A week or so ago I posted that I was going to create a number of posts on the subject of Coincidence and Consequence. As you may have noticed, I posted about on a few other things over the week, but now I’m back on track. I still don’t know where this is going to go, but I’ve got a few stories I want to share, so we’ll start from there and see where we get to.
Here’s a story of coincidence that happened to me.
First of all, please watch this video. It features The Bay City Rollers, who were staggeringly popular in Britain in the mid-70s – for a while it was like The Beatles (at least with the screaming girls, if not the music – and those screaming girls are all in their fifties now, of course). You’ll see American actress/singer Ann-Margret joining the group on stage for some of the worst, most excrutiatingly wooden “banter” you ever heard, but stick with it – we’re coming to the good part. Not immediately – Ann-Margret and the boys are going to play a bit first – but then the camera cuts to a shot of the audience….and that’s where it gets very bizarre.
Watch it now, then come back to me afterwards.
Weren’t expecting that, were you?
No sign of the Rollers’ screaming girl fans in that audience, eh?
So why is that story here, and what’s it got to do with Coincidence? Pull up a chair, and I’ll tell you…..
Three years ago I bought my iPad. I’d been resistant – what would I want one of those for, I’ve got a computer – but my work contract had just been renewed and I felt a deserved a treat. I have to say, it changed my life as now I could more easily access social media. So I finally started logging into Twitter daily and following various celebrities, though I rarely if ever bothered clicking through to any links, particularly any with video.
Now it’s Christmas Eve 2012. Popular British broadcaster Danny Baker (@prodnose) tweeted the link to a bizarre video clip that he’d been sent. Being Christmas Eve, and with nothing particularly better to do, I clicked through and watched the Bay City Rollers and Ann-Margret rocking the house in front of an audience of pensioners. Which was not only bizarre but quite funny.
Traditionally on Christmas Eve we went out for lunch with some neighbours and, as ever, I sat at the “men’s” end of the table with Rob and Doug. We talked a bit about football and music, like we usually did, and to help the conversation along I mentioned this video that I’d just seen, and the amazing sight of the audience full of pensioners.
Doug looked at me. “I remember that”, he said. “Probably 1976. Went out during TV coverage of the Montreal Olympics. I’d fallen asleep watching the Olympics, and when I woke up that was on.”
Then comes the coincidence.
“In fact, I think my gran was in the audience.”
When I got home I forwarded the link. He emailed me back. “Yes, that’s her in the pink top and green knitted hat in the middle at 1:49. Then dancing at 3:09. Then again at 3:25. She lived near Borehamwood, and they used to take coachloads of pensioners to the TV studios at Elstree to be the audience for shows they were recording. They never knew what they were going to see, they just got dropped off, watched the show, then got back in the coach and went home.”
If you scroll down to the comments section below the video on YouTube, there are a couple of comments from Doug confirming the details. (And, if you knew Doug, you’d see a strong family resemblance: there’s no doubt that that’s Doug’s gran),
So it’s a lovely, heartwarming story, Doug getting to see this film of his long-departed gran, film that he never knew existed.
But let’s look at the chain of events.
- I treated myself to an iPad (lots of people have them, but a bit of a rare impulse buy for me)
- Because of that, I started following Twitter (again, not that big a deal – lots of people do it)
- I follow Danny Baker (410,000+ followers as of this evening, rather fewer in December 2012)
- Someone tweeted the link to the video to Danny (just finding it was pretty obscure)
- Danny read it and retweeted it (I have no idea how much of the stuff that gets sent to him he chooses to retweet, but having received this one I’m not surprised he passed it on)
- It was Christmas Eve so I had time to spend idling on Twitter on the iPad (unusual for me at that time – it’s become more of an obsession since)
- I bothered to watch the video clip (that was surprisingly unusual for me)
- We were at lunch with Doug (it was Christmas Eve, so lunch wasn’t that unusual, but if it hadn’t been Christmas Eve I may never have had occasion to mention it)
- I talked about it at lunch (as I say, we’d already covered football and music)
- Doug recognised the show from my description of it as one he’d watched 36 years earlier
- Doug had only seen it once, in 1976, by accident having fallen asleep in front of the Olympics and waking up at the right time
- The film shows his gran very prominently, right down at the front
- …and Doug’s gran happened to be in the audience for that show in the first place
That chain could have broken anywhere. If I’d been too busy that morning to follow the link; if it had been a day other than Christmas Eve so we wouldn’t have seen Doug so I wouldn’t have mentioned it to him; if his gran had been sat near the back of the studio (or had been less of a character); if Doug hadn’t woken up at that particular time in 1976 that that show was on the TV, so that he remembered seeing it.
That’s quite a coincidence.
How many “nearly” coincidences never occur? We notice some of the ones that do, like this one, but we can never know how many we just miss because one link in the chain didn’t connect up. Or how many are fully connected but go unrecognised?
Unresolved tendrils of stories floating free in space….