Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

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

Who needs a dating agency?

After a decade of batchelor-hood in my 20's I joined a dating agency and through them met my wife (circa 2000). The agency actually broke their normal rules of matching people locally and paired us up even though we lived 120 miles apart. I was working (and always had - from 1991) in Ipswich, having grown up in a small village in the highlands of scotland. She spent early childhood in Glasgow but was soon moved to Corby (Northhamptonshire) where she grew up and still was (from about 1974 onwards). The dating agency (old style paper-based) matched us up and, to cut a long story short, we got engaged. This of course triggered more interest from the rest of the family. What we actually discovered was that my wife's uncle, still in Glasgow, knew of me, working 600 miles away, and of my family in the Highlands. i.e. he could pin-point who I was in his knowledge of friends and acquaintances. (I on the other hand, didn't even know he, or my wife's family, existed). Here's the chain of connection. Her uncle, "G" always worked for BT as an engineer in Glasgow (70's onward?). I also worked for BT in R&D since 1991. This in itself is not a surprising co-incidence - BT is so large that a fairly sizeable proportion of the working population has worked for them. However, this same fact means that few people within the company know each other. At one point it was 250,000 employees all over the UK - generally employees only know their local colleagues. G's knowledge of who I was came through the knowledge of my family. He was best friends with the McH's in glasgow, who regulalry visited an old crofter, "R", in the village where I grew up and where my parents live - up in Highlands: Roy Bridge. They visited him for their holiday every year once or twice a year. Now, R was/is also a longstanding good friend of my parents (and me) ever since they moved there in '74; so being a small community, the McH family are practically part of it. We all knew each other fairly well and a lot of community activity revolves around the local church. As a result of this, back in Glasgow, G (good friend of the McH's) was aware of Roy Bridge life and the involvement particularly of my family, as my mum was local teacher, church organist etc. I'm sure many a dram was enjoyed in Glasgow talking about holidays had and people met by the McH's when they went on their usual holiday. Consequently G would have known about the existence of my family, who we were very active in the community. It doesn't seem remarkable when you follow that chain, but when you look at it from "the outside in", which was my perspective, it looks like this: A "random" set of people all over the UK join a dating agency. The agency breaks their rules and match two people who would normally live too far apart. These people grew up at opposite ends of the country. I have no prior knowledge of my wife or her family or family history. So then when the family learns of our engagement, my wife's uncle, who lives 600 miles away from me, basically says "I work for the same company and I know who you are". From that angle it is/was most surprising!
Total votes: 996
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 11:33:25 +0000Coincidence ID:3330

Mr

Imagine 6 houses in a row. My name is Brown and I live in no 2. Some years ago a Brown also lived in 3, 5 and 6 at the same time. 3 and 5 have since moved and 5 years ago a Brown moved into no1
Total votes: 980
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 11:32:51 +0000Coincidence ID:3329

old colleagues

On the same day I received communications from 2 guys who I had been a graduate trainee with 33 years earlier. I had only been in sporadic contact with either since, and they had not been in contact with one another.
Total votes: 1007
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 11:17:44 +0000Coincidence ID:3328

my life

My incredible coincidence is in the mode of "unlikely chain of events." 13.75 billion years ago the universe was born. Since that time, the exactly correct sequence of events has conspired to end up with a situation whereupon I am posting this story on your website.
Total votes: 982
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 11:06:38 +0000Coincidence ID:3327

Last name

The unbocking code for Youtube at my college was my last name
You voted 4. Total votes: 1043
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 11:04:04 +0000Coincidence ID:3326

