Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

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

See you in court!

Monday 1st December 2003 A missive from The Court Service summons me to attend at the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey for Jury Service on Monday 26th January 2004. I work for myself, and this date falls right in the middle of what I know will be an extremely busy period. If I go, I stand to lose a lot of my anticipated income. Ring my old friend James, thinking that, as he’s long been freelance and self-employed, he might know how to respond. He tells me that he, too, has been summoned for jury service – also at the Old Bailey on 26th January.

Extraordinary meeting

Saturday 21st July 2007. We’re on holiday in Sorrento and had planned to visit Herculaneum next Tuesday. Yesterday, however, we changed our plans and decided to go early this morning. I immediately had a strong feeling (a presentiment, I suppose) that we’d run into someone we know – probably the parents of a child at the independent girls’ school where my wife works. En route by train this morning, I repeated my conviction that we’d bump into someone we know. We arrived at the site just as they were opening, and found the place magically deserted.

Same village; different country

Some years ago myself (Manda) and my partner (Garry) lived in Holland in a caravan on a farm in a tiny village called Ledeacker, in Brabant, near the German border. (in case you want to find it). When we moved back to England one of our dutch friends (Ans, who didnt come from Ledeacker) would visit us once a year and would meet our English friends, one of whom was a girl called Kate. She came from Cornwall. One year Ans was visiting and we decided to surprise Kate with a visit (pre mobile phone days).

Good vibrations

Turned on the radio which was set to BBC Norfolk to hear them playing Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys. I wanted to listen to a pop quiz on Radio 2 so turned over immediately to hear the quiz master saying “no, sorry, the actual answer was Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys.”

Custard apples

I was reading a Spanish magazine and they were explaining how the Malaga area was increasing yields in certain less common fruits such as custard apples. I had not heard of these before and wondered whether or not I should try one, but soon forgot about it. Two hours later I was listening to a BBC podcast comedy chat with Dave Gorman and the subject got onto fruit. Out of nowhere he suddenly said “Have you tried custard apples?”, then went on to describe how delicious they were and the fact that they did actually taste of custard.

Untwisted hanger

The vacuum cleaner hose had got clogged up, and I didn’t have a stick long enough to unclog it with. The usual thing would be to untwist a metal coat hanger, fashion a little hook at the end of it with a pair of pliers, then try and pull the fluff out from within the tube. But my coat hangers were plastic. So I curled up the hose, put it in a bag and took it down to the garage, hoping I would have something down there I could use instead. I did find an old curtain pole but it wasn’t quite long enough. So I gave up for now and decided to walk down to the beach.

Dart score double

My son Daniel and I were playing darts. He has no technique and just chucks the darts and hopes for the best, often missing the board completely. After a while he had a go and his 3 darts happened to land in the treble 20, then 18, then also a treble 10, totalling 98, an amazingly good score for him. I had my go, then Daniel stepped up again. He threw a treble 20, 18, and treble 10, totalling 98. Exactly the same, in the same order, 2 goes running, just by complete chance - no skill involved!


As I was writing a book, I wrote an e-mail to my Mum regarding the number of words in an average novel. I listed some famous ones as examples. The first on my list was The Hobbit, at 95,000 words. An hour after writing I turned on Radio 4 and there was a programme with a section on how to write a good book and one of the first questions the interviewee asked the interviewer was 'how many words would you guess are in The Hobbit?’ Now if that is not a coincidence I don't know what is.

Heading that way

I was looking through some old books, with my earphones in as I also listened to a play on the radio. I found an old book and started thumbing through it, finding a page to read at random. My eyes alighted on the text: “What are we going to do next?” she asked, “do you think we should head that way?” No sooner had I finished reading those words than a character in the radio play in my ears suddenly stated “I wouldn’t head that way if I was you!”, as though answering what I had just read on the page even though it was in a completely different context.

Head turner

I was watching TV on my iPad and there was someone being interviewed. As I watched, there was a noise in the street so I picked up the tablet and went to have a look, inadvertently causing the picture to auto-rotate the interviewee upside down just as he said, “and for me, that really turned things on their head”.