A dog’s dinner in our very Fortean times

We live in Fortean Times

We improbably live in weird Fortean Times

What do you do if you get home late, don’t get enough sleep, then have to get up and leave home early, have a busy day ahead, no time to transcribe the two interesting chats you have had with people and have to write a blog before you leave?

You grasp at straws.

I had a quick look at some old e-diaries.

On 7th March 2004, I was in the Anglia TV region and their local news reported that a former Essex Chief Inspector had written a book about his career in the police force called Catching Monsters. He was signing copies of the book in a local shopping centre when he was attacked by a man who hit him about the head with a block of wood.  The man escaped. According to Anglia News, “Essex Police said the attacker could have had a grudge against the officer.”

The lateral thinking of the police constantly impresses me.

Professor Hand’s book on the probability of improbable things happening

Professor Hand’s book on improbability

Last night, I went to a meeting of the London Fortean Society at which Professor David J. Hand, the emeritus professor of mathematics and a senior research investigator at Imperial College, London, explained his Improbability Principle which, basically, explains why the most improbable things are statistically liable to happen.

He said that statistically, in order for it to be likely to have two people in a room with the same birthday (day and month) you only need 23 people. He showed a video in which a man walking along a street was struck by lightning. The man fell down, lay still for a few moments, got up, carried on walking and, around 5 seconds later, was struck by lightning a second time.

The London Fortean Society’s next meeting is called Fucking Strange: The Weird and Wonderful World of Animal Sex in which Dutch ecologist and evolutionary biologist Menno Schilthuizen, based at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden and who also holds a chair in evolution at Leiden University will, the billing says, “invite the audience to join him as he uncovers the ways the shapes and functions of genitalia have been molded by complex Darwinian struggles” and “we learn why spiders masturbate into miniature webs”.

I remember, years ago, reading in the Fortean Times, about a road accident in which three cars collided. One of the drivers was a Mr Butcher, another was a Mr Baker and the third was a candlestick maker. Strange and so improbable as to be unbelievable, but entirely true.

I remember another article in Fortean Times years ago which pointed out the false logic of statistics often quoted in newspapers. If there is a 60-million-to-one chance of something happening, it is highly unlikely it will happen to you… But there are over 60 million people in the UK, so it is likely to happen to someone.

Yesterday afternoon, I met a woman behind me in a queue at Marks & Spencer. We got chatting. She was 38 and told me she had only been on an underground train three times in her life. She had never ever bought a newspaper until this week and does not watch TV news. Then I got to the cashier and could ask no more. I will never know how this woman had lived her life.

Last night, at the London Fortean Society, I got chatting to someone who had met Elton John. She told me he looked “like an ageing American housewife”.

This seemed a little harsh.

Life is a dog’s dinner of random events.

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Filed under Coincidence, Surreal

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