Hours later, by an extraordinary coincidence, my ex-boss phoned. I hadn't spoken to him since September. He wanted to know if I'd consider returning to my old job. I was flattered to be asked and said that I would think it over, but I already knew the answer.
Going back is always a mistake.
I thought ruefully about the photographs I'd never see; but in the second odd coincidence of the day, later found an album at the bottom of a box of dusty books:
The photos appear to have all been taken in South Africa around 1911, but the writing is in German. It's possible that some of these scenes were taken in Namibia, which was then the German colony of South-West Africa.
Some of the scenes look cosily European, but others provide a stark reminder that these people were in a very different environment:
Although this is Africa, the natives barely feature in this album. They can occasionally be seen in the background, quietly, invisibly performing the menial tasks that allowed the Europeans to enjoy such a high standard of living.
This photo is one of several that shows damaged buildings and vast crowds of men. I wondered if there was some civil unrest in this period between the Boer War and First World War, but couldn't find any references.
This is my favourite picture - an extraordinary image which looks staged, but I'd like to know more about the background (or 'backstory' as everyone seems to say now)
This album raises so many questions. Are they German settlers in South Africa and if so, what happened to them when war broke out in 1914? If they lived in South-West Africa, did they remain when the colony was ceeded to South Africa, or did they return to Europe?
The children might have lived until quite recently. I wonder what their stories were.
Finding this album reminded me that my favourite part of working with 'recycled' books was always the photos, with their tantalising glimpses of lost, forgotten lives. However wonderful a book might be, it is always one of many. A photograph album is unique.
I have been distracted by other things during the last nine months, but I'm going to find some new sources of pictures. There's nothing I like more than restoring a worn photograph into an image that gains a whole new lease of life on the internet.
I'm sure some readers of this blog will remember this:
I hope that there's a lot more to come.