Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

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

Husband's death - calendars

My beloved husband died on 20 May last year. I always bought him a day-to-day peel off "Peanuts" desk calendar as he was a great Snoopy fan. By the beginning of 2011 he was not well enough to interest himself in this, and the calendar has been sitting on his desk ever since. A few weeks ago, on a bad day for me, I casually flipped through it to see which of the characters were on, for example, his birthday, our anniversary etc. I then thought I would check Friday 20 May, the date of his death - and the page for that day was not there! The spine of the calendar is untouched so no-one has removed the page (in any case I now live on my own and no visitors would tamper with it). In a second related coincidence, I bought a white hardy fuchsia to plant in the garden where we scattered my husband's ashes (since there was no room for another tree). I researched what I was looking for on the internet and purchased a specimen on line. It is a single white fuchsia called 'Hawkshead'. Despite being a fairly keen gardener, I had never heard of it, neither had any of the family. Last week, I was getting rid of a BBC Gardeners' World calendar for 2011. If of course has lovely photos and I just casually looked through in case there was any I wished to keep. Imagine my surprise when I came to May (the month of my husband's death) and found a picture of Fuchsia Hawkshead on that page. By May, my husband was in our local hospice so I was hardly at home and don't think I even went into the room where the calendar was, so I certainly did not see it. Strangely enough, I mentioned both these events only yesterday at a bereavement support group I am attending at the Hospice; everyone there found it a bit weird. I am now waiting for coincidence number 3! Incidentally, Bill's toy Snoopy (which I bought him 30 years ago, a constant companion!) was on his pillow when he died and was cremated with him - their ashes are therefore both buried with the fuchsia, a nice rounding up of both stories. Sheila Brown
Total votes: 363
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:36:25 +0000Coincidence ID:3704

Meeting in Distant Parts

In Jan 2009 myself and partner booked into a motel on the Coromandel peninsular in New Zealand. The following morning my partner was wandering in the garden when a man sat outside one of the lodges said good morning, and recognising her accent asked where we were from. She replied Cornwall- and as we were used to Australians and Americans asking if we knew specific people when they realised where we came from, my partner was prepared for the next question- 'oh do you know John and Sue in Hayle' he asked - slightly taken aback my partner recognised the names and replied "do you mean John and Sue XXXX"- "yes" he replied, "I used to be married to Sue!"
Total votes: 418
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:36:15 +0000Coincidence ID:3703

Infants Reunited

In 2010 having returned to my home town after 20 years I googled local 'homeopaths'. The first one was attached to my new GP surgery, although a different medical and legal entity. I chose that one. On the first appointment, after a while, the receptionist asked whether I had had a different surname 'Yes' - was it '....' 'Yes'. The practitioner entered the reception area to find his new patient and his receptionist hugging each other having not seen each other for 45 years, since about 1966. That was lovely. We were neighbours, but went to different infant/junior schools because it was more convenient for one of the families to attend a school further away. A few weeks later, having finished that day's consultation, the homeopathist said 'I think we were at the same infant school.' We compared notes and photographs and indeed we were. So, two former schoolmates within one alternative therapy practice which employs a very small number of people. And although in the same town, not in the same area where our school had been. On first thinking of telling you this I thought it would have been more of a 'coincidence' to have had all three of us at the same infant/junior school. We were after all in the catchment area for the same school. But I wonder if it is more statistically interesting to meet one friend from an infant school and one from a senior school?
Total votes: 400
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:35:44 +0000Coincidence ID:3702

Two tales of serendipty

FIRST COINCIDENCE In 1967 I was living and working in my home town of Exeter and every day I used to meet a young chap (whose name I've now forgotten) who used to chat me up. One day he told me that he was moving to London to train as a policeman at Hendon. I told him I was going to work in London too so he said, "Give me a ring when you get there". At first in London I worked as a temp in a hotel and there was a pay phone near our canteen. One lunch time I looked up the number of Hendon and dialed. I got through to their office and they said that cadets couldn't take calls there but that they would give me the number of a call box. If I was lucky someone might be passing who knew my friend. I dialed the call box. There was no ringing tone because someone had just picked up the phone at the other end to make a call. In that split second we had got connected and both said 'Hello'. I said I was looking for 'name of friend' and the voice at the other end said, "I don't believe this! It's me. I just came in to make a call". It would have been quite remarkable if he had been just passing the call box as I rang but he said that there were hundreds of cadets at Hendon and the likelihood of getting him at that time was remote. SECOND COINCIDENCE This also happened when I moved to London. After working as a temp I went for interviews for a permanent job. One day I caught the tube to Euston and as I walked along the platform I recognised a chap standing there looking a bit bewildered. He was someone I had worked with in a summer holiday job in Exeter some years before. Just bumping into him was just a bit amazing but when he told me about his travels that morning it was even more so. He lived in Finchley and caught his morning train as usual but for some reason thought he'd got on the wrong one so got off and got on another one. Then he realised the first train was the right one and the second was the wrong one so he got off again and that was at Euston. He said that was the only morning he had ever done that and the only time he would have been standing there on the Euston platform.
Total votes: 376
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:35:39 +0000Coincidence ID:3701

