Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

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

Iceland couch surfing

I had been back from a swing dance exchange in Iceland where, as everybody else, I had been hosted by one of the dancers, when I start talking with two american girls in a random pub in London. They tell me they are couch surfing around Europe and that they just came back from Iceland. They start describing their host, I recognize him to be my own, and I surprise them by saying "oh yeah, Jack" isn't he sweet ;-)

An American in London

Some years ago, I was on the London Underground travelling to Waterloo. It was announced that because of an incident the train would not be stopping at Waterloo. Passengers could either get off at the next stop and walk over the bridge or go on to Elephant and Castle and return to Waterloo on a different train. An American girl kept asking what this meant but everyone ignored her. I told her that I would be walking as it was not too far and she could walk with me if she liked. Naturally, we got chatting. It turned out that she was at university in London and lodging with her course tutor, who happened to have been my daughter's tutor when she was at the same college. I knew him slightly and sent my regards.

3000 miles to Coggeshall

Last year I had an unexpected visit from a nephew from Toronto. He said he would like to pop in and see me. He arrived early afternoon and when asked what he would like to do, said he would love to visit Coggeshall in Essex. He said his father had been boring him for years about the family tree, but now he was over here he would rather like to visit. We agreed to take him and after a difficult 80 mile journey arrived in Coggeshall about 4.15. Our first call was to the public loos in the square. I was waiting outside and got talking to two ladies. I asked one how long she had lived in Coggeshall and she said "all my life". Oh well I said (rather boastingly) my family has lived here for 400 years, the name in Jepp. Oh she said "my name is Jepp too" When my nephew came out from the toilets, I said "Dave you have come all the way from Toronto, gone 80 miles and at this precise time have met another Jepp who in fact appears on our Family Tree" Can you imagine my own surprise because I had spent some years researching the name Jepp (originally Gyppes) and had to halt my searches when I had got back to a William Gyppes in 1580.

ESP or not?

Whilst driving to work, humming a not particularly well known classical tune in my head; thinking how curious some of the words were and then a few moments later listening in astonishment as, shortly after turning on the radio, BBC R3 actually played the song in question.

The Compass and more

My daughter a keen snowboarder had returned from a day with all her friends at The Lecht in the north of Scotland. They all dumped their gear in our front all, tired from the day, promising to pick it all up the next day. A week or so later there was still one small black rucksack sitting in the hall. I quizzed my daughter on this and she said no one was missing anything. Seeking for more information I opened the rucksack to discover a pair of snow-gaiters and a brown leather case. Inside the case was a beautiful brass compass. As there were no claimers the compass eventually found pride of place on a table in our sitting room. That is until Dave arrived. Dave was someone I had met years before. He had had a small photography exhibition in Edinburgh that I visited. Being in advertising I sought him out to find out more about his work. We met in a pub a week later where he told me he was a keen amateur but worked in computers. To see more of his work we set off for his flat in town. Going up the first flight of stairs a strange feeling came across me.

Decimalization day birthdays = 100

My father, Noel Trelawney Glynn, was born on 15th February 1899 (at 62 Rodney Street, Liverpool, the same house that prime minister William Ewart Gladstone was born in). I, John Noel Glynn, was born on 15th February 1943 (at 27 Ashleigh Road, Solihull, Warwickshire) Each year we celebrated our joint birthday together. On 15th February 1971 we found ourselves celebrating on Decimalization Day, the day that the UK converted to using the decimalized pound sterling On that day too, our combined age became 100, my father becoming 72 and I becoming 28 on that decimalization date. (72+28 = 100) I have put in dates and places of birth so that these facts may be assessed for accuracy.

Random transcontinental student connections

Years ago, I was a tutor at a residential college at the University of Sydney, where I had a small apartment. One summer afternoon I was having a nap, when the phone beside the bed rang. On the other end were two college students from Pittsburgh in the USA. They were having a BBQ, were a bit drunk, and decided to ring random international phone numbers. We had a chat, exchanged addresses, and sent each other postcards. A couple of years later a friend who was in the middle of his PhD research went to Pittsburgh. He was standing in the middle of the foyer of the university library wondering where to find the catalogue (all of this is before the internet), when a couple of young men approached him. "You look lost", they said. "Can we help you?". He explained that he was visiting and didn't know the library layout. They commented on his accent and asked where he was from. "Australia", he replies. "We only know one person in Australia", they said. "She lives in Sydney. Perhaps you know her?". "Sydney's a big city", he says, "it's very unlikely.

Old photograph

I have for some twenty years been modelling railway locomotives, wagons and, just recently, passenger coaches. To go with a particular locomotive I decided to build a set of five coaches thus making a train which would have worked the London to Bournemouth and west country services I remembered as a lad. I decided to start with a coach number S63S, one of two such coaches of this design included in my particular fixed set formation. The kit for this coach was bought at a model railway exhibition in Reading before christmas . At the same time I ordered a book online which I hoped would have photographs to assist in the accurate building of this kit as well as aiding in other research. Some forty of this type of coach were built so imagine my surprise when I found number S63S depicted in a train at Bournemouth in the mid 1960s. However I was even more surprised that the picture includes a youthful image of me leaning out of one of the windows. I have a very clear recollection of this trip as it was made on the last weekend of steam working on this line prior to its electrification. It is also the only time I travelled this route. Regards Tony H

Co-incidence on a pontoon in the Indian Ocean

I live in Notting Hill and I work in Central London in film and television. A few years ago, I was in a meeting at my office with a film producer, who I knew, and his colleague, a young girl who I had never met before. Their offices happen to be in Notting Hill. A week later I went on holiday to my favourite hotel in Mauritius, 6000 miles away from London. It's a very private hotel and in general the guests keep themselves to themselves. The day after I arrived I swam out to a pontoon that the hotel has tethered in the ocean off the hotel beach. It's wonderful because it is not only one of the most beautiful spots in the world, but it is not often used by the guests. I was the only person on the pontoon, but shortly after I had got onto it, I was joined by a man and we got talking. He was English but lived in Amsterdam and was a dealer in Dutch Old Masters. He asked me where I lived. I told him Notting Hill. He asked me if I knew a particular road in Notting Hill. I said, yes I knew it well. He told me his daughter worked there. Yes, you've guessed it - the girl in the meeting was his daughter.

Les deux Pierre

Pierre Nolen, Free French pilot, and Pierre Aymard, Free French navigator, flew bomber missions together during the war. Returning from one in a damaged condition their bomber crashed and burst into flame. Pierre Aymard pulled his unconscious pilot from the wreck and got him to hospital. Pierre Nolen spent weeks in hospital with crushed vertebrae and when allowed out in a steel corset was not allowed to fly. So he transferred to the Canadians as an interpreter, went in with them on the D-day landings and fought his way to Berlin. Some years later, my mother who had married Pierre Nolen after the war, was contacted by a distant relative by marriage, a divorcee who was living in Inverness. She announced that she was getting married again to a frenchman whom she had met in Inverness. His name was Pierre Aymard. They did get married and visited us in France, some 20 odd years after the end of the war. Imagine the surprise of Les Deux Pierre.