Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

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

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.

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.)

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!

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.

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.

off track schoolfriends

I was in Dusseldorf visiting friends in 1996 when the airport burnt down, so rather than fly home I needed to get a train to Holland. Not speaking German, when I got onto the platform I migrated towards English voices. Coincidentally they happened to be 2 schoolfriends from 20 years previously, over on business. (approx 1500 pupils at the school, 300 per year group, 90 per 'county')

My new landlord was my friend's lodger

My friend Nick was living in a flat owned by his friend Adam. Adam moved to Bath to study, so I moved into the spare room in his flat. Meanwhile Adam found a room in Bath, and his new landlord was Craig, who was was one of my best friends from University. Very strange!

off track schoolfriends

Derek I was in Dusseldorf visiting friends in 1996 when the airport burnt down, so rather than fly home I needed to get a train to Holland. Not speaking German, when I got onto the platform I migrated towards English voices. Coincidentally they happened to be 2 schoolfriends from 20 years previously, over on business. (approx 1500 pupils at the school, 300 per year group, 90 per 'county')

How I met my husband and family

At a party miles from home in totally unrelated circumstances got talking to a friend of a friend. Had been in same social group for a while but never really talked to one another. Somehow got talking about school and I asked where he went to school. "A long way from here, you wouldn't know it" he replied, insisting for no good reason that he told me the name it turned out we both went to the same school only four years apart. This is quite a coincidence baring in mind that it is a small county school (in his day a Grammar School but not by the time I got there) on the welsh border. Second coincidence, my husbands Grandmother was a survivor of the Holocaust. Whilst pregnant I chose the name for a girl of Hope because i had been seriously ill prior to getting pregnant. She was born on November 9th, which unbeknown to us at the time was coincidently in 1938 Kristallnacht, (Night of Broken Glass) when Jewish people were attacked throughout the night in Germany. Grandmother was delighted, she said, "For her to be born on this day is incredible, and you have called her Hope, and that is all that we had left that night of Kristallnacht, hope!"

I thought it was a joke!

I was a pro footballer for Rangers FC. In June 1980 I was sold to Brighton for £440k, I put my house on the market. After a couple of days I got a call from a gentleman with a very polite accent asking if he could come and see my house. He then said his nane was Brighton. I even asked him to spell it and then was firmly of the belief it was one of my Rangers teammates taking the mickey. He asked if he could come the next night to view the property. I was offhand by now, even a bit cheeky and said "why don't you just come along whenever you like" He went off the phone and I told my wife what had happened and we discussed which colleague it might have been. The next night there was a knock on my door and there stood a middle aged gentleman in a trillby hat. He introduced himself as Tom Brighton. I apologised for my behaviour the previous evening but explained the circumstances. He wasn't a football fan, didn't know who I was but accepted my apology. He bought my house. So I went to BRIGHTON and sold my house to someone called BRIGHTON - COINCIDENCE

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