Ralph Oswick: Wishful thinking is no coincidence
Scientists say that coincidences don’t really exist, that they are a combination of inevitability and wishful thinking. I’m not sure about that, because as my friends and colleagues will confirm, a disproportionate number of concurrencies of events without causal connection (dictionary definition) seem to happen to me! Note my use of the word ‘seem.’ For it could be that I seek out such happenings. They do make good pub conversation. Maybe I am looking out for them. But I’m certainly not intentionally causing them to take place. Take last week.t shoe metoim ne sent me a cutting from dated 2007. It referred to the costumes I designed for Sleeping Beauty at a London theatre. (Exquisite in the opinion of the critic, as it happens). So much water has passed under the bridge since that project, I can barely remember it. However, the cutting reminded me of just one cast member, the handsome prince. He was the only one to write me a thanks card at the end, which helped me remember his extremely unusual first name. Anyway, I Googled him to see what he’s done with his acting career. Not a lot on the performing side as it turns out. Apparently he’s a successful writer and director now, but they did credit him with one small television appearance in Lewis, the successor to the Inspector Morse series. That evening I was channel hopping and I came across an episode of Lewis that I hadn’t seen. After only a few minutes viewing, there was my erstwhile prince, munching on a sandwich and delivering his one line! Cue ad break. Yet another sofa sale. And featured in the ad was a massively discounted settee with the same unusual name as the young actor. So two coincidences for the price of one, neither of which I ‘made’ happen. Another time I was on a remote and deserted Caribbean beach when a figure appeared in the far distance. Someone got here before us, said my mate. I bet it’s a German I joked. Turned out it was indeed a German. The German stage technician from a Berlin venue I’d performed in some 10 years earlier. And what about the woman who, seeing me from behind at an Edinburgh concert, mistook me for her friend Ralph? Large chap, penchant for Hawaiian shirts, walks with a stick after a knee replacement. Tick, tick, tick. Same name, same look, same knee even, different bloke. Or when the actor who played nephew to my character Lady Margaret went to Windsor to buy a second-hand Eton uniform for the part and returned with one that, according to the name tag, once belonged to my friend’s cousin? Or indeed the Japanese fellow who shouted my name across a sea of commuters in the Tokyo rush hour whom a year before I had shown round Bath on behalf of a tour agency? And so it goes on. Just call me Mr Coincidence.
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