Sunday, March 12, 2006

(199) Andrew´s "H"

On an evening in November 1992 I was chatting with Ray and Jill Ferrer at their home near Bourne, Lincs. I mentioned that a chap who had recently joined my team at work, Ian Harvey, was an ex-Naval helicopter pilot and had previously worked alongside Prince Andrew.

As I mentioned the Prince’s name an item about him appeared on the local TV news that they had playing in the background.
... ... ...
In October 2003 I found myself thinking back 11 years to Ian Harvey, who had also said that Prince Andrew was known as ´H´.

Later that day I spoke to a boy walking a puppy. It turned out he was a friend of a family called Murphy who lived in the next street to us, in the urbanisation Amapolas 3 in Playa Flamenca.

He said that his name was Andrew and that the dog was called ´H´.

(198) Completing the Irish set

Example 65 in Coincidences is centred around a 3 move queen sacrifice sequence overlooked in the 1999 game Daly Vs Rochev but executed by John Travolta in the 1996 film, Phenomenon.

At a Birmingham team match weekend in March 2003 I spotted Yuri Rochev, whom I had never before encountered, and silently handed him a gift copy of my book.

There were 3 young, titled Irish players named Quinn, Kelly and, in my opinion the most talented, Sam Collins.
Three quintessentially Irish names, so much so that it had occurred to me that you only really needed a Murphy to complete the set!

In May 2003 I met Rochev again at the same venue and we briefly discussed the book.
He said that he had actually noted the queen sacrifice that he could have played in his game at an earlier moment, looming as a future possibility, but when the moment came to actually do it... he had forgotten and played a prosaic winning move instead!

On August 29th 2003 I got an e mail from a man signing himself Niall Murphy and saying that he would like to buy a copy of Coincidences.

I wrote back asking how he had come across it. He responded -

Dear Mr Plaskett I came across your book via ICC finger notes.I had your book playing to win and stumbled on to parsifal when looking at B23
I also liked your French vs. short a few years ago I had a feeling I had seen you play it on icc against NDS prior to 4NCL game.

ICC stood for Internet Chess Club.

In subsequent e mails he added -

I was reminded of your book when chess playing friend and psychology graduate told me he had read it while studying in the UK.
He also had played you in simul last year 1 e4 Nc6 somewhere and found you to be a very nicefellow. Address with money.
Regards Niall Murphy
p.s apologies if previous form of address "hi James" was too American

And -
Hi James If I send a draft to this address for 20 dollars you will forward it to meon receipt.
Regards Niall Murphy

Then somehow the money did not arrive (... lost in the Spanish post?)
After a while I explained the problem and he said he would send it again.

In September (I think) 2003 an Irish family came to stay in their holiday home which was in the next street to ours of the Urbanisation Amapolas 3 on the Orihuela Costa.
Their son played chess with mine a few times on the large chess table on our patio. His mother had an interest in martial arts and when she discovered that my wife and son were into karate they got chatting.
I think the family came out again that October for a brief visit and it was then that the lady mentioned that the husband of her best friend was Johnny Joyce, who was apparently a good Irish chess player.
I had not heard of him.

She said that he had heard from her that there was an English Grandmaster in the next street to them in Spain, so she asked for my name. She added that she thought that at that moment Joyce was away with Irish juniors in Greece.
It all prompted me to mention that the three most promising young Irishmen were Quinn, Kelly and Collins, and that with these names you really only needed a Murphy to complete the set!

In late October/ early November I got around again to contacting Mr Murphy re his uncompleted order.
On Nov 4th 2003 this e mail arrived -

Hi James, I have just returned from world junior chess tournament. My son was playing Dara O Murchadha Under 12. I was unable to access my e mail out there(Kalithea)Sorry for all frustration. I will e mail tomorrow when money sent. Yes I want book.
Regards Niall

I did not even know he had a son, nor that the Irish entrant in this event was Murphy (for the surname o´Murchadha is rendered thus in English) as his father had already been doing.

Later that day I got this -

Hi Here is his link
Regards Niall

I wrote back mentioning the Johnny Joyce´s missus´ holiday home in the next street thing, and he came back with -

Hi James I met John Joyce out there.He was one of three coaches we brought.Yuri Rochev,JJ and Dave Drakeford.He( John Joyce) made a big impression hard working nice supportive and very good with the kids.He lives in Wicklow Ballykissangel land. He found (everyone did) coaching very draining emotionally.I have attended only two chess tournament so I was overwhelmed with how hard(stressful it is)but my son enjoyed and learned a lot and met some nice people.what more can you ask for. Watch for confirmation tomorrow on posting of money.Thanks again.
Regards Niall

Next day I got this -

Hi James Money and address sent.Postwoman said 5 or 6 days counting from tomorrow. Yuri lives in Galway(like me)and coached my son since April.
Regards Niall

I wrote back and for the first time mentioned that Rochev was in the book, and had a gift copy from me.
His response was -
.... Yuri never mentioned your book! I am really surprised that he has a copy. If there was a free copy available I do not think I would buy it (to be honest) He still has not mentioned it.
He is professional scientist so I imagine extremely sceptical of coincidences. I had sent message to you once before on ICC where I asked you after you beat Short in Be7 line in Tarrasch if you had used ICC to sharpen openings .You replied enigmatically maybe but not that exact phrase. It was meeting Rory Quinn that rekindled my interest this Summer.

So, I give Rochev the gift book in March, and next month he starts teaching the Murphy boy, whose father later contacts me for a copy of the book, which he was unaware Rochev already possessed.

By then I had sold just over 200 copies, globally.

Niall said something about his having a university academic friend called Quinn who had read my book and liked it.
He refers to him in the last e mail.

NB. In early January 2010 I logged on to the Internet Chess Club and found that Mr Murphy, with whom I had had no contact since 2003, had left a message for me on December 29th 2009. He said that he had just noticed my signature in a copy of Simon Webb´s book Chess For Tigers.

I asked him to clarify and on January 11th 2010 I got -

Happy new year to you and your family as well.I Have it on my shelf along with other chess books i intend to read
. I just noticed it your name on it recently.It is second hand I probably got it in local second hand bookshop.I live in Galway. niall Murphy

(197) James Plaskett in the news

On November 3rd 2003 this e mail arrived -

I read your book "Coincidences" a couple of years ago - an excellent read.
Anyway, yesterday evening I was in my kitchen cooking whilst my wife was painting the walls. She had the radio on (a very rare event - purely to relieve the monotony of the painting) and it was tuned into the local commercial station "210 FM" which was playing the syndicated Pepsi chart presented by "Dr" Fox (have never discovered what his PhD is in!?).
There was a competition for people to win a state of the art picture mobile telephone.
At one stage he read out the names of some of the winners. I disctinctly recall him reading out

"James Plaskett from Tamworth - hello James."

Your name was one of about 5 names - and the only one which he followed with a personal hello (as though he knew the listener).
I immediately said to my wife, "I think I know who that is - I've got a book by him."
It all made sense and having Tamworth as the location seemed correct for you. I went off to find my copy of the book and immediately noted that it is the publishers name "Tamworth Press" and not your home-town that gave the Tamworth link.
I then noted that the book gives Hastings as your address - miles away from Tamworth. Intrigued by this, I went to look at the web address given on the book to see if you had moved to Tamworth (thinking there must be a connection for the name Tamworth Press) and, after a quick search around, discovered that you are now living in Spain!
So, is there a James Plaskett from Tamworth whose name was announced on national radio, whilst a different James Plaskett has a book published by Tamworth Press on the subject of coincidences.
Or, was it you all along and the name Tamworth Press is due to a family link and you were back in Tamworth at the time? If it is the coincidence route - it is also strange that James Plaskett was the only name that Dr Fox acknowledged (with the "hello James").
As I was not really concentrating on the radio show - this addition made me note the name much more clearly than I otherwise would of.
Anyway, I hope this is of interest to you.
Would be quite a strange event if it is a true coincidence. It is not as if your name is common and the Tamworth link is intriuging. If it was indeed you then - I guess all I can say is congratulations on winning the phone - and sorry to waste your time.
Best wishes,
Paul Gilham

I responded that it was not me, as I now lived in Spain, and added -
... Bizarre. Someone on the Internet chess club told me that, I think the day before IDS (Ian Duncan Smith) was voted out, last week, the BBC report of events in the Commons mentioned the Leamington MP, James Plaskitt, but misspelt his name as mine, i.e. with an e. I am in the news...
Many thanks for your intriguing report,

He replied -
James, That certainly is very bizarre - a coincidence revolving around a book on coincidences....... I came across your book via the Fortean Times and bought a copy after reading the review of the book. I also note that you have written a review of a book in the FT and have had at least one letter printed. I recently had an article published in the FT.
Glad the report wasn't useless,

I followed up with an explanation of the name of our Press -

... it´s Tamworth Press, as Julian Barnes sussed, because of The Tamworth Two.
You remember those two pigs, Butch and Sundance, who ran across country some years ago until they were caught. My wife and I had both put on weight, so...
Then after publication in Sep 2003 she stumbled upon the fact that the two pigs were being kept about 17 miles from Hastings. We visited, and got the tee shirt.
Last example in my book was about Who wants To Be A Millionaire? 13 mths later I got on the show again... and failed again.

