Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

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

birthday coincidence

My sister's son Robbie was born on 11 December 1998, 5 years to the day since my own son Luke was born on 11 December 1993. The funny thing is that Luke was not even due until February 1994, but arrived 10 weeks early after I caught salmonella - very nasty. As far as I know my sister's pregnancy was normal and Robbie arrived on time. Luke became an adult and Robbie a teenager on the same day!

Intimate relations

In the early stages of a relationship with a former girlfriend, we were chatting away and got onto the subject of her bra size, which I correctly guessed. 'ooh you think you know it all dont you?' she said, to which I replied 'Of course, like I also know youve got a big mole on your (........)'. I have no idea at all why I said it, its not a comment i would usually consider making under any circumstances, but it just popped into my head. Her jaw dropped......I had no way of knowing her anatomy, as we had had no physical intimacy prior to that, and had no mutual friends who might have furnished me with the information, but it turns out that she does have a very unusual and prominent mole in the specified area. I wish someone could have videotaped the inquiry that followed......

Twice on planes

This coincidence occurred in the early 1970s. Following a business visit to Denmark I boarded a British European Airways Trident at Copenhagen Airport. The older Tridents had two rows of seats facing each other halfway down the cabin. As I was about sit on one of them I realised that sitting opposite me was my sailing friend Bill. After several G & Ts we were met at Heathrow by our wives Susan and Jenny who had once been my girlfriend. Six months later I was on a business trip to Australia. I boarded a flight from Perth to Adelaide and as I sat down I saw someone who looked like Bill sitting in a first class seat at the front of the airplane. As soon as the seat belt sign was off I walked forward and to my amazement it was Bobby with Jenny sitting next to him. Later we stayed in the same hotel in Adelaide.

Italian driving license

This is a small coincidence, but it impressed me. I was working as a PA and my boss was Italian. He lost his wallet containing his Italian driving license, and rather than replace it he decided to swap it for a UK license, as he was now resident in the UK. I was worried about how to do this as it's not a normal situation, so I rang the DVLA call centre for advice (with low expectations). My call was answered by a friendly Welsh woman who heard me out and exclaimed "My husband is Italian and the exact same thing happened to him!" She then gave me a detailed account of the rather complex steps required in order to get legal proof of entitlement to drive from the local Italian jurisdiction where my boss had passed his test, and the many subsequent steps required to have the license swapped for a UK one. Several weeks and documents later my boss's new UK license arrived. I cannot believe that had another person answered my call they would have known the detailed steps required to achieve this. It saved a great deal time and hassle for me!

Hands across the Pond

Some years ago now we were temporarily living in a flat in Wapping while waiting for the refurbishment work to be completed on a flat we'd bought in Highgate. While waiting in a queue at the local supermarket I struck a conversation with an American woman behind me. We exchanged the usual pleasantries and I mentioned that my brother was teaching in America, "Where she enquired"? "Oh, I doubt if you've heard of it, it's Ohio State University, in the mid-west." "Really, how odd my daughter is a student there, what does your brother teach"? "Art education." "Really, that's my daughter's major, what's your brother's name"? By now we're both getting rather excited. "Paul Sproll" Exclaiming, "He can't be your brother, I know him well, he's black and you're white, oh! oh! He’s such a great teacher, my daughter loves his classes!" My response "Yes, that's right, he's my Mother's son from a wartime relationship" " I can't believe it!

Seeing Margaret Thatcher

I was reading a magazine while sitting in a plane waiting for takeoff at Madeira airport. The page I was looking at had a Schweppes advert which purported to show Margaret Thatcher visiting Jeffrey Archer in Prison. I happened to look up - and there was Margaret Thatcher herself looking at me. This was impossible I thought so I blinked and looked again. She was still there. In fact she and her husband were flying back to England from a holiday in Madeira and the plane's takeoff had been delayed to await their arrival at the airport. Their seats were just across the aisle from us.


I worked at the British Embassy in Beijing in the eighties and on my return to the UK I went on a sightseeing trip to Hong Kong and then eventually to London. I flew from Beijing to Chungking on the Yangtste River where I took a boat down the river to a city called Wuhan. In Wuhan I boarded a train which took a couple of days (I think) to reach a very scenic tourist spot in the south of China called Guilin. As I got off the train I saw, amongst the teeming crowds, one of the British Embassy drivers with his wife who were obviously going on holiday. In a country of 1,000 million people I thought that was quite a coincidence.

Same Birthday

When I was at primary school there were three of us in the class with the same birthdays, day month and year. As a further coincidence it was the same in my wife's class at her primary school. Also my sister-in-law share the same birthday but not the same year.

Telephone number

During the months after the death of my wife in 1995 I was helped to deal with my loss by a female friend that I had not seen for some time and who had experienced a similar loss. I had written her number down on a cream coloured envelop. In the weeks that followed I agonised as to whether it would be appropriate for me to make a romantic approach to this friend. Finally deciding against the idea I tore the envelop into pieces and put them in a waste paper basket. Some days later on leaving my house I noticed a cream coloured piece of litter which had been pressed into the road tarmac by a car tyre. Vaguely recognising it, I picked it up and discovered that it was the fragment of the envelop that contained the telephone number. I made the call.

Living in Same Property, plus others

Unexpected meeting in Spain- Just after I left school in 1960 I went to Spain with seven others from my Scout Troop in a minibus. After touring across France and Spain we arrived in Alicante. When walking down the main plaza we bumped into two school colleagues, Tommy and Helen Jenkins. This was when few English people holidayed in Spain . Living in the same Property- This covers two coincidences concerning a flat in a large house ( 8, The Drive Walthamstow) my wife and I lived in when we were first married in 1968. a) Just after we moved in my mother told us that it was a house that they had also lived in for a while in between the wars. There was no previous discussion of where we were looking as my parents had been in New Zealand the previous 9 months. b) In the 1980's we went on a Flotilla sailing holiday to Greece. We discovered that the New Zealand skipper of the fleet, when he was in London, had also lived for a time in the same attic flat with the same strange landord. Unexpected meeting in Australia In 2003 my wife and I spent 3 months in Australia touring around in a hire car with no particular itinerary. On 28th Jan, my wife's birthday.