You know how the conversation goes, “Oh, you’re from Australia? Do you know X? He’s from there too.”
And you carefully explain that no, you don’t know X. (And is it any wonder, when the population of Australia is over 20 million…)

So I am wondering how the conversation went when a Malaysian friend of ours, who was staying at a youth hostel in London, bumped into my Australian niece there, whom he hadn’t previously known existed, and they both found out that the degree of separation between them was … 1.

Namely, me.

So what’s your story about a huge coincidence?


Coincidences… — 10 Comments

  1. Emigrated with parents to Australia at age 10, leaving entire extended family behind.

    Started work at my umpteenth job and noticed that a colleague my own age (the better side of 50… yes, I do mean beyond it…) shared my maternal grandmother's maiden name of Chappell. But, unusually, she pronounced it the French way (accent on the last syllable) rather than the more common Ian or Greg version. As had my grandmother…

    A little research and voila! I have a third cousin from a family line I didn't know existed, working in the next door office in a small city on the other side of the planet. Very cool!

  2. That is pretty wonderful. I wonder if that sort of thing happens all the time, but we don't know it. I have no idea how my niece and my friend made the connection, but they could have easily just walked on by…

    In your case, if she'd used a married name, or had given up on the French pronunciation, you wouldn't have made the connection…

  3. No relatives but…I was living in Utah, (I'm an Aussie), and went to a conference at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I met a guy from Canberra who was workmates with a friend of my mum. Mum lived in Torquay, Victoria at the time.

  4. Good campfire tale:

    I was about eighteen years old, working as an au pair in Paris. On my night off I went out with friends to a party and was given a lift home by acquaintance who didn't know my address. So as not to cause him trouble, I told him to drop me off a couple of streets away from the apartment, which he did. On arriving back home (1pm or so) I realised I'd dropped my keys in his car. Horror! I didn't have his number, this was way before mobile phones and I didn't dare wake up my employer's family (at age 18, that's more terrible than spending the night in the street.) So I sat outside in the courtyard like a fool, getting colder and colder.

    Along came a cat. I like cats. This one was friendly and talkative. We talked a long time, as I explained my situation. After a while it got up, walked off a few paces, looked at me and yowled as cats do, to get you to follow. I did, because I couldn't think of anything else to do. It walked on again then turned back, waited and yowled. I followed. In this way the cat led me out of the courtyard, down the entire length of a street (I was laughing out loud by this time) and only left – zip, gone in a flash – when a car came round the corner.

    Guess who was in the car? That's right, the kind acquaintance who didn't know where I lived, and who'd driven all the way back to the neighbourhood in the desperate hope that he'd catch sight of me, having found my house keys in his car.

    Top that. Meow.

  5. Wow, Mary,cats are very psychic, aren't they?

    I visted Orkney in 1996, spending three weeks there. I'd just spent some time in a community in Devon, where I'd picked up a brochure for a little-known community in rural France. I don't know why I picked it up, because I had no intention of going to France, let alone visiting that community.

    Once in Orkney, I took a ferry out of Stromness to spend a few days at the youth hostel on Papa Westray, the northernmost island. When I arrived, I found there was only one other guest, and he was just leaving. Like me, he was a "dharma bum" and we chatted over a coffee about the various houses of religion and other communities we'd stayed at. Wistfully, he mentioned the name of an obscure community in rural France which he really, really, wanted to visit next – only he didn't have the address, just the name. It was the very community for which I'd picked up a brochure in Devon! As I handed it to him, a strange feeling came over me. "That's what you came here to do," said a little voice in my head. "Now you can just relax and enjoy yourself!"

    Well, I certainly did enjoy myself, but Sister Coincidence had not yet finished with me. I spent several pleasant days on Papay, and before I left I signed the guest book. Then I returned to Devon to pack for my next destination, a community in the USA. I stayed there for over a year, and just before I left, a much-stamped letter arrived for me It had followed me all around the world, from Australia to the UK to the USA, and it was from my friend Annette in Perth, Western Australia. Would you believe she had been the next person after me to sign the Visitors' Book on that remote island in Orkney?

    Cue Twilight Zone theme…

  6. I remember another coincidence – we used to rent a house until we moved into our own in 1981. A year or two later I made friends with a British lady living in K.L. Used to go to her apartment etc. Then we went away in 1986 and returned in 1994. Bumped into her again and we renewed the friendship. She said she'd recently moved and was now living well outside Kuala Lumpur,in one of the satellite towns and named the area.

    'Oh,' says I, remembering the house we'd rented, 'we used to live in that area, too. What street are you in?'

    She named the same street we'd lived in. 'What number?' I asked.

    It was the same house. All this in a area of about 3 million people…

  7. Over 20 yrs ago when I first met the man I am now married to (20 yrs next July) I was working for a window manufacturing business on the south coast of NSW and my supervisor was a guy called Steve. A few months after I started dating future hubby Steve left the company to go work in PNG.

    About 5-6 years ago, in Cairns, I was job-hunting and applied for a position at the law firm which shared the ground floor of the building I was working in. I kept seeing this bloke with a handlebar moustache around and thought he looked vaguely familiar. We smiled at each other and went our own ways. A week after the applications closed he spoke to me and said it was a shame I didn't get the job.

    Needless to say I was somewhat surprised at this and then he explained that he was the one going through the applications and as soon as he saw the name of the company we'd both been working for, he realised where he knew me from.

    Yes, it was Steve!


  8. Satima and I immigrated from England 10 years apart, on the same ship, the HMS Stratheden, both landed in Fremantle, and then went on to live in the same street in Sydney. We met for the first time 40 years later after work and family had taken us to Perth.

  9. This is fascinating. I rather think there is a second coincidence in many of these stories as well.

    Take Carol's. If after they met, neither she nor Satima had made some remark that set off a "wait, so did I!" moment, they would never have known the initial coincidence.

    So perhaps the world really is a much smaller place than we imagine, and those "degrees of separation" are a lot fewer than we would guess them to be.

    Here's another one that Carol's story made me remember: My great grandmother and my great grandfather lived in adjacent streets in London, literally a stone's throw from one another – but never met there. They both migrated separately to Victoria where they met for the first time.

    The sad thing is that in spite of sharing the same childhood environment, it was an unhappy marriage because he was a drunk…

    And a writer's aside: shove a coincidence in your book that directs the plot and readers will throw the tome across the room and mutter about deux ex machina and "not believable".

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