He replied -

Glad to hear that you are still collecting coincidences
Three appearances on WWTBAM !
Is that some kind of record?
Best wishes,

Paul Gilham

(196) More on the giant octopus

On May 4th 2003, James Eadon forwarded me an e mail from a Frenchman called Michel Raynal.

He had contacted him about me and the excerpts from Coincidences concerning the giant octopus which he must have got hold of through Google references to my work at Eadon´s site. He said that he had been unable to obtain the book and asked if Eadon could photocopy pages and send them to him.
He also explained that he and other biologists were currently examining samples of the tissues of the 1896 Florida globster.

I got back to Monsieur Raynal and sold him the book. He also revealed that the first results of the three teams working on the 1896 tissues indicated that it was not a cetacean!

A few days later I e mailed him that I had footage of the 1999 expedition to Bermuda and asked if he would be interested in buying copies.
He said that he certainly would, but replied on May 25th that the price I quoted was beyond his means. He added that he might be interested in purchasing transcripts of the interview which I had filmed with seafarer Teddy Tucker.

On June 5th I e mailed to agree to his offer and quote a small price for the transcripts.

On June 11th, I got another e mail from him -

Sorry for my long silence. I had some problems with my E-mail box. Now it is OK.. You speak of coincidences ? Well, I have received a proposal by a publisher for a book on the giant octopuses!!! So, I am more than ever interested in your video investigations in Bermudas, and I am ready to purchase the 15 cassettes...

The French cryptozoologist had been interested in the giant octopus for 20 or so years and, indeed, had already had something on his website about my expedition for several years.

Yet it was only now, as my name turned up in connection with Eadon’s site when he searched the web, that he got in touch.

And it was also now, as three teams under his directorship had at long last got around to a DNA analysis of the 1896 sample (the importance of which I had discussed in 1999 with Professor Roy Mackal, who said he still had slivers of it in his freezer, and which I had mentioned in my 2000 article on my expedition in the Fortean Times) that an independent proposal for a book on the subject (the publisher was "L’Oeil du Sphinx"- a specialiser in Fortean phenomena) came his way.

That offer made him change his mind and pay me for a copy of my video record.

As part of the deal I authorised the sending of a sample of the Bermuda Blob, a mysterious mass which washed up in Bermuda in 1988, from Teddy Tucker in Bermuda to Monsieur Raynal for analysis.

Then in late June 2003 a huge mass of tissue beached in southern Chile and media reports detailed that Raynal was one of several biochemists from around the world who were being called upon to examine the tissues.
He was, like me, excited by the find, but also like me he felt that it was most likely to prove to be a whale carcass, as subsequent analyses confirmed.
But for a while the whale (as it turned out to be) was world news.

On September 11th 2003 he contacted me to say that an English translation had just appeared of B. Heuvelman’s long established classic of cryptozoology: Le Kraken et le Pulpe Colossal.

He accurately observed that "The giant octopus is really in the news!"

(195) Teaching Darwinists

In April 2003 I looked on the internet for references to anti-Darwinist, Richard Milton.
One was for a website ran by Mikey Brass, where he had panned Milton’s anti-Darwinian writings.
I left a note that I was impressed with Milton, and Brass e mailed me back that he was a moron and I must be too to support him and that if I were to say more on this topic I would have to do it at the Yahoo! DebunkCreation list, or not at all.

So I joined it, making my first post on April 9th 2003, and for the next two months debated with a pack of Darwinists.
There were, I noted, about three hundred and eighty list members, although only twenty-five or so were actively posting.
I concluded my critique of synthetic evolution with six posts, each detailing why a certain aspect of synthetic evolutionary theory was invalid.
The last of these I presented on June 9th 2003, and then I returned in early October 2003 to answer some criticisms made of my fifth post.

On June 13th 2003 I was logged on to the Internet Chess Club and noted in the religious discussion channel, 103. a handle which seemed new to me; Mellowscotch.
There were over 20,000 registered handles.
He then introduced himself as Derik Newell of Kansas, and asked about tuition.
We arranged our first lessson for July 12th.
I had never communicated with him before that.

On July 17th 2003, Derik e mailed me to say that he too was a member of the DebunkCreation Yahoo! group and, having not posted there for about two years, had decided to look in at the recent contributions to the list.
To his surprise he discovered that I had been posting there.
So he had just posted this -

I haven’t been an active poster on this group for two years or so. I’m also an avid chessplayer and play chess on ICC all the time, I approached a certain GM about lessons and agreed to lessons. After our first lesson I was catching up with what had been going on in this group and what do I find out? My tutor is none other than GMJimtheTwit, James Plaskett :)
Talk about a wierd coincidence ok, back to your regular position bashing and arguementation

(194) Critical reviews

In early 2001 Justin Horton gave my book Coincidences a less than warm review in Kingpin magazine -

By an amazing coincidence, I wrote in praise of Jim Plaskett a couple of issues ago, and I have now been asked to review his book Coincidences.
I'm not sure I can..., if only because it would take more space... than the book,... is intrinsically worth. ...
Plaskett relates a number of apparently bizarre coincidences in his life, while taking us through his unsuccessful attempts to have an anti-Darwinian TV programme... broadcast, and his conviction that coincidences are evidence of deeper... hidden patterns...
All the usual suspects - Koestler, van der Post, pyramid patterns are invoked. ...
I could take several thousand words to explain... why this is a load of tripe, but... it is not my experience that rational explanations... satisfy those who take refuge in mysticism to compensate for an inadequate understanding of evolution, of science and of mathematical odds....
whenever we attempt to find meaning in some... coincidence - e.g. ... we go on holiday and our next-door neighbour is in the adjoining chalet - we neglect the many times... when we... experience things in which no such pattern can be detected.
If you do millions of things, eventually some coincidences turn up.
Every Saturday, although the odds are 13,983,815-1, somebody actually wins the Lottery.
No pattern, just inevitability.
Jim Plaskett is an interesting man and an engaging writer, but I wish he would not write tosh like this.
I do not recommend that you read this book. I do... recommend that Plaskett reads writers like Stephen Jay Gould and John Sladek, who may be able to put straight some of his misconceptions.

An issue of Kingpin towards the end of 2001 would contain some more enthusiastic comments from readers of my book.

In October 2001 I received an e mail enclosing a chess questionnaire from J. Horton to some GMs.
Now that I had his address, I pointed out that I had read all of Gould’s books. Over a week later I had received no reply so I e mailed again.
It produced an acknowledgement and a promise that a fuller response would be forthcoming.

On 14th December I sent this -

Should you ever feel like telling me with which aspects of Gould's thought I need to be better acquainted, do so... A merry Darwinian Xmas to you and a happy new year.
James Plaskett

There quickly followed the response -

Dear Mr Plaskett,
I am baffled by your e-mail. I sent you a long reply some weeks ago. Did you not receive it?
Justin Horton

I replied

I did not... ! Please re-submit, if you can.
Thanks, James

In December 2001 the Fortean Times contained an article arguing for Intelligent Design versus Darwinism and pointing out the activities of self-appointed Darwinian Thought Police against those who dare to question their creed.
It prompted me to send in the following letter -

Sir, ... criticisms of neo-Darwinism do not have to promote Intelligent Design as the only alternative... (I then outlined some of the main points against neo-Darwinism before concluding with) -
... Neo-Darwinists... like all others who embrace a creation myth... are just whistling in the dark.
But if you want to posit a Designer, then we want to know what designed that Designer.
And if your response is that it is something... beyond time and space, then we should concede that we have probably reached the limits of human intelligence.

