
I was so struck by this circumstance, that I wrote to Martin Heald, who was nice enough to reply to me. It was hard not to feel that I had been meant to read the book.
Once I got online in 1998, I started to look for information about reincarnation, and found various websites which purported to show evidence of reincarnation. The site which impressed me a lot was that set up by Joseph Myers and showed a great number of photographs of supposed reincarnation cases.
Some of his cases, it has to be said, ARE too good to be true, as he links people who overlap in life, on the basis that maybe parallel lives are a possibility. I can't say for sure, but it seems unlikely.
I continued to research, and as more and more was added to the internet, I found more and more websites talking about the possibility of reincarnation, about near death experiences.
Then something rather strange started to happen. It's hard to explain, and the feeling that people will consider me deluded or mad has crossed my mind. I have always had fairly useless prophetic dreams, about really ridiculous things. Never anything useful, always about what I am going to read in the headlines in the paper, or programmes on tv, stupid trivial things, which aren't impressive and aren't going to save the world from disaster.
Sometimes I didn't know what they were until afterwards. I dreamed I was in a car and a man jumped into the road in front of me, holding a teddybear in front of his face. The car spun out of control and turned over and that's all I remember. I had the dream about three days before Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris. Maybe that was coincidence, maybe it had nothing to do with it. It seemed an odd concatination of events.
The point is there is a certain feeling I associate with those sorts of dreams. I can't verbalize what it is except to say it sort of clicks into place. It has a quality which is different from a "normal" dream. Then I started to get that feeling when I looked at pictures of people... not always, just some of the time.
This is very hard to explain. I sometimes know when I have received a letter or email before I know it for a fact, and when I do, I know that I know - it isn't just a feeling but a knowing, and has a different feel emotionally altogether. Perhaps you just have to be there, I don't know.
Anyway, I would suddenly have a name pop into my head when I saw a picture, and I would get that click and feeling of knowing, randomly. I didn't know how or why. I still don't know if this is a real thing or not. But some of them impressed me!
I remember the first time I felt it and heard the name was when I watched a four year old perform on Britain Has got Talent...and thought of Eva Cassidy as soon as I saw her. OK, you don't have to be psychic to think Eva Cassidy when someone sings Over the Rainbow
But the next photograph I saw was a picture of the violinist and composer Nigel Kennedy and the name Scriabin jumped in. Now, I accept that having done music A level at school, I may have come across the picture of Scriabin at some stage, and my subconscious may simply have made the connection. But I was pretty stunned when I compared the picture of the two:
I became ever more interested in the subject. I continued to research and found the Return of the Revolutionaries website, which seemed to have a lot of suggested cases. All of them, or virtually all, are disputed by Brian Stalin, and so I became interested in what he had to say.
I have read his website, and looked at the things he has said. He is in favour or using love to heal the world, but it has to be said that his comments about people who believe they have gained knowledge from hypnosis or psychics is not terrifically moderate or loving. But I contacted him and asked him to do a reading for me. According to Brian Stalin, I was Francoise Marie de Bourbon in a previous life.
I don't know what I expected... that I would feel something connects us, or some sort of recognition. I was taken to Versailles by the French family I stayed with when I was about 15 years old, and I don't remember feeling any particular feeling about the place when I was there.
I started to research the background for Francoise Marie... and there are certain things that resonate. I have a slight lopsidedness to my face, she was a bit lopsided too. I would say I am physically lazy, and she seems to have been very physically lazy. She could write very well - even the Count de Saint Simon, who wasn't her greatest fan, said that she wrote very well... and I can write.
However, there isn't much else that I can say. I don't think I am a very good match facially for her now that I am older... and I'm not sure I ever was. I don't have a scanner at the moment, or I would upload a few less wrinkly pictures of myself for comparison.
There is something of her in the picture of Louise Francoise de Bourbon. She's a skeptic and so thinks I am completely crazy, but that's ok. I am not at all sure that I know whether this is right or not. But I am intrigued to know what I can know about it.
I have been reading memoirs and trying to work out whether I can deduce anything from what has been written about Louise or Francoise Marie. As it happens, there is a lot written about the court of Louis XIV. Many of the women kept journals or wrote frequent letters, and there is always the Count de Saint Simon, recording, and plotting and recording some more. I believe that his memoirs are considered the best ever written in any language, and that may be so.
I'm reserving judgement of what I have been told, but I hope that by searching for answers I may find new light on the matter. Fortunately I am fascinated by history and so it is not a chore to read a lot of memoirs from the 18h century!