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I'll drink to that! - February

1.      Whenever they were born, all racehorses officially celebrate their birthday today. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what was patented today in 1904, as it is too rude to print but if you want to know - just ask!

2.      On this day in 1982 Erica Roe, a busty bookseller from Petersfield, streaked topless at Twickenham at the rugby international between England and Australia. Why not treat yourself to a couple of large ones?

3.      US Pat No. 375,962 was issued today in 1888 to Marvin Chester Stone, for his invention – the waxed paper drinking straw. Get sucking!

4.      The use of the term ‘Ms’ as a courtesy title for a woman where ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’ are deemed inappropriate, dates from The Simplified Letter, published by the Philadelphia-based National Office of the Management Association on 4 January 1952.

5.      The word ‘hamburger’ first appeared in print, today in 1889,in the Walla Walla Union, a Washington newspaper, in the phrase, ‘You are asked if you will have ’’porkchopbeefsteakhamandegghamburgersteakorliverandbacon’’.’

6.      Not only the birthday in 1475 of Henry the Impotent (Henry IV of Castile), and in 1955 of comedian Rowan Atkinson, but also Twelfth Night, on which wags traditionally nailed the coat-tails of window shoppers to shopfronts

7.      French aviation pioneer Jean Pierre Blanchard and American doctor John Jeffries became the first men to cross the English Channel by balloon, from England to France, on 7 January 1785. To retain their height, they found it necessary to jettison almost everything on board – including their clothes

8.      Jackson Day, a holiday – but only in Louisiana. General Andrew Jackson defeated the British at New Orleans in 1815. The score: 700 British killed, 1,400 wounded, 500 taken prisoner, against 8 Americans killed and 13 wounded. The battle was actually fought two weeks after a treaty had been signed – but news hadn’t reached either side.