Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

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

Purple carrots

I was watching Have I Got News for You on iPlayer and they had reached the missing words round. The first sentence was ‘blank’ used to be purple, scrawny and pungent, and the missing word answer turned out to be carrots. Then the picture suddenly froze and so while I was waiting for the bandwidth to return I glanced down at my local paper. It was open on page 37 and the first thing I looked down at was a headline saying ‘Antequera Produces The First Purple Carrot Gin’.

Two songs

I was driving in Spain, and we had Spanish radio on. So far they had played just Spanish songs for the whole journey. One was quite a catchy tune, so I turned to my son and idly said “it’s a shame there aren’t more tunes like that, where you pick up the tune the first time you hear it. It’s a bit like that song last year from Kelly Clarkson, you knew as soon as you heard it that it had a good tune. What was it called now? The …. something… song. Ironic!

Spatula spookiness

With radio headphones in, I was in the garage and came across an old spatula which should have been in the kitchen. I was just carrying the spatula back into the kitchen when the radio voice in my ear said ".....I'm no chef, I don't go round holding a spatula". I looked down at what was in my hand, not really believing she had just said that, as it is probably something you would never hear on the radio again. Bizarre.

Mandela impression

At the time Nelson Mandela died, I was listening to some tributes to him on the radio. They were playing a speech of his that was quite lengthy which I had never heard before. I wasn't really listening to what he was saying as I was sorting out some receipts at the same time, but I thought I would practise my Mandela impression so waited for a pause in the speech as Mandela rose to a crescendo with “…and what I say to you all here is……” at which point he paused so I came out with a random “Let there be peace!” in my best Mandela voice.

The cat

So, I left my home back on the coast of Croatia, in February 2014, and was helping my friends in Alameda, California, babysitting their child. I was also asked to help with another baby, and family lives on Lake Shore drive, by the beach. There's a 4 lane road, then sidewalk, and a sand beach, with just occasional bushes of some weed, mostly sand.

Snow Days in Devon are Rare but ominous

My children know exactly when it last snowed in Devon. Every winter they wish for snow and talk fondly about those few days back in 2010 when snowed in Dartmouth, England. The snow brings happy memories for them oblivious to the backdrop of events that took place that year. I remember the first surprising flakes settling on the grass as we were driving away from the hospital when my daughter Ruby aged 8 had just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Snow is very rare this far south and it seemed appropriately surreal. A week later the snow came thick and deep enough to play in.

A surfeit of fours

In 2005 we were living and working in London but travelling back here to France very frequently. To make the journey easier, we bought a small new car which would be left at the airport in Toulouse when we returned to London. We picked up our new car from the garage and drove around a bit for a couple of days before we had to head back to London. Very early on the Monday morning we got into the car and left to drive to Toulouse airport to catch the early morning flight to Gatwick. About two thirds of the way along the motorway I idly glanced at the instrument panel.


I had been lying in the lock-up ward of a large psychiatric hospital for some five months suffering from severe depression. One day I roused myself enough to think, "What are you doing lying there? Do you think angels are going to come and scoop you up in their wings and carry you over the high walls to freedom? If you want to get out of here you better do something about it yourself." I sat up. There on the ward floor was a discarded copy of the Sunday Express. I picked it up and flipped through it. My eye was caught by an article about a man sailing single-handed around the world.

A loaf of bread

We were living on a boat in Singapore. We had been cruising in the Far East for five years. Fed up with pirates and immigration we decided to return to Europe? But where? Not cold-clouded England after our years in the tropics. I went shopping and bought a stick of bread. It had a scrap of torn newspaper wrapped around it to hold it by. Back on board, I looked at the paper. It was an advertisement for an Estate Agency in Andorra in the Pyrenees, advertising an exhibition and sales promotion in a Singapore hotel. I went and collected brochures.

Colombo airport

Our flight to Nepal had been delayed by two hours. There was a Caucasian man standing around looking as bored as I felt. Maybe he spoke English. He did. He asked me what I was doing in Sri Lanka. "Living on a boat," I replied. "That's interesting. One of my employees in New Zealand has just sailed around the world on a boat." "What's his name?" "Terry Banks" "Rally! His children are my guardian children." It was Christmas time so I bought them presents from a souvenir shop and the man promised to deliver them when he got home.