You Can’t Be Serious – ‘What a coincidence …’

You cant be serious - Coincidences
You cant be serious - Coincidences

I met a man recently who said that there are no such things as coincidences. When I asked him to explain, he just fudged it – so I am none the wiser as to his thinking. Statisticians might argue that the law of large numbers make any combination possible, but this theory holds no weight with me.

In my own life I have experienced the most bizarre series of coincidences that have totally baffled me. As far as I am concerned, there is no explanation to satisfy common sense.

I spent a couple of years working in England during the mid-sixties. (What a time to be there!) I stayed in a private house with four lodgers playing R&B. Some years later I owned a shop and post office in Longwood, County Meath.

As postmaster, one of my duties every afternoon was to rubber-stamp each letter dropped in for posting. One day I froze in my tracks: Right there on the oak bench was a letter addressed to a name I never heard of and to the exact address I lived in Birkenhead. What are those odds?

Halloween 1983 and Pamela and I and our two children were enjoying a week’s break in Santa Ponso. We made friends with a family from Offaly during our stay.  We exchanged Christmas cards, promised to meet up … but it didn’t happen. The following September the All-Ireland Hurling Final took place in Thurles.

Tickets were as scarce as hen’s teeth. Then I struck oil. A friend of a friend in America provided me with a ticket. (American GAA clubs get an allocation of tickets) There were 64,000 people at the match and who do you think I found myself sitting beside but my Offaly friend that I met in Santa Ponso! He too got his ticket from America. Figure that one out!

Sitting with friends in an Orlando restaurant in 1994, I proceeded to tell a funny story concerning myself and a Cork friend – without mentioning his name. A man spoke up from the next table and these were his words: ‘Excuse me, I don’t wish to butt in, but I could not but help overhearing your conversation. I know who you are talking about’ … and he named my friend. And this man was from Waterford.

Ten years later Pamela took me on a tour of the States to celebrate my sixtieth birthday. One of the things we did (see … I remember, Darling!) was a river-boat cruise on the Mississippi. We were seated for dinner with couples from four different countries – and we were the only Irish.

The German lady seated next to Pamela spoke excellent English and when discovered we came from Ireland she showed signs of being pleased. The lady proceeded to tell us that she spent time in Ireland as a child. Her father was the gardener at an estate.

To prove her point, our new German friend recited the ‘Hail Mary’ in Irish! But that’s not all … Turns out it was a school near us, we knew where her father worked and had heard of him. Finished up both herself and Pamela knew three or four girls who still lived in the area. What about that?

A close friend of mine went on a solo trip to Australia and he sure covered a lot of ground while he was there. Joe is into photography and he likes to keep a photo chronicle of his travels. One day he was at some historical site … that I can’t remember. He placed his camera on some object, set the timer and got into position for a photo of himself against the monument, or whatever. On his return to Ireland, Joe had all his films developed. He thought he imagined it when he saw a face he knew walking behind him as his camera snapped. He checked it out to make sure. Yes … it was his cousin and neither of them knew the other was in Australia! How can we account for the astronomical odds in making this happen?

Last week a very good friend of mine wrote and in the course of his letter he mentioned he was trying to trace the ancestry of an English friend, by the name of Downey, whose grandfather came from near Kenmare in Kerry. Beat this one! Pamela’s sister-in-law was home from Canada and staying with us. AND HER NAME WAS … Joan Downey from Templenoe, Kenmare!

I bet that you too, dear reader, have some coincidences you can’t account for. Why not send them into our editor at The Leader?

Don’t Forget

Between Boris and Donald, it’s hard to decide whether to watch the six o’clock news and not be able to eat, or the nine o’clock news and not be able to sleep.