James Plaskett

To my surprise I then got this e mail on January 8th 2002 -

Dear James, I enjoyed your... letter... on Intelligent Design. It's going in the next edition. A book has... come in which I hoped you might be interested in reviewing... : Evolution: the Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer, with an intro by Stephen Jay Gould...
Best wishes,

Val Stevenson Reviews Editor, Fortean Times

This was the first time that I had ever been asked to review a non-chess book.
I responded that I would love to, and the next day received acknowledgement and thanks.

Also on January 9th I got another e mail from Horton -

Dear Mr Plaskett,
... it wasn't anything *specific* that Gould said..., so much as his insistence on scientific *method*... in... evolution, he is... keen to remind us that variations... don't possess any purpose or meaning. This seemed... the opposite of your approach... you... observe... events that were not necessarily connected, and insist that they... were...
When one says... "there *has* to be a reason" for something,... while it can... be a way of escaping the fetters of previously accepted thinking, it is more often a route into... loss of intellectual rigour.
I... felt that you were insisting on connections... not shown to exist... hence my lack of patience with the book... other readers disagree with me... perhaps time will show who was right.
... in writing (my) dissertation... I found your book Playing To Win particularly useful...thinking "outside the box" enabled you to be constructive and original. Conversely, I felt the same process in Coincidences merely led to a mess.

Justin Horton

I replied -
Ok... in the introduction... I accept that coincidence does not necessarily mean anything... Gould is not best known as a philosopher of science per se, but rather as a... populariser of neo-Darwinism... scientific methodology and how something... not amenable to... replication may... meet with acceptance... is one of the main themes of the book.
All the best,

This was my review for the Fortean Times -

The triumph of an idea
By Carl Zimmer
This is the accompanying volume to the recent PBS seven part American TV series, Evolution, and could almost serve as a standard text of how Darwinists get it wrong.
They claim that the evidence to support neo-Darwinism is as solid as that which upholds the idea of the earth orbiting the sun. In reality the only reasons why anyone today could think neo-Darwinism triumphant are the specious evidence presented in its favour and censorship of the scientific arguments against.
I am incredulous that, in his introduction, Stephen Jay Gould is still promoting the case of the Peppered Moth as supportive of natural selection, when it has, on so many occasions, been shown to be bogus.
The mutating of bacteria and viruses are Zimmer’s examples of benign, spontaneous mutation. But unless you can show that the strains that come through to resist antibiotics were not already present to begin with then you may not claim that evolution has been demonstrated, for nothing new came about.
The non inter-breeding of the finches of the Galapagos and the Herring gull and Lesser black-backed gulls are cited as evidence of speciation. In fact those finches and those gulls can interbreed, so why regard them as separate species?
Instances of fossil sequences demonstrating change above the species level may be very much disputed as may claims of genetic similarity which prove common ancestry.
Most scientists privately concede that there are serious objections to Darwinism, and in response to the PBS series 100 signed a statement of scepticism about the ability of natural selection of random mutations to account for the complexity of organisms.
In March 1995 the Times Higher Education Supplement announced that it had commissioned a critique of Darwinism by journalist, Richard Milton. Richard Dawkins contacted the editor and lobbied against the publication of the article, which he had not seen. She caved in to this unscientific bullying and suppressed the piece. Dawkins interprets his role as professor for the public understanding of science at Oxford University as meaning he must prevent the public and academic community from gaining access to evidence that contradicts Darwinian doctrines. (If you want to read Milton's article go to
A Times leader of August 1992 commented that a critique of the limitations of neo-Darwinism "... will make fascinating television."
Ten years has been too long a wait for such a, genuinely scientific, broadcast on this taboo subject.

At the beginning of June 2003 I was informed by Dr Antonio Palma (an appreciative reader of Coincidences) that a guy in a shop in his town of Bari, Italy was trying to sell him what he claimed to be a 1941 letter from Capablanca to his wife.

I e mailed chess columnist Tim Krabbé about it on June 2nd 2003, and he responded -

I saw the Bashir documentary about Major Charles Ingram, and had to think of you. Of course the guy should have been jailed for not knowing what a googol is, and for never having been to Paris. I also thought of you when I saw a reader’s letter in the London Review of Books by Fiona, side by side with one about chess.
I’m mentioning (but not reviewing) your Coincidences book in a future column about a great chess coincidence I experienced.

He added that Capa called his wife "Kikiriki" and that they spoke French to each other.
This authenticated the letter, and I informed Dr Palma, who went on to buy it.

I sought out the chess letter in the London Review of Books, and it turned out to be from... Justin Horton.
Right after this one from my wife -

No a la guerra From Fiona Pitt-Kethley
I enjoyed John Sturrock’s ‘Short Cuts’ about bullshit and other matters (LRB, 17 April).
Several months ago I moved to Spain. In current times I am glad to be out of England and living in a country where ‘No a la guerra’ stickers appear everywhere on cars. I can switch between English and Spanish TV channels.
News coverage of the war on the latter seemed infinitely more fair, largely because it did not seem to depend on embedded reporters.
A week into the war my, my husband became reacquainted with an old Iraqi friend who had previously run a chess café in London and had moved to Spain to open a restaurant. (Entry 188.)
Over drinks at his home we had the unusual and interesting experience of viewing channels beamed in by satellite from every Arab country you can think of, from Libya to the UAE.
The pictures were entirely different from what we were seeing on Western television; reality probably lies somewhere in between.
Our friend was desperately seeking information on the welfare of his sisters and their families in Baghdad and could not understand why the Americans had felt it necessary to take out the phones and electric power. To this day he has been unable to get through to his family to find out if they are alive or dead...
If you are as disturbed at all the bullshit as I am, may I suggest that you search on Google for Prescott Bush (the grandfather) to get an idea of the deals the family has been involved in.

there followed this

- Checkmates from Justin Horton
(A letter in which he noted several historical factual innacuracies in a piece on chess by Daniel Soar which had appeared in their edition of April 3rd.)
It concluded -
Finally, the story of Frank Marshall saving up his innovation in the Ruy Lopez opening for ten years in order to use it on Capablanca, though a good one, is now, I believe, generally agreed to be false.

It was to this letter that Krabbé had referred.

Two below it was another commenting on a review of a chess-related book in the April 3rd edition.

It should have From Joseph Diamante Ruth Franklin (LRB, 3 April)
reviews a translation of Stefan Zweig’s Schachnovelle that "now appears as The Royal Game".

I have a copy of a paperback Compass Books edition, published by Viking Press in 1961, which includes a reprint of The Royal Game in the same B.W. Huebsch translation. Shouldn’t the review have said that it was a translation?

I e mailed Krabbé back, pointing out the parallels:-

a) My wife, without consulting me, includes in her letter the coincidence of Entry 188.

b) Krabbe’s e mail to me began with a reference to the Major and his possible incarceration.
So did my, already written up, account in Entry 189.

c) Krabbé drew attention to Justin Horton’s letter, adjacent to my wife’s.
Horton had been one of eight or so people who had written reviews of Coincidences, and his was quite unfavourable. Krabbe’s e mail mentions that, at long last (he had received it well over a year before) he would be getting around to referring to, although not reviewing, my book.

d) I contacted Krabbé concerning the authenticity of a letter from a GM to his wife. He had already thought about me, another GM, following seeing a published letter from my wife.

e) Entry 188, which I sent to Krabbé, involves Dr Bari, the guy who was thinking about buying the Capablanca letter and who said he found Entry 189 "astonishing".
Also, Horton, who had written a sceptical review of Coincidences - in contrast to Dr Palma, who very much liked it, and Krabbé who gave it a neutral reference - queries in his letter the authenticity of a Capablanca anecdote.

f) The last letter in the LRB was also on a chess theme.

g) Until mid-June 2003 a copy of Zweig’s The Royal Game lay on our landing. Fiona had received it as an unsolicited publisher’s gift the year before. I then sold it to a bookstall in our local market, one to which I had previously made sales of Coincidences.

Then, intrigued by this nexus, I bought the Zweig book back.
Some months later we received a letter from Dr Winnifred Heller (see Entry 166) which contained a gift copy of the same Zweig book, for myself, in German: Schachnovelle.
I had never mentioned it nor even Zweig to her.

