This is an extract from a longer radio play about two mountaineers who get lost atop the Alps. In the section below they have just climbed down to reach an abandoned tent. Down there they also find a ship’s anchor and wonder how it got there, which leads them onto talking about coincidences…
Brian I’ve an interesting story along those lines about the Blitz.
Alan Go on.
Brian During the war, London was divided into a series of squares to work out the probability of any one square being hit by a falling bomb. Should London consist of just one square, then the chance of it being hit by any falling bomb would be 100%. If in two squares, then there would be a 50% chance of either square being hit. In other words, the greater the number of squares, the less chance there is of any one square being hit.
Alan I can see where this is going.
Brian The proposition is this: if they had reduced London to millions upon millions of squares, then the chance of any square being hit would be so low as to be almost zero. Think of all the lives that would have been saved.
Alan Maybe they could have widened the area to the whole of Britain.
Alan And my Uncle Walter would still be alive.
Brian How nice.
Alan Especially for my Aunt Elizabeth.
Brian Is that the Irish Polish Jewish one who lives in Deptford?
Alan No, that’s Aunt Greta. Aunt Elizabeth married Walter, who came from Tennessee, a few years before the war. He loved a roast on Sundays – Aunt Elizabeth said he used to smother the meat in mustard until it was almost unpalatable. As a treat she would cook him peanut butter sandwiches, deep fried in butter to remind him of home. Once, as a special treat for her, he made griddled corn cakes. Unfortunately, he got confused between the sugar and salt pots.
Alan Yeah. Aunt Liza was good about it. Apparently she mustered all the politeness she could and just replied, ‘it doesn’t taste like I thought it would.’
Brian (with outrageous fake Virginian accent) Yes ma’am.
Alan Aunt Greta believes that we are all descendants of aliens who landed in biblical times and bred with the primitive inhabitants they found. She thinks that the vision of Ezekiel is the residual memory of a UFO landing.
Brian Sounds a bit like my cousin Frank.
Brian He’s a Presbyterian.
Alan The anchor, though, does pose a question.
Brian I don’t know…
Alan Clearly, it has no right here – it clearly doesn’t belong.
Brian It makes the place more interesting, gives it more character. You’ll remember this mountaintop.
Alan If only for the reason I’m marooned atop it.
Brian Switch on the radio, let’s see if we’ve got our fifteen minutes.