14 June 2013


At Ramla Beach, Gozo
So we're up on the north coast of Gozo at Ramla Bay. Here the sand is often described as "red" and it's surely the island's best beach. We have swum in the sea - chillier than Thailand or Sri Lanka by far - and we have flopped on our beach towels like over-exerted sealions, falling asleep in the midday sun. After two hours we reckon it's wise to depart even though we had earlier smothered ourselves in Nivea Factor 30.

We wander along the boardwalk to the little cafes beyond the dunes and decide to stop for drinks and a bite to eat. We choose Rose's though we could have picked any of three others and we go right instead of left, finding a table in a shady corner. And we could have arrived five minutes earlier or five minutes later.

There's a young couple at the table ahead of us. He is chomping on burger and chips but she has sensibly opted for a salad dish. We order our drinks and then Shirley whispers, "Is that Tom? Tom and Emily?" We look more closely as they continue to dine and then we realise it really is Tom and Emily! They are in their late twenties and they are from Sheffield and we are very good friends with Tom's parents. Tom and Emily have been together for ages and they now live down in London where they battle to stay ahead of the rat race. Tom is a big friend of our son Ian. They have borrowed an apartment in Gozo for two weeks before returning to the treadmill of work.

Now what are the chances of such a meeting happening? Great Britain is home to 62 million people and  Europe has thousands of possible holiday destinations and yet we met Tom and Emily there by Ramla Bay.

I often think about the near misses - co-incidences that almost happened but didn't. You know what I mean - you could have bumped into someone you knew but you were two minutes too late or they were two minutes too early. Or maybe they were there yesterday and you arrived on Thursday. For every successful co-incidence like the one that happened today there must have been thousands of near misses.

In one of my student summers in Ohio in the seventies I worked with a camp counsellor called Ian. Ten years later I bumped into him on the track up to Ios Town in Greece. This is a big world. So many people so how could that have happened? Just like today.

I know I am not alone in having experienced statistically impossible meetings like today's. What about you? Does my co-incidence tale ring any bells?


  1. When I worked in Pittsburg for a. Few months , I bumped into a guy I knew from the northern general in Sheffield
    He was eating popcorn in a cinema foyer

  2. Wait, really? Tom and Emily? We knew Tom and Emily fifty years ago in Nebraska!

    Oh, I guess it's not the same Tom and Emily....

  3. EARL GRAY Thank you for going with the flow of this post.
    RHYMES WITH PLAGUE Swimming against the tide...No, not the same Tom and Emily. By the way I once met a Bob and Ellie at the circus in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield. They were trapeze artistes. Unfortunately, one night Bob slipped and the rest is history.

  4. It is too awesome a task to calculate the odds of these chance meetings.

    I was posted to Colchester to command the bomb squad there when I ran into Major Harris who, as Adjutant of Force Troops Belize had taken this very inexperienced 2nd Lt under his wing when I was posted there from Sandhurst years before.

    Many years later I was walking dejectedly through London's cold and unfriendly streets in a pit of depression when I bumped into an Irish Guards officer with whom I had served (guess where?) in Belize and taught me to waterski. A couple of pints in the nearest pub later, he had given me a card with an address in Dolphin Square, Pimlico and by the end of the day, I had a job and was on my way to Moçambique to run a mine clearance project.

    Six months later I was getting off a plane from Johannesburg in Maputo after a stint in hospital for acute malaria when I ran into Major Harris (Retd.). He was now head of security at the British Embassy.

    Just last year, a young man appeared in my doorway at the Barra de Kwanza asking if I sold cigarettes. I knew I had met him before and he felt the same emotion. He was one of two young (and unruly) teenagers that I was armed body guard for in 1995.

    Like I said, far too hard to calculate the odds.

  5. Well, when I was at Arches National Park a couple of years ago, I just missed seeing your daughter, Frances. Katherine and I spent more time looking for her car than we did looking at the scenery.

  6. Plenty of coincidences - when I was at school, we met a kid from my class while we were on holiday in Torquay.
    But, plenty of near-misses too, even missed finding my wife in a supermarket carpark.
    Still, as they say, God moves in Mysterious Ways ;)


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