After my essay in defence of the Millionaire Three went up at the site, I received on January 11th 2004 an e mail from Krabbé indicating a change of mind -

Dear James,
Yesterday night, I saw a man race through the first 14 questions of the Dutch Millionaire (top prize € 500.000) with answers I also knew, and stop at the last one which I also didn't know. But I wouldn't have been on - I bungled the Fast Fingers round which he'd done in 5 secs. As to Ingram's £1.000.000 question my son instantly knew the answer to, see:
The mathematician's name was Kasner, and the Googol guy was not his son, but a (sometimes named) nephew, whose age is variously given as 8 or 9.
Very interesting piece - yours, I mean. When I saw 3/4 of Bashir's program (I remembered too late to put in on), I was convinced that the Ingrams were guilty. But if it is possible to make a reasonable and realistic person like me doubt that, as your piece does, then they should not have been convicted. There should at least have been a reconstruction in the studio, to determine what could be heard and seen from where.
My 95 % belief in their guilt went down to 50.... ... ...
Tim Krabbé

He was to, on October 22nd 2005, give Coincidences a more favourable mention in a Dutch newspaper article.

He also there conveyed his liking for my new book Starting Out: Attacking Play.

(193) Looking for a bishop and a Spanish tee shirt for the education authorities

On June 11th 2003 my wife
found a tee shirt whilst fishing with our son on the local beach.

Fiona had been thinking about my going in to see the head of our son’s school the next day and to discuss (in my fumbling Spanish) certain problems the boy had been experiencing.

She had been considering, she subsequently informed me, my wearing a tee shirt which I had acquired at a tournament in Northern Spain three years earlier which had information about chess in Spanish on its front.
Her idea was that talking to a GM might impress the man.
But she had been unable to find it.

She had also been looking for one piece missing from a wooden chess set of hers: a white bishop.

The tee shirt she discovered on the beach had a black chess bishop on its front and also two escutcheons.
Under one was "Diputacion de Alicante Juventud" and beneath the other "Ayuntamiento de Alicante Educacion" (Alicante Education Town Hall).

It fitted me, so I would sometimes wear it, although I did not see the headmaster the next day.

(192) Revelations of Chance

On April 4th 2003 I sent this e mail to Dr Roderick Main -

Hola! Did your book Revelations of Chance ever materialize?
Hope you are well.

I then appended a few recent examples of coincidence that I had experienced.

It had been at least eighteen months since any communication between us and he had last said that he would be aiming to have a book on synchronicity called Revelations of Chance coming out in late 2002.

Two days later he replied -

Dear James,
my book, which will be quite different now from the thesis and may or may not end up being called Revelations of Chance, is still not finished.
However, on the very evening you wrote to me, I began a period of four months paid study leave during which I shall have the completing of the book as my sole specific task. I will send you a copy of the book when it does find its way into print (the publisher with whom I have a contract is Brunner- Routledge). I may also try to get in touch before then about the sections relating to your experiences.
Is that OK with you?
Many thanks for your accounts below.
I am glad the god of coincidence is still keeping you on your toes.
I hope you and your family are well,
Best wishes,


See page 12 of this catalogue -

(191) Villa Spain

At 9:15 a.m on March 18th 2003 I rang Byron Jacobs at his Brighton home from our house in Spain.
But it had been some time since I had rung him and I misremembered the number, mistakenly putting in 00441273 and then 326376.

A voice answered saying “Villa Spain.”

It transpired that I had rung a property company of that name in London, but do not ask me how as the number which I had dialled was the above, clearly visible on the display, and the code is for Brighton.

(190) Sheila´s house

On the morning of March 10th 2003 I rang directory inquiries from a public phone at Birmingham International airport to get the number of Kingsley Napley solicitors in London.
I wanted to speak to the defence for Major Charles Ingram in his trial for suspected fraud when winning the top prize on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
There were several false connections and/or instances of the line going dead so I moved across to a nearby phone.
Not long after the original phone from which I had been trying to get through rang.
I answered it and heard a lady with a Birmingham accent asking if this was Sheila’s house. I told her where she was calling, and she apologised for the wrong number.

My mother’s maiden name was Sheila Ingram.

(189) Finding a chess café in Spain or London

At about 8:40 on the evening of March 9th 2003 I walked into an Easynet café in London’s Strand with the primary intent of sending an e mail to offer some advice to the solicitors representing Major Charles Ingram, who stood accused of cheating on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?.

At the entrance they were selling food. The computers were in a separate place behind.
I moved into that sector and saw that the guy directly in front of me as I walked towards their computers was playing on the Internet Chess Club.
Like me, he had a travelling bag with him.
I sat down next to him and introduced myself.

Erik Martin Laborda was a thirty-one year old from Madrid now living in Hither Green. He had been working in the oil business for some months for a London firm called Shielders, having previously been based for a while in Ashford, Kent. He had travelled from Heathrow airport having just arrived back from visiting his parents in Mallorca. He had become interested in internet chess since following the chess interest of an ex-flat mate. Now he said that he had become hooked and for the past three months had been logging on whenever he could.

He was very surprised to meet a Grandmaster, and explained that he wanted to learn more about the London chess scene; clubs, cafés, teachers, etc. He had a handle on ICC; romgir, so he was one of their over 20,000 registered handles , someone paying an annual fee to access the site ad lib, and not just a guest. Guests could log on for half an hour’s free play whenever.

I said that I could provide him with information on all of the matters about which he inquired, and added that I had been a frequenter of chess cafés in London, but that I was not sure exactly where to go these days for that kind of action.
I even offered my own services as an online teacher of chess, which he accepted.

To commemorate the coincidence of our encounter I then handed him a signed copy of Coincidences.

On March 17th 2003 I gave him his first lesson; with him in London and I at a place called Punta Prima, about a kilometre from our new home in Playa Flamenca, Spain, where we had moved in July 2002.

At 4:30p.m. on March 24th 2003 I began a one hour chess lesson with Dr Antonio Palma, of Bari, Italy. I commenced it from The Mail Room, a place offering internet access by the beach at Playa Flamenca.
But at 5 p.m. they closed, so I had to conclude by walking over to a place about a kilometre away in Punta Prima; the same spot from where I had given Erik his lesson the previous week.

The inability of the Spanish telephone system to supply us with internet access, plus a lorry having recently destroyed my car, necessitated this. (On March 27th we at last got on the internet at our home.)

As I arrived in Punta Prima, circa 5:20 p.m. I recognised Al-Helil Munir Saleh ("Manu"), the former owner of the Café Mozart in London.

I had not seen him since November 1997 when we had attended the funeral of another aficianado of his chess café; Michael Knox.
He explained that in March 2002 he had bought a house in Villa Martin, about two kilometres from where I now lived, and that on March 15th 2003 he had opened a restaurant called Los Años 20s, the first building on the Punta Prima corner.
Prior to that those premises had been closed for two years.
(See the card details at the head of this Entry.)

Neither of us had any notion that the other had even been thinking about moving to Spain.

He still owned the Café Mozart but leased it out. It had changed hands several times since I had stopped going there in the mid 1990s and was now no longer the scene of chess activity.

The only chess activity that would now transpire at Los Años 20s was when I or my son played Manu there, as in this photo -
I recommenced Dr Palma’s ("nightflier") lesson, and during it Erik Laborda sent me a message. He asked about the guy who ran a London chess café, whom I had mentioned when we had met, and whether he was still running it.

I explained that a few minutes earlier I had met him again, after a gap of six years, that he was now less than a hundred metres from me and had nine days before opened a restaurant and café where something of a chess scene might well soon exist again.

The next day I gave Manu a copy of Coincidences.
A few weeks later a Spanish woman, whom he had nearly married some twenty years earlier, visited him, took a liking to the book, and departed with it.

So I gave him a second copy.

(188) Unlucky for some

On March 7th 2003 I was flying from Alicante to Birmingham on a flight where you could sit wherever you pleased. I chose an aisle seat of row twenty-three.
A stewardess commented to one of three young men sat behind me that there was an empty seat in row thirteen, if he wanted to move to it. Maybe they had made some remarks about being cramped (?!)
He thought about it and then said that he would stay put.

I turned around and said that perhaps it was no coincidence that there was a vacant seat in row thirteen.
Years earlier I had read of a tendency for people not to want seats in that row.

Then I thought of the belief of Gary Kasparov, one which he shared with the late Sir Laurens van der Post, that for him thirteen is actually a lucky number.

When recording the video series of his life story I had commented to him upon this (he was the thirteenth world chess champion) and other of his beliefs and said that, for a man charged with representing the rationality of mankind, he seemed extraordinarily interested in superstition.

Later that evening I picked up part of a discarded copy of The Times on a train and noted on page twelve the headline
Thank your lucky stars if you’re not superstitious.
It was about how Dr Richard Wiseman (to whom I had sent a gift copy of Coincidences shortly after publication), had embarked on a search for British superstitions.
His online survey was one of 1000 events to mark National Science Week in the UK, and it would, after a week, reveal just how superstitious the British were.

