By Maureen Coleman

I love a random moment – the unexpected run-ins with people you haven’t seen in decades or those ‘pinch me – did that just happen?’ experiences which still have us laughing days later.

As a former showbiz journalist, I’ve had quite a few – from the impromptu interview with rock band Kasabian that progressed to all-night party to hitching a ride home on a milk float after a night on the tiles with The Corrs and U2.

While my line of work might be a contributory factor to random moments finding me, I think personality and the company we keep also play a role. I’ve been described quite a few times as ‘quirky or ‘random’ and certainly one or two of my mates are as unpredictable and wacky as me. That’s why they’re my mates. We randomers always find our tribe and stay close.

A fortnight ago, when former US President Bill Clinton was back in Belfast to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, my pal Michelle had one such random moment. It was the morning after the Local Women Sports Awards, and she was on her way home from the Europa Hotel.

On Botanic Avenue, she stopped off near a bakery and saw a crowd gathering on the pavement. As she approached, she spotted Bill Clinton, surrounded by Saturday morning shoppers keen to meet the man.

Now Michelle is no wall-flower, so she pushed through the well-wishers and came face-to-face with the former President to remind him that they’d met in practically the same place 25 years previously. As a student and talented musician, Michelle had been chosen to play the piano for Clinton at the nearby Whitla Hall in November 1998. While Clinton’s security men looked on, Michelle scrolled through her phone to produce the evidence – a photograph taken on the night with the former President.

Clinton was delighted. After closely inspecting the photo, he draped his arm around her, replicating their pose from 25 years ago and jokingly told the onlookers “Before and after!”. They chatted for a bit and Michelle found herself being interviewed on American TV and some hours later, by the local Press. The video clip was shared on line by The Clinton Foundation. That’s one random moment Michelle won’t forget.

It was a chance meeting that helped kickstart my career, or at least set me on a path to the area of journalism I would come to specialise in. It was late 1980s, I was a student at the time and my journalism tutor had told us to find an interesting interviewee with a newsworthy story to tell. Along with a photography student I’d befriended at college, I headed into town, hoping for inspiration. And randomly, I found it.

Outside the old H Samuel’s jewellery shop opposite the City Hall, a large crowd of hysterical teenage girls had surrounded their prey. We had no idea who it was, but I pushed my way through the screaming girls and there he was, A-Ha lead singer Morten Harket. The Take on Me hitmakers were in Belfast to play the King’s Hall and he’d popped out for a lunch-time dander. He was possibly the most beautiful man I’d ever clapped eyes on, all floppy hair and chiselled cheekbones. I explained that I was a trainee journalist and asked him if he’d be up for an interview.

An hour later, I was sitting opposite him in the Europa Hotel, notebook in hand, firing questions at him while the photography student clicked away in the background. Not only was he gorgeous but he was a total gent. Imagine the frontman of possibly the biggest pop band at the time granting an interview to a student journalist! It was such a random moment. I sold the interview to the News Letter, who later offered me a weekly music column. At 18 years of age, I was interviewing U2, Simple Minds, Simply Red; all thanks to Morten Harket and that random meeting.

Then again, maybe chance had little to do with both our experiences. Another person might’ve hung back at Botanic and avoided chatting to Clinton or walked straight past the crowd of fainting fans in Belfast city centre that day and missed out on the scoop. Perhaps our personalities invite or encourage these random moments to keep happening.

Coincidentally, Michelle, unbeknown to me at the time, was at that A-Ha gig – her first ever concert. Now that’s synchronicity! How random!