Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

Professor David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University wants to know about your coincidences!

Friend coincidence

About 13 years ago my daughter started a new school and made friends with a girl in her class. I got on really well with her mother who was older than me and we became good friends meeting up and socialising. A while before this I had gone back to university part time in a different part of London and had got in with a group of women who I also made friends with and socialised with. Amongst this group was a woman a few years younger than me. These separate friendships continued for some time and at an event my university friend turned up with her partner and children.

Simultaneous event

20-odd years ago , it was decided that we should play a game of Trivial Pursuit one afternoon. I am not usually a 'board game' person but when I have to, and have a choice, I always opt for the more scientific questions rather than entertainment ones.

Same wavelength - different continent!

We had friends from Australia staying with us for 3 months. I had lent the wife of the couple one of my fleece jackets as they didn't have any warm outer-wear. They returned to Australia and several weeks later I decided to sort through the cupboards in our guest bedroom and underneath the fleece jacket on the same hanger was a lightweight jumper. I knew it wasn't mine and deduced it belonged to our friend who had inadvertently left it behind. At the very moment I had my hand on the sleeve of the jumper, our 'phone rang.

Lucky escape?

Back in 1978/79, as part of my degree course, I was working for a year as an English assistant in French school. I decided to pay my parents in London a surprise visit in the February half-term. I was on a ferry from Dieppe to Newhaven in the middle of the night, in dense fog. I struck up a conversation with an Australian nurse in the cafe, over a coffee. After a while we decided to go up to the lounge deck. When we got there, as I opened the door and looked in I felt there was a very eery green light in there, and something told me not to go in.

calling my best friend

As a teenager, I wanted to chat with my best friend during a school break. It was the days before mobiles, and we might chat once a week on our parent's phone in the hall, rather than every day! It had been a while since we'd talked and so I called up her one evening. Her phone was engaged. Five minutes later, she called and said she'd tried to call a few minutes before, but my line was engaged. We'd called at exactly the same time and engaged both our telephone numbers! We are still best friends thirty years on.

Objet trouvé

November 2011. My wife and I were walking home through the streets of Cologne on the night in the month when people can put unwanted furniture and household objects out on the pavement to be collected the next morning by the refuse authority. I spotted a pile of such refuse at the far end of a street and suggested we crossed over to have a look. You are allowed to take anything you want from such 'Sperrmüll'. "We have enough junk," said my wife. "What do you hope to find?" "Who knows?

Long distance small coincidence

I had to fly from the UK to Beijing China for a few days on a business trip in 1998. It was a direct flight with air china. I had to fill in a check in form at the hotel. I reached for my pen and found it had leaked inside my pocket (maybe due to the flight air pressure changes). It was a basic retractable / disposable ball-point type pen. The guy behind the desk gave me his pen to fill in the form....It was exactly the same make / type of pen.

wrong number, but identical name

I needed to have a Gas Certificate for my tenanted property and asked a local Corgi registered person to call my tenant, Will J, to arrange a convenient appointment time. I gave the Corgi man the name and mobile number of my tenant. A day later, the Corgi man rang back and said he'd come to inspect the flat but my tenant was out. He'd then called the number I'd given him and spoken with a Will J who said did not live in that town and had never heard of me.

Morogoro, Tanzania

My daughter was born in Morogoro, a small township l50 miles inland from Dar es Salaam. We returned to UK, and 30 years later ended up in Ilfracombe in North Devon running a small restaurant. My daughter was waitressing one evening and talking to a family of Asians, and the talk got round to birthplaces. They asked where Claire was born, and when she said Morogoro, Tanzania, the patriarch of the family slapped his knee in complete disbelief. His family ran the hotel in Morogoro. Coincidence?

Prayers answered?

Six years ago I was going through a rough patch,shall we say, and got down on my knees and just asked the universe to give me a good,well-paid teaching job and someone to share my life with, who I could really get along with. The next morning I was flicking through the small ads in my local paper and there was the tiniest advertisement saying that a local grammar school needed a French and Spanish teacher to start IMMEDIATELY. I called them the next day ( a Friday), went along straight away for an interview and was asked to start that Monday.