Dr Wiseman, author of a book called The Luck Factor, which had examined the lives of four hundred people who considered themselves either exceptionally lucky or unlucky, said that he really did not believe that there were such things as good or ill fortune.
"They [superstitions] give us a feeling of control over uncertainty and so it might be predicted that the current feeling of instability in the world would create an increase in superstition", he said.
Successful people, he believed, were those who were not superstitious and tended to make their own luck, whereas the unsuccessful blamed theirs on fate. "It’s nice to believe that if you are not good at something, it’s nothing to do with you."
He marked the launch at the Savoy, London, with the help of Kaspar, a lucky black cat made of wood, resident at the hotel.
Kaspar, three feet high and complete with dinner napkin, is brought out to make a fourteenth supper guest whenever there are thirteen people at a table. He has been making his appearances since 1927 and became a personal favourite of Winston Churchill who started his dining society, the Other Club, at the Savoy in 1911.

I had never before heard of Kaspar nor of the reason for his occasional dinners.

I later picked up part of The Guardian left on on the same train and saw another article about it headed
The science of superstition.

I gave commentary on several of the games of the 1993 Times World Chess Championship match between Nigel Short and Gary Kasparov, and attended almost all of them.
It was played at the Savoy theatre.
During it Kasparov stayed at, and certainly sometimes also dined at, the Savoy.
The Russian suffix ‘ov’ might be taken as the English ‘of’.

But then, what’s in a name?
A question that a professional sceptic of the paranormal like Dr Wiseman, might ponder...

N.B. Re The Other Club, Kasparov himself helped found and head a party in Russia -

(187) The dream of the quiz show host undone through two friends helping a player with the answers

The examples thus far listed constitute, for the most part, clear cut coincidences or sometimes groupings of two or more.
But I also recorded long chains of events, one from September 2001 and another from March 2003, where I had cobbled together clear coincidences, double entendres in speech and headlines and other, often very, very vague, possible correspondences.

The first of these, spanning twenty-five pages, I termed A Splurge, and the second, much smaller, one, More of A Splurge.
Each contained a lot about the alleged fraudulent win of the top prize on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? by Major C. Ingram, who was charged with having had assistance in answering the questions from his co-defendants; his wife, Diana, and another contestant, Tecwen Whittock.

One of the other major themes was how I was arguing with my wife about the conclusion towards I felt myself inexorably drawn; life is a dream.
I then experimented on March 6th 2003 by adding the Splurges to the text of what is now this blog on my word processor, by cutting and pasting them in from elsewhere on my computer files.

I had already sent articles to the editor of The Sunday Telegraph and to William Hartston at The Express, pointing out that Tarrant had done just that of which the Ingrams stood accused, but neither had wanted to publish. My countercase for the Ingrams was that if Celador proceeded then it might be Tarrant’s undoing, for he had clearly urged and/or helped players on the show.

More of A Splurge ended with Major Ingram’s statement of how he was going to be more forceful on the second day’s questioning.
Taken from the transcripts of proceedings given in The Sun, it read:

When Ingram returned to the chair, wearing the same rugby shirt, the banter went

Tarrant: "What could possibly go wrong? We are going over the top, Major. We return with Charles Ingram in the hot seat - a position he may well have been in before having served in the Falklands and Bosnia... Have you got a strategy?"

Ingram: "I have actually. I was a bit defensive on the last shoot. I started talking myself out of answers. This time I’m going on the counterattack. I’m going to be a lot more positive and show more self-commitment. You only get in the chair once."

As I pasted that second part into the text, instantaneously my wife called out to me from downstairs that a synchronicity was occurring on the TV that Sacha was watching which I would probably want to note.
She thought it was Goosebumps, but it was actually on an ITV kids show, called Seriously Weird. I had never heard of it.

I went down two flights of stairs and saw that she was indicating that a kid ("Harris") was on a games show, but it was in his dream.
He was strapped to a board and under fear of dire punishment were he to fail - down a shute to some nasty end. But two of his friends appeared and helped him with the answers and thus he succeeded.

Fiona had been moving between the kitchen and the front room, and so had not picked up on all of the details, but she specified that the last question had been something like "What is making that roaring?".

The boy suggested first "A lion", and as that was wrong he moved closer to the shute.
He then ventured "A tiger", but that was not right neither, and so he edged further towards it.
One of the dreamer’s friends then said "A Siberian tiger", and that had led to the undoing of the host.

Instead of the boy it was the question master, who had a nasty, threatening manner and was clearly looking forward to the player failing and being punished, who was tied to the board and sent down the shute.

"This is my dream: I can control it!" the boy observed.

Straight after the show ended the TV presenter on ITV said "Aw, never mind Harris; it was only a dream. Or was it?"
I asked my son if he recognised the actor playing the quizmaster and whether he had seen him on the same programme before.
He replied that he had not, but he had seen him on Liar Liar, playing the dad.
This was a mis-identification, but Fiona explained that he did indeed bear a facial similarity to Jim Carrey.
I think he played the character of a schoolteacher in Seriously Weird.

Chris Tarrant was once a schoolteacher.

See also the content of the later coincidence recorded here as Entry 211 .

Saturday, March 11, 2006

(186) Concerning real experiences

At 9:20 p.m. on February 14th 2003 I was amending this part of the original text of Coincidences -

In 1987, I had read a book by Ian Wilson called The After Death Experience in which Sabom’s work was also mentioned. The simplicity and importance of checking whether people who reported such experiences could verify events that took place when they were technically unconscious struck me immediately. Why all this waffle about "it could all just be a chemical reaction in the brain" when a perfect method of establishing whether it were or not existed?

It appears here between Points (41) and (42) of the Part Two: The Narrative, Epilogues and Appendices section, which itself is to be found after Entry 22.
I amended the piece in inverted commas to "it could just be all in the brain".
As I did so I heard a remark made on the TV kids programme which my son was watching behind me.

It was called Goosebumps and a boy said "I am in and out of the book!"
I turned to watch it carefully and saw that the plot was that a boy finds the characters in his comic magazine coming to life around him. Then one of them, "The Masked Mutant", tells the boy, "Skipper", that he too is now a comic book character.

The boy had previously bragged that, unlike The Masked Mutant, he was real, but upon being told by the Mutant that he has become no more than blobs of ink, he gets unnerved.

He comes up with a way of defeating his adversary: he says that he IS a comic book character. He is "The Amazing Elastic Boy".
He then "lets slip" that the only way to defeat himself is through immersion in sulphuric acid.
The Masked Mutant promptly starts to turn into the acid, but only succeeds thereby in doing away with himself.

It ended with the next morning’s post bringing a new comic magazine for Skipper: The Amazing Elastic Boy. His mother had been trying to scrub patterns of coloured ink off his palm, when Skipper starts being able to "elasticate" his body, and then he exalts himself as this comic book hero; The Amazing Elastic Boy.

(185) Lisa and the iguanas

On September 10th 2002 we were in The Park of Nations in Torrevieja, where we had been on our first inspection visit two years earlier.
Lisa Harrison had shown us around as a rep for the property company GAMA.
We saw some iguanas in a cage and that prompted me to remark that we had been told by Lisa that she had had a pet iguana.

Later we walked a few hundred metres to a MacDonalds and as we sat outside eating Lisa walked past.
I said hello and mentioned how the previous iguana sighting had put me in mind of her.
She said that one of the iguana cages in the park had originally been hers.
She now no longer worked for the housing company GAMA.

We had never seen her before outside of the brief contacts in the context of selling the house to us, and never saw her again.

(184) Ebenezer Roads

On July 9th 2002, Benjamin Owens ordered a copy of Coincidences from me, via the Internet Chess Club.
He had taken the unappealing chess handle of CManson; a reference to serial killer, Charles Manson.
I asked for his address, and so discovered that he lived in Ebenezer Road, Marietta, Georgia, U.S.A.

I was living in Ebenezer Road, Hastings, England.
Although the road he lived in was very long indeed, mine had just ten houses in it.

(183) Lisa and the Angel

In mid-May 2002 my wife called me in to see an episode of The Simpsons she was watching, as it featured Stephen Jay Gould.
He had been called in by Lisa Simpson to test the putative fossil of an angel.
At the end of the show he admitted that he had not done the tests.

Here are some facts about this episode -

Lisa the Skeptic

While Lisa and her classmates conduct an archaeological survey, a skeleton with abnormal bone structure protruding from its shoulders is uncovered, leading the townspeople to conclude the remains are that of an angel.

