Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Matarese Coincidence

I have to tell you about a strange coincidence (is there any other kind?) that happened to me on Saturday.

I was sitting on the sofa writing my novel with the cricket on the TV in the background. (It's a very soothing way to write a novel. Also a very slow way, so I rarely do it. Fortunately there aren't enough days of internation cricket in the year to stop me producing my requisite two books every 12 months.) England and New Zealand were playing against each other in the final one-day international of the series.

Every few minutes I was taking breaks to read another few pages of the book I'm reading. (I sometimes do this while I'm writing if I'm reading something especially gripping or especially funny - it gives my mind a quick burst of refreshment between stints of writing.)

It so happens that at the moment I'm reading The Matarese Circle by Robert Ludlum - a cracking thriller, by one of my favourite authors. I was happily reading, when something made me look up at the TV. The very next ball the English batsman Ian Bell was out.

This isn't a big thing - I think regular viewers of cricket can have an instinct that something might be about to happen. I can sit for hours with the cricket in the background and nothing happening, then I'll look up just in time to see a wicket, or a six, or something unusual. It happens.

But then I turned back to my book. The very next sentence, near the top of page 140 of my paperback edition, was this:

The door burst open; the bell captain ran in, followed by a younger, larger man, a bellboy.

The novel is not about a bellboy or a bell captain. They are characters who appear for a few brief moments and are only mentioned a couple of times. As far as I can see, this is the only sentence that contains the word 'bell' twice.

Surely it can't be that common for any book to contain a sentence with 'bell' in it twice.

And yet I looked from the screen to my book and back again. In one world Ian Bell was trudging off the pitch, while in the other the bell boy and the bell captain were bursting through a door and running into a hotel room.

What are the chances of that happening?

And now I think about it, I don't even know what a 'bell captain' is.


Anonymous said...

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee!

someone you know said...

Is a bell captain chief porter of a hotel and a bell boy is a junior porter?
Great coincidence but I get this all the time, a word on the telly and then it jumps out from me in the paper of a book; but yours a particularly good one I must say.