Does the rule of three that is supposed to apply to bad luck etc . and features in much else in human history apply to coincidences? I‘m not sure, but if it does then I’m waiting for a third one that’s a week overdue.

Last Friday I was reading ‘Hellfire and Herring – A childhood remembered’ by Christopher Rush. It’s a warm and melancholic memoir of growing up in a Fife fishing village after the Second World War, and one section tells of all the retired men, too old to fish, who used to gather to earn a few coins repairing hooks and lines. One of them spoke to the young boy

” ‘You see this gartlin* hook?’

One of the old ones laid in my hand the four inches of iron he was about to whip on. It was bigger than my palm.

‘How big a fish do you think it can hold?’

I shook my head.

‘I once caught a halibut of sixteen stones on a hook like that….I’ve never seen anything fight like that halibut. Sixteen stone if it was an ounce. It was the last hook on the line. We were so close in to Peterhead we trailed it behind the boat, and it was sold alive on the scales, still twitching.’ “

This made me marvel. A 16 stone halibut? That’s over 200 pounds! Now giant flatfish have never figured large in my consciousness, so you’ll understand why it seemed something of a coincidence to read about an even larger halibut the very next day (not in this paper I hasten to add).

But a bigger, and to me, freakier coincidence was to come later that same day.

It was mid-evening and avoiding the X Factor, I was sitting at the PC listening to BBC4 Extra on the iPlayer through headphones. I was catching up on a five programme series that I’d started listening to earlier in the week. Called “The Wild Places” it was about a series of perambulations by nature writer Robert MacFarlane. The particular episode was one featuring a walk in the Lake District and I zoned out pretty quickly as the writing was absolutely mogadonned by whoever it was reading the stuff.

My thoughts meandered off to a series of school walking trips to the Lakes. On the first day of the first of these we set out to walk along a ridge of peaks and stopped for an early breather by a small mountain lake. As the radio blathered away in the background, I googled the small stillwater, and clicked on its Wikipedia entry. At exactly the moment that the page opened for Bleabury Tarn, the voice on the radio said “Bleabury Tarn“.

It was as if someone was reading it over my shoulder and gave me something of a start.

Not just a coincidence, but an amazing piece of synchronicity too.

So since then I have been expecting a third coincidence, but a watched pot never boils, and I should turn my attention to something worthwhile instead.

(*What’s a gartlin hook? See here)

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