Miscellaneous Info
Production Number 5F05.
First aired in US 23 Nov 1997.
First aired in Australia 22 Apr 1998.

Special Guest Voices

* Stephen Jay Gould.
* Phil Hartman.

For additional information about this episode, see the episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive.

Also -
It was shown on UK TV 3 -4 days before Gould’s actual death.

Friday, March 10, 2006

(182) Haywood spiritual fire sermons

I was thinking upon a letter which Marcus Haywood wrote to me in early 1998 defending Douglas Baker's spiritual authenticity.
In it Haywood described himself as "a senior figure around Baker" and wrote that he could vouch for him

"... because I have known fire, in my own home... to know fire is to be feared, to be misunderstood... and not to care!... " etc.

Baker constantly referred to the importance, the centrality even, of this mysterious, mystical spiritual, fire.
He even said that he had never heard any other contemporary, self-proclaimed Gnostic or yogi speak of it.
I had written back to Haywood that -

a) Haywood’s having had this experience did not give Baker the right to do anything he pleased, and that

b) It did not necessarily say too much about Baker's significance as a spiritual teacher/authority either, for many people have had spiritual experiences, including myself, (see Epilogue A) and that some such people had gone to other gurus or perhaps to no guru at all.

The seventeenth century philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal also claimed to have known this same spiritual fire, and a written description of it had been found sown into the lining of his clothes after his death.

Yet I conceded that I personally had never had a ‘fire’ experience.

I had been musing, in Haywood's defence, that however monstrous Baker’s sins, if I had gone to a guru who preached of spiritual fire, and then I myself had gone on to have such a Divine experience, I would surely find it very, very difficult indeed to question his authenticity.

At 5:35 p.m. on February 20th 2002, about four years after I had sent my letter, I was moved to look up Internet references to this reported experience of Pascal’s.

I typed into Google
"Blaise Pascal Fire Lining of clothes"
and got back 38 references.
Most of these were rather unlikely groupings of those words, and not about the fire.
But the second one thrown up was headed ‘12092001Haywood’.

It proved to be a recent sermon given (I do not know where) by a preacher whose (first) name was Haywood -

Haywood D. Holderness, jr S-1208 Isaiah 11:1-10; Matthew 3:1-12 December 9, 2001

Fire !! We just cannot get to Christmas without... John the Baptist...
"... Repent for... The One who is coming will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with Fire!" ...
Fire -- especially Hellfire -- was a common word among the 18th century North American Puritans... Throughout the Bible, Fire is a sign of the presence of God... where there is fire, there also is God. ...
There is much more in the Bible about Fire as an agent of purification than... as a destructive force. ... the Greek word which we translate as fire is pur.
It’s the word from which we derive English words like "purification" or "purity" or "pyre". ... the first meaning of pur is "an antidote to evil influences"
And so we might say that to be baptized with fire is:
To be in the presence of God To be purified, and To be an antidote to evil influences ... if we are to experience the fire of the Spirit, we must… change so that we are open to the fresh presence of God...
That’s what John the Baptist was about and that's the kind of kingdom that Jesus made flesh in his brief ministry.

When God comes... insistently into our lives we are never the same again. That which is in the way is burned away. That which is hurtful is purified. And our lives will become living antidotes to evil, corruption and despair ...

There is a... story about... an abbot... His... job was to instruct the young monks who came into the monastery. A... monk... was... forlorn...

"Father," ... I have kept the... rules... I strive to cleanse my heart... Yet I still feel empty. What more should I do?

The old abbot... with fingers extended like... torches,... said, "

Why not be totally changed into fire!?"

... Is that really possible?... I think so… Maybe not suddenly, but slowly with a few sparks... then a small fire…then,… who knows!?

When... Blaise Pascal died... his servant found a scrap of paper hidden in the lining of his coat... a testimony of something that had happened 8 years earlier.
Pascal had written it down and kept the paper close to his heart.

Here is what it said:

‘In the year of Grace, 1654, on Monday 23rd of November… From about half past ten in the evening Until about half past twelve:
FIRE! God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob Not of the philosophers and scholars Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace God of Jesus Christ. Fire!

Whatever happened..., FIRE was all Pascal could say.
For two whole hours, nothing but FIRE - not of the philosophers and scholars, but the fire of God, undeniable and even un-sayable.
This is the word he carried next to his heart for the rest of his life.
Why not be changed? Why not have fire next to our hearts?... Perhaps we would find a taste of that kingdom which Isaiah promised…


What is this unforgettable spiritual fire of which both Haywoods preached?

(181) Past and future glories

At 2:25 p.m. on Saturday 12th January 2002 I was chatting with Robert Mucci in his secondhand shop in Hastings. I congratulated him on his wife’s pregnancy. He said the baby was due on the 19th March, the day after my own birthday.
I then spotted some old chess medals of mine in a pile of assorted bric-a-brac. He had bought them from me years earlier and clearly not yet sold them. I joked that there were some things which it was hard to shift at any price. I then mentioned that I had since acquired another such medal through winning a pub tournament the previous week.
But my son liked it and so it would not be up for sale.

As I said so a man older than myself walked into the shop and handled the medal to which I had been pointing. I turned to leave, mentioning to the newcomer that it had been mine.
He looked at me and said "We have played".
He put it down and left the shop with me, explaining that his name was Scholes. I asked if he played for Manchester United, the joke being that England international Paul Scholes played for them.
He said that he did have a son called Paul.
Mr Scholes remarked to his wife "This is a Grandmaster."

They lived in Tunbridge Wells, about thirty-five kilometres away, and only came to Hastings to buy fish.

He had a British chess rating of 197, i.e. a Candidate Master, and I, apparently, had beaten him some years before in a weekend tournament in Hastings. I failed to recognise him.

He said that he had thrice been British universities champion.
At his peak his rating had been 219, i.e. a de facto Master, and he had then been ranked ninth in the country.
Then he had decided not to pursue it professionally.

(180) The man's view on entrapment

On December 11th 2001 I caught part of a conversation from the Richard and Judy TV show where host, Richard Madeley, was challenging a lady guest who said that a man should always be held at least fifty per cent responsible for any pregnancy, even when it could be shown through conversations and diary entries that a woman had deceived him and had done it deliberately.

I was angered by her stance, not least because the jaws of this kind of trap had once nearly closed on me, and for the only time in my life I was moved to call in to a live TV discussion programme to give my thoughts.
I got through to an assistant and told her that in my opinion a new criminal offence should be created for the act of entrapment. Certainly there would be great difficulty in obtaining evidence, but, when possible, prosecutions should be brought.

(Later my wife asked what ought to be thought of some of her ex-partners who had not asked her if she had contraception.
A good point...)

My details were taken and I was asked if I wished a pseudonym to be used. I said to call me "Peter." She said that in the remaining twenty-three minutes of broadcast time there was a chance that I might be called back by the show to speak live on air with the hosts.

I re-entered the living room and heard Madeley take just two more calls on this subject.
One was from "Simon" from London.
Most of the talk had been from the woman’s perspective, but he said that he had the opposite take on the matter, for at the age of seventeen he had received a telephone call out of the blue from a girl informing him that he had a one year old child. Nowadays he saw the child but had nothing to do with the mother.

I recognised the voice and, at least part of, the tale.

It was David Francis, with whom I had worked at Intervisual Advertising in London in the mid 1990s

(179) Prisoners...Numbers Six... newly-weds

At 6:26 p.m. on July 7th 2001 I was reading from page fifteen of that day’s Daily Telegraph. I read a report of the summings up in the trial of Jeffrey Archer, headed

Witnesses who died ‘would clear Archer’
In 1987 Archer had brought a libel case against the Daily Star over a story that he had used a prostitute. He was now accused of perverting the course of justice through having a friend provide him with a false alibi.

Lord Archer’s lawyer argued that the death of several key figures, including the 1987 trial judge, had weakened his chances of an adequate defence.

Below that was a piece on the conviction of Gary Day, who had accidentally killed Monica Coghlan by crashing his car into hers on April 27th 2001.
Coincidentally, Ms Coghlan had been the prostitute named in 1987.
In neither piece was her death cited as one of those that might have affected the current Archer trial.

I then took note of another article on the same page.
It began -

The cult 1960s televison show The Prisoner, widely regarded as an allegory of modern life, is being turned into a film. The British actor Clive Owen is expected to play Number Six, the secret agent held among a brainwashed population by a mysterious regime.
Prisoners were known only as numbers and massive balloons smothered anyone attempting to escape.
Patrick McGoohan, the original Number Six, who wrote the television show, is likely to be involved.