Sibling birthdays

Dear Professor Spiegelhalter, No doubt you are receiving a flood of mails as a result of this morning's Radio 4 broadcast. My mother had two brothers and a sister (Eddie, Gordon and Margaret Sterry), all born on the same date a few years apart on, I believe, March 19th. I always remember her saying each year that she only had to remember one birthday - and she was the exception, born on January 31. All four siblings are now dead, but if you are interested I can certainly get exact birth dates from my cousins (unless they have already contacted you!) I believe you said there were only 8 such cases in the country - well here's another, With best wishes, Gillian Lathey
Total votes: 322
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:35:37 +0000Coincidence ID:3700

connection with a stranger

I'd decided to join an Alpha course ( to explore Christianity ), and went alone to the church hall at Beverley Minster - totally unfamiliar to me. I was late and apprehensive at the prospect of joining complete strangers for a meal, which is how the course starts. The smallish room crowded with people sitting at tables with no familiar face and no vacant seat in sight! An organiser made space for me at a nearby table where the people seated seemed to know each other. It was difficult not to want to run away. During pleasantries, a man to my left asked had I lived in East Yorks all my life and I explained we had moved around, having lived in Manchester. Wakefield, Bradford and latterly Halifax area before Scarborough and then East Yorks. He said he'd an Aunt in Halifax and struggled to remember the name of the district though described the 'moor', a large area of grass called Saville Park. Belle Hall was the street his Aunt lived in. I knew it well. He went on to say his Aunt used to have carers in to look after her mother. I knew both the Aunt and her mother very well. I was one of the people that used to go in and care for her. A few months later, my youngest daughter and I went for a pub lunch at a village - not a usual haunt at all being 10 miles away. There, totally unexpextedly, I bumped into the Aunt - after 15 years!
Total votes: 457
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:34:24 +0000Coincidence ID:3699

Mr g abrahams

Before the time of mobile phones I was in a phone box to phone a friend. There was a break through on the line and I heard two of the directors of the company I worked for discussing financial problems. Ilest the company and shortly afterwards it broke up
Total votes: 416
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:33:41 +0000Coincidence ID:3698

old acquaintance

I was born in Derry, NI and had lost contact with an old school friend. I read an article about her brother in our university graduate magazine which included his email address. At the time he was a prof in Astrophysics in Georgia Tech. I emailed him asking him for his sister's address. He picked up my email while he was on sabbatical in Harvard. We hadn't met for 35 years. The following day he went into the library and the librarian picked up his accent, asked if he was from Derry and if he knew my family? Nuala Rosher
Total votes: 384
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:33:29 +0000Coincidence ID:3697

Plane Crash in 1943

In 1943 a Messerschmitt was shot down over Woking,It fell in the garden of a house called "Little Ingestree",near Mytchett.In the garden was a circle of Yew trees with a mature Lime in the middle.The plane sliced right through the Lime,and there was considerable fire.Considering that Yew has been associated with death for hundreds of years,I think that this was remarkable.The crew are buried in Brookwood cemetary.Afterwards,a blacksmith made a brace and bolted the two parts of the tree together. It is worth mentioning that Rudolph Hess was held in a house about 100 yards from the crash site.
Total votes: 480
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:33:06 +0000Coincidence ID:3696

How close can you get

My wife and i went on a nile cruise. Standing in the queue to go through customs, we found we were behind a close friend and his wife. They were also going on a nile cruise. It later transpired thar not only were we on the same boat but that their cabin was immediately above ours and we could talk to each other from our balconies.
Total votes: 403
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:32:30 +0000Coincidence ID:3695