Two in the Bush

In 1968 I was a young engineer surveying a route for a road out in the Zambian bush hundreds of miles from civilisation. As I drove through a mud hut village I came upon an up-market hut with corrugated iron roof and a Coca Cola sign. Outside was another vehicle. This was such a highly unusual sighting that I decided to stop and be nosey. I was practising my "Doctor Livingstone, I presume" opening line as I entered but what I saw completely stopped me in my tracks. There was a friend of mine from back home in the UK, large as life and equally amazed as I. It had been many weeks since I had seen a non-African. That the first one I saw was a friend from UK was an amazing coincidence. We had last seen each other three months before back in London and we had not discussed the possibility of going to Africa. I still find it incredible that two friends could meet randomly half way around the world in the middle of a wilderness.
Total votes: 925
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 11:00:35 +0000Coincidence ID:3325

phone box wrong number was for passer by

In the mid 80s I lived in south Birmingham and after the pub my friends and I would walk home past a row of shops and then peel off to our various houses. One day when walking home the public phone box on the row of shops was ringing (this was about 11.30 at night). One of our group decided to answer it for a laugh and when he answered it the call was for him! His friend had mis-dialled his home number and got the call box just as he walked past. (When we looked into it the timing was partly because his friend had called at a time when he thought he would be getting in from the pub and the two phone numbers were very similar.)
Total votes: 1025
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 10:53:23 +0000Coincidence ID:3324

Drinks Party

Still recovering from the fact that our respective mother-in-laws had at the age of ten shared a cabin on a banana boat as they were evacuated to the West Indies, we just had to go to Barbados for our honeymoon. A friend of mine, Bill, heard about this and told me he had a house on Barbados and we must come and see him and gave me his phone number. I forget the exact number but let's say it was 26075. Julia and I were sunning ourselves on the beach outside Sandy Lane (in 1978 it wasn't quite so glamorous!) and I said "I'll just go and call Bill and say we're here". I dialed the number from a hotel phone but forgot to dial for an outside line and so got through to room '260' by mistake. Thinking I'd dialed his home number, when someone answered the phone I quite innocently said "Is Bill there". A slightly bemused voice said "Yes". A very perplexed Bill came to the phone and said "How the hell did you know I was here, I'm at a drinks party, come on up". So we did!
Total votes: 937
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 10:47:41 +0000Coincidence ID:3322

Chance meeting

In about August 1983 my family and I were visiting an aunt who lived in Burngate, Dorset right by the RAC Gunnery School. We were awakened on morning early by the sounds of tanks firing. In those days there was an observation post just down from the bungalow and I took my children down there as they wanted to see the tanks shooting. While we were there a young Army captain wandered over and began chatting. He asked my job and I explained I was an officer in the Merchant Navy. This lead on to discussions of places overseas we had visited, He described his last posting to Belize and a family who had befriended him. He had visited their home on numerous occasions and played golf with them. I asked their names as I was pretty sure I knew them. Indeed I did as I had rightly guessed they were my mother and father-in law.
Total votes: 948
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 10:44:00 +0000Coincidence ID:3321

Missing petrol cap and shopping coming to exactly £4.00

A few years ago I was shopping at Sainsburys in Bedford and purchased about 5 items including loose bananas ie they had to be weighed, not pre-priced. The bill came to £4.00. Strange? To me it was strange, as I had never before had to pay a round figure for an assortmant of items. I know this must happen but with many items being priced at a figure ending in 99 pence, it did seem odd. I left the store and drove into the Sainsburys petrol station to fill up. When I opened the filler flap I found that my petrol cap was missing. That had never happened before. I am not forgetful and access to the petrol cap was protected by a flap that could only be unlocked from inside the car. I put petrol in the car and went to pay. There on the counter was a box of filler caps for sale - one size fits all. I was about to buy one when the man behind the counter said that he had seen a petrol on the fore court earlier. I paid for the fuel and returned to my car. To my surprise I found a petrol cap sitting on the ledge by the petrol hoses. It was a different make but fitted so I took it. To me the eerie feeling I had was because of the combination of factors:- 1) I had never forgotten to put the cap back in place after filling up before; 2) I had never seen, nor seen seen since, an odd petrol cap left on a petrol pump; and, 3) I had never seen, nor seen since, petrol filler caps being actively promoted on the counter or at the point of payment. When I tell friends they laugh. I stiil find it spooky!!!!! And there was the exact £4.00 bill in the store. Couldn't have done it myself if I had tried!
Total votes: 895
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 10:38:54 +0000Coincidence ID:3320

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