BBC NEWS COINCIDENCE, MUSICAL COINCIDENCE

Dear Professor Spiegelhalter, Sixteen years ago I woke up in my Paris apartment one Sunday morning and immediately thought of Leslie Crowther. Why Leslie Crowther? A figure I had never thought about since last seeing him in revue in Edinburgh 40 years earlier. At one o'clock London time I tuned into the BBC whose newsreader altered her tone appropriately at the end of the bulletin to announce that "the comedian Leslie Crowther died early this morning." I wondered whether I'd left my radio on overnight. I had not, and in any case the Press Association was not likely to have received and published the news until later in the course of the morning, after I awoke. Not long after, I spent several days suffering from that insufferable condition in which one cannot remember a tune. I had heard it in a movie about the German close harmony group, the Comedian Harmonists. The song: "Das ist die Liebe der Matrosen." Then one Sunday morning (again) I awoke early and there it was! "Das ist die Liebe der Matrosen." I sang it under the shower, sang it over breakfast, sang it on my way through the nearby Luxembourg Garden to a news stand to buy my Observer. Then I doubled back through the Luxembourg Garden to meet a friend for lunch, and entered a street called the rue Fleurus. There I witnessed something which I had never seen before, and have never seen since. Someone standing in the street grinding a barrel organ. A young woman. You have one guess which tune was grinding out of her barrel organ. I pondered whether she had maybe been busy at it at six o'clock in the morning, and that I had heard it in the distance through half-sleep. But no. Not a way to turn a buck at six a.m. on a Paris Sunday morning. I can't make much out of Jung's theory of synchronicity. Instead, I prefer to believe that coincidence is like what the poet said about beauty, that it is in the mind of the beholder. Our human minds are surely conditioned or programmed to start drawing strange conclusions from effect to cause about perceived weird phenomena such as coincidences. Animals in the forest do not cry "Good heavens!" when they suddenly stumble on old chums after a long absence. Surely coincidence is just that -- chance. I also found it of significance that I had started noticing strange coincidences so soon after I had retired and retreated to the relaxed pleasures of life in Paris. Perhaps coincidences are actually much more frequent than generally perceived, and working people simply don't notice them because they're busy, sometimes harassed, suffering from tension and anxiety etc, all conditions likely to undermine the state in which one can be more observant about the quirky little detail of the daily round. Still. My two stories make great tales, and I've dined off 'em more than once. Now I send them to you after just hearing you on Radio Four. Hope they might amuse you. Sincerely Donald A
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Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:29:26 +0000Coincidence ID:3692