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About A Week: Small World

Peter Hinchliffe relishes those stories of small coincidences.

Some years ago I was sitting on the front at Brighton, gazing out to sea, relishing the sunshine, idly pondering how to arrange my affairs so as to be on permanent holiday.

An elderly couple approached. "Mind if we sit here?" asked the man. "We have 10 minutes before the coach comes. We're staying down the road, in Eastbourne."

There was no mistaking the rich round accent.

"What part of Yorkshire are you from?" I asked.

"Eh dear, is it that obvious?" said the man.

"As obvious as mine," said I in best Huddersfield-speak.

"I'm from Dewsbury," said the man. "Shaw Cross. I'm a retired butcher."

"I was brought up near Dewsbury," said I. "The village of Whitley. Do you know it?"

The man looked at his wife. They exchanged happy grins.

"Ay, we know it. That's where we did our courting. I used to deliver meat to some of the isolated houses. What's your name?"


"Only Hinchliffe I knew was George William Hinchliffe. He was the reservoir keeper at Whitley. He used to let us walk on the reservoir banks. That's where I proposed."

"My grandfather," said I.

Small worlds. Happy co-incidences.

A former colleague told me of the chance meeting of two ladies, Elsie and Gwen, who live in the Toronto area.
They arrived at a Toronto health centre at the same moment, and got into a lift together.

They got out of the lift on the same floor. They went their separate ways, each to see a doctor.

Chance arranged another coincidental meeting. Once again they arrived at the lift gates at the same moment. As they descended, they started to chat.

"I've been for a medical check-up," said Gwen. "I am going on holiday to Florida."

"I've been for a medical check-up," said Elsie. "I am going on holiday to England."

The two ladies laughed at the coincidence.

"Whereabouts in England?"

"Near Huddersfield in Yorkshire. A little place called Holmfirth."

"Good heavens!" said Gwen. "I've got a nephew in Holmfirth. If I give you his 'phone number and address, would you mind contacting him? Tell him I don't hear from him often enough. Will he please write more frequently."

"I don't mind," said Elsie. "I will be staying with my brother-in-law. I will also be seeing my niece and her husband. They live in that area. Jeanette and Paul. She is an artist. He is a policeman."

"Not Jeanette and Paul Leadbeater!" said Gwen.

Gwen is Paul's aunt. Elsie is Jeanette's aunt.

And they really were meeting for the first time.

Then there is the story about a photographer employed by a Yorkshire weekly newspaper. He saw a car number plate advertised for sale in a national publication.

The plate spelled out his initials. It was on offer at 400. The photographer phoned the firm advertising the plate. Only to be told, "Sorry sir, it's just gone."

The photographer shrugged. Forgot about the plate.

Until a few days later, when he was parking his car outside the office where he worked. He happened to notice the registration plate on the car parked beside him.

It was the one he had tried to buy.

Another former colleague, Malcolm Cruise, served in the Army in Cyprus during his National Service. Malcolm's father was waiting for a train at King's Cross station, London. He recognised the flashes on the uniform of the young soldier standing beside him. They indicated service in Cyprus. "My son is a soldier serving in Cyprus," said Mr Cruise.

The young soldier stepped back a pace. Slowly, carefully, he looked Mr Cruise up and down. Then he said, "I reckon you're Malcolm Cruise's dad."

Co-incidences, co-incidences. The world would be a paler shade of grey without them.


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