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.