I had never seen an episode of The Prisoner, although I had heard people praise it. I had the hazy notion that it was the captors who were known by numbers, and looked again at McGoohan’s number.

As I did so my son, downstairs, called out something to his mother about it being "Number Six, now!".
I asked why he had said that and he explained that this was a snake on TV.

I came down and saw that he was watching The Ten Deadliest Snakes In The World.
The presenter, Steve Irwin, had just moved on to an encounter with the sixth deadliest.

I pointed out the coincidence to Fiona, and asked for her opinion on it. She said that she preferred examples that could be better substantiated.

Irwin’s programme ended at 7.p.m. and I flicked across the channels to see what else was on.
On BBC2 I saw an episode of the 1970s sit-com Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? I looked at the TV guide and saw that Wimbledon tennis was listed. But Wimbledon was rained off, so this had to be an unscheduled filler.

At 7:02 the character Terry Collier, played by James Bowlam, read something out of a newspaper about Zsa Zsa Gabor liking a man of sophistication. His friend, Bob Ferris, played by Rodney Bewes, remarked that this ruled Collier out.
Collier replied "I don’t know. I could be Number Six, or is it Seven?"

I am not certain but I think that the theme of the episode was getting Terry hitched.

(NB: On February 17th 2009 I noticed on the front page of The Guardian on line a pic from Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? featuring Bewes and Bowlam.
It was about an article within headed The Joy of Six.
Because of this coincidence cluster I was intrigued and turned to the piece itself.

I noted that their choice for best ever signature tune was from that sit-com.
It is their top choice of the six. But rather than labelling it "1" they label it "6".)

I pointed out this continuation to Fiona. She then wrote down six numbers, one of which was six, and handed the paper and a pound to me, saying that I should enter the National Lottery, which closed at 7:30.
We had not played the Lottery since the incident of Entry 6.
I was about to leave when I noticed that another unscheduled programme had begun on BBC2.

This one was narrated by James Bowlam
and seemed to be about the history of a Croydon flat, starting in the 1970s, as it changed hands and increased in price. I believe that, for at least one of the couples, it was their first home.

At the newsagents I bought five lottery tickets for one pound each. My selections were -
1 6 7 19 36 42
6 7 17 36 42 49 and
6 7 19 36 42 49. I then, in my idiocy, selected the last six numbers again (!), and finally entered the six numbers chosen by Fiona - 6 16 21 32 39 45.

The National Lottery draw was televised, live, at 7:30 on BBC1. I tuned in, but things had changed since I last watched it as it was now combined with the quiz Winning Lines.
Forty-nine contestants were each allocated a number. Six went through to a final phase where they then competed to win a holiday.
The six qualifiers were numbers two, six, fourteen, fifteen, twenty-four and twenty-seven.
In the final they had to try to be the first to answer questions, already knowing that the answer to each would be one of their own allocated numbers.

So, for example, an early question was
"For how many years had Nelson Mandela been imprisoned when he was released?"
The answer was twenty-seven.

Another was "In the 1960s TV series what number was The Prisoner?"
It was contestant Number Six who correctly answered "Six".

The questions for each of the players, any of whom could have made it through to the last six, must have been set in advance.

Number Six went on to win and gain the right to participate in a further quiz.
From that he won the prize of a holiday in Mauritius.

The presenter, Phillip Schofield, observed of the man’s knocking out the other players, "We’ve never seen the like of it! You’ve seen them all off!".

He also commented that the contestant was just about to go off on his honeymoon, and was therefore playing for it.

Lastly, it was the same contestant, Number Six who, as the qualifier, pushed the button to start the machine which made the draw for the National Lottery.

Of the six generated numbers just one of ours appeared; 49.

Schofield had also presented a programme about improbable coincidences called Million to One. I had posted him a gift copy of Coincidences.

On July 18th 2001, Lord Archer was found guilty and sentenced to four years.

(178) Jerry Hall

On July 12th 2001 I visited the Stables Market in Camden to teach chess to the owner, Bebo Kobo. I had been there only once or twice before over the previous ten years, on each occasion to visit Murray Sharp, who used to have a stall there.
This time I noticed that near the entrance they had put up a piece of paper with the names of celebrities who had ever visited the market. I noted such as Alice Cooper and Jerry Hall.
That was the only time that I ever saw such a list displayed, even though I was to visit the market regularly over the following months.

Later that day I chatted with Murray, whom I had known for a decade, at his home.
Without any prompting from me, he now for the first time mentioned that, ten years or so earlier, Jerry Hall had introduced herself to him when he had his stall at the Stables Market.
I then told him how I had earlier seen her name there.

On March 28th 2002 I went with my son from Hastings to Brighton to meet up for afternoon tea in the Royal Albion Hotel with my wife, the actress Gwen Taylor and her husband, the playwright Graham Reid.
When we arrived I saw to my surprise that they were taking tea with Jerry Hall, who it transpired was appearing with Gwen in the play Picasso’s Women.

(177) Fish (eye) on

I sent a copy of Coincidences to Paul McLahan in Massachusetts, USA. knew him from the Internet Chess Club by his handle of Fishon.

He sent me this e-mail back on May 5th 2001 -

On Thursday I read the part of your book where you give the story of the baboons and the mantis (Pages 49-51)... that afternoon I went fishing with a friend and I had the story in the back of my mind. We caught no fish all day.
Right before we were leaving the water, my friend had a fish strike his lure.
He went to set the hook, and nothing... but when he retrieved the lure there was an eyeball attached to the hook. "water" "eyeball"? and I had just read the reference that morning! coincidence?

Later he affirmed the story with this subsequent e mail

44. FishOn (18:43 05-May-01 EDT): -
sometime after leaving my message(s) to you...I was concerned that maybe you thought is was a joke. I assure you, that even though the chance of snagging an eye from fish is rare (I've fished most of my 43 years and never saw this)... it did, indeed, happen... and on the very day I read that story.

(176) The Gurus

Religion began when the first knave duped the first fool.

"I believe mankind needs religions."The Right Honourable J. Enoch Powell in conversation with myself at the Garrick Club, 1994

"I happen to believe that elevating a human being into a "higher power" who possesses spiritual insight not given to ordinary mortals is dangerous and misguided, but I can envisage circumstances in which I might succumb."
Prof. Anthony Storr, Feet of Clay

"...the charisma of certainty is a snare which entraps the child who is latent in us all"

"I believe that we are at the end of the guru system and that its current abuses disqualify it from the business of serious spiritual transformation. The next five years will see a blizzard of financial and sexual scandals which I am certain will make this point painfully clear even to those who now believe implicitly in the guru system and are prepared to fight dirty to preserve it."Andrew Harvey, The Return of the Mother 1994

"You shouldn´t talk about it: you´ll just make people jealous!"
March 1987

In August of 1980, Jeff Katz of Bedfordshire on Sunday interviewed me and then a week or two later we met up again at a Douglas Baker lecture in the Bedford Corn Exchange.

"It´s interesting, isn´t it?".

"No," he replied.
"There´s no way you´re ever gonna get me to believe in a load of shit like that!
What a character!
The mendacity! The mendacity!".

"Well; audacity," I suggested.

"Mendacity!", he insisted.

Katz then wrote a withering review of Baker for the same paper.

Incidentally, when we had a drink together after the lecture, Katz told me how impressed he was with Peter Seller´s most recent film, Being There.
"That is a great movie!"
Baker was later to tell me that Sellers had consulted him on spiritual matters.

In Being There the inanities of the simpleton, Chance, are misinterpreted as profound.
The film ends with Chance finding himself accidentally walking on water, whilst plutocrats discuss backing him as a Presidential candidate.
Being There was the last film of Sellers´ to be released whilst he was still alive. He died of heart failure in 1980.

Apparently he had put enormous efforts into getting it made and had set his heart on playing the lead role ever since he had read the novel.
Curiously, as the above Wikipedia entry and its links make clear, the author himself was accused of plagiarism in that the novel and screenplay (which he also wrote) bear very strong resemblances to a Polish work of the 1930s.
He was also regarded by some as something of a fraud in the persona he presented to the world.

In the first week of November 2007, whilst adding some addenda to this entry, I was moved through curiosity to enter Katz´s name into a search engine.

