How terribly strange

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was produced by the Winton programme for the public understanding of risk based in the Statistical Laboratory in the University of Cambridge. The aim was to help improve the way that uncertainty and risk are discussed in society, and show how probability and statistics can be both useful and entertaining.

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How terribly strange!. Something strange happened as my 70th birthday approached. I'm sure that will have had that annoying experience of having a song go round and round in your head and you can't get rid of it. You may have heard it on the radio or TV or blaring from a car at traffic lights. I've heard it referred to as an "earworm". You wake up in the morning and there it is again. Back in the 1960s I was quite a big Simon and Garfunkel fan. I had most of their albums and my friends and I played them over and over. One album, Bookends, is a particular favourite. I didn't own a copy but my friend John did and he was later to be best man at our wedding. He still lives in Belfast where I grew up and though we rarely see each other we have long phone conversations every 6 months or so. Now you may be wondering how, if at all, these two paragraphs are connected. A few days before my birthday I woke up with an earworm. The words and tune of a Bookends song were going round in my head. But I couldn't think how on earth it had got there. I had not heard that song for as long as I could remember. The song is called "Old friends." The words go as follows "Old friends, sat on a park bench like bookends. The sounds of the city sifting through trees settle like dust On the shoulders of the old men. Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly. How terribly strange to be seventy." I eventually came to the conclusion that as my birthday approached and the word "seventy" crossed my mind some little brain cell in my head decided to Google "seventy". It came up with that song, and there it was in my brain's inbox when I awoke that morning. I told a few people this little anecdote unaware that the story was not quite over. On the day of my birthday I received an email. It was from John in Belfast. We hadn't been in touch since Christmas. The email subject was "Old Friends." The message simply said. Have a great birthday. But there was an attachment. There, printed out were the words of that Simon and Garfunkel song. How terribly strange! Jimmy
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Date submitted:Sat, 16 Oct 2021 14:51:19 +0000Coincidence ID:11841