The hits surprised me -,,1101356,00.html
... ... ...
In Autumn 1996 I asked directory inquiries for Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch’s telephone number. This was despite my having tried to obtain it in the late 1980s and being told that it was ex-directory.
The operator put me through to his brother by mistake- his identical twin.
The brother then put me through to Jeremy. Thus we became acquainted.
It later emerged that the day before I rang, Jeremy had written in his diary that he wanted nothing more to do with Douglas Baker.
... ... ...
In 2000 I spotted on Baker’s website a list of points by which he claimed the reappeared Christ could be identified. All of these referred to Baker!
So on February 7th 2001 I rang him and when one of his associates answered I asked if I could speak to Jesus.
He told me that I must have the wrong number, but I gave my name and insisted that I wanted to speak to Jesus, a.k.a. Baker.

Baker came on the line, saying something to the guy who had answered the phone such as "Yes, he is a nutter", and asked what I wanted. I said that he had never told me that he was Jesus. He corrected me: "The Christ".
He said that the information had been up at his website for five years, and added, "In my thousands of lectures I have always been open about my attitudes... (etc) ."
I accused him of being a criminal and mentioned the accusations of his having sexually assaulted minors under the guise of Tantric yoga and he muttered something in reply.
After a brief interchange, in which I repeated my astonishment at his brazen attitude towards these amazing allegations, he said "Oh there’s no point in talking to you," and rang off.

Later that evening my wife suggested we watch a recording which I had asked her to make two days earlier of a documentary on Erich von Däniken.
I once asked Baker for his opinion of von Däniken and he had said "He’s a c***. And he knows he’s a c***!"
The cassette was already in and so she asked me to just press ‘Play’. I did, and it began with a sketch which I recognised from the end of an episode of a BBC comedy programme called Goodness Gracious Me.

It had been recorded by my wife at least a year earlier, and was a musical spoof where Maharishi types had formed a pop group called The Gurus.
They were singing of themselves as financially and sexually ripping off their hapless acolytes ( "Free for ladies, if you touch my..." ) and it ended with them all being arrested.
That was the only sketch of that show that she had recorded, and I think that she had done so because I had thought it hilarious and apposite.

There then followed the von Däniken recording. After about ten minutes I decided that it was not for me, and left the room.

At 9 p.m. Fiona called me to see the opening scenes of a programme on Channel 4. It was a social history of the Karma Sutra called Position Impossible.

The presenter was Sanjeev Bhaskar, better known then as one of the cast of Goodness Gracious Me. Mr Bhaskar wrote a lot of the music for the Asian comedy show and indeed he had written the song for, and also been a member of, their band; The Gurus.

It began with a Tantric workshop in Penzance where couples were being shown how to prolong sexual matters for supposed spiritual benefit. Then it cut to Bhaskar doing a stand up routine where he was making mild fun of the workshop to his audience.
... ... ...
Note the surname of the actor playing Mordred in the film The Knights of the Round Table in Part Two: The Narrative, Epilogues and Appendices.
... ... ...
On May 17th 2006, just after I thought of Baker´s false claims, Bart Simpson made some remark on The Simpsons cartoon playing in the background on my TV about his being the real Jesus!
... ... ...
In 1997 I heard that our friend, Pepita de Foote, had a star named in honour of a sick friend of hers. To do this she had used the services of an agency which advertised that, for a fee, they would name a star after someone for you.
Not long afterwards I saw Dr Patrick Moore on a TV programme called Serves You Right saying that this sort of business was invalid, and that only an object such as a crater could have a name conferred on it in that way.
Star names were decided by an official International Astronomical Association, and the people to whom Pepita had paid her money were con men.

Her sick friend’s name - which she attempted to have conferred on the star -was Baker.
... ... ...
Note also this, from Entry 18 -
" At around 5:15 on the evening of December 21st 1998 I alighted from a train that I had boarded at Welwyn Garden City as it arrived at London King’s Cross.
Dr. Jonathan Mestel shot past me at King’s Cross as he hastened to board a train departing from the adjacent platform. (Harry Potter fans, note the location!) I waved at him through the glass. I had been to Welwyn to research data further to pursuit of a criminal guru, and at the afternoon’s end I had, by chance, passed by the offices of The Welwyn and Hatfield Times newspaper. I went in and spoke to Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch’s contact there, and she gave me the phone number of a private investigator whom she recommended.
The next day Jeremy made contact with this man.

Mestel had been someone who, years before, had reacted with horror at my advancing some racist ideas with which, I subsequently realised, I had empathy purely through my association with Baker.

...   ...   ...
On July 5th 2000 I discussed with The Welwyn and Hatfield Times their publishing a piece on Baker.
That morning two Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked at our door and spoke to my wife of the problems our society faced, e.g. declining standards of behaviour amongst the young, and how, for instance, schoolchildren today showed lack of respect towards their teachers.
Fiona responded that that did not bother her at all, and that, indeed, she herself had had little respect for those who taught her.
... ... ...
At 11:a.m. on August 4th 2000 I opened a letter from the newspaper’s editor which outlined their reasons for not running any story about Baker.
As I did so, the same Jehovah’s witnesses called again.
Then at 11:45 a.m. Sacha turned on the TV and he and Fiona found themselves watching Whistle Down The Wind. In this film of the early 1960s a group of schoolchildren mistake an escaped criminal for Jesus.
... ... ...
On the morning of July 10th 2000 I visited my G.P. concerning back problems. I explained that I had incurred them through typing a book on coincidences. He responded that he had encountered a coincidence many years before when he was being shown some psychiatric patients and on the same day he had met two who claimed that they were Jesus.
I then sold Doctor C. Chinnery a copy of my book, Coincidences.
... ... ...
And in 1987 Baker had asked me to report to the Bedford police crazed threats made against him by a schizophrenic living in Bedford.
When I mentioned Baker´s name it galvanised an officer at the front desk. He stared wildly at me for several seconds, until a colleague turned to look at him and he hastily muttered something and returned to attending to the member of the public in front of him.

Only years later did I think on how apposite it should have been that this occurred in a police station.

In 1992 I bumped into Pete Wood in Luton. We had met six years previously via Baker. I invited him to visit me at my flat there and a day or so later he was present when I received a call from The New Statesman about a reference I had made to fugitive paedophile Brian Eley in my chess column for that publication. It was the only time the magazine ever rang me.
... ... ...
On November 10th 2003, Bruce Mitchell, whom I had met just once some 16 years or so earlier, called me from Cape Town on the pretext of obtaining Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch´s number. We discussed Baker at length. Mitchell informed me thathe had bankrupted Baker and that he was now to receive, £7,500 after someone bought the rights to Baker’s works.
Bruce said that it does not matter what sort of access one may have: what matters is whether or not one helps people.
That day I heard for the first time an emotional message left on my ansafone on December 3rd by Charles Ingram´s mother thanking me for my support.
Mitchell also happened to mention that he had known Tommy Milligan and his wife Helen from Edinburgh chess club and had, perhaps twenty years or so before, lent Tommy 50 Pounds, which was never returned.

At 17:20 hrs on May 27th 2010 I had just been musing on Baker´s fraudulent behaviour when my wife came into the house and presented me with something which had been stuck to many car windscreens in the neighbourhood, including ours -

... ... ...
On June 2nd 2010 I received this e mail from Chris Jeans –

Date: 2 June, 2010, 12:56

Hi James,
On Friday I was driving north on the A1 on my way to Bedford when noticed a Kestrel hovering at the side of the road. I then looked at the lorry in front of me and the word Kestrel was written on the back of the lorry. Strange but true.


I immediately responded -

Less than 5 minutes before you sent this I had been looking at a thing on Mary Whitehouse by Joan Bakewell in The Daily Telegraph on line and she mentioned Ken Loach in the 1960s.
I of course thought of "KES" and indeed a notice once put on the school 6th form notice board in 1977 by a Mr Stafford telling us all not to miss it.
I recalled that KES is based on the novel A Kestrel for a Knave.

5 mins later I see your e mail.


And then I wrote to him –
...and you were on your way to Bedford, my town...
what took you there, might one inquire?

He replied –
I was taking a lady to a Ceroc (jive) dance at the Bedford Corn Exchange in St.Paul's Square. She mentioned Kes when I saw the Kestrel . I have been trying to remember someone in the film called Brian something who was a PE teacher.


I replied –

Probably this guy -
Bedford Corn Exchange, eh?
Scene of a huge and seminal development and coincidence of mine in August 1980....

He asked –

What happened at the Corn Exchange then?

And I sent him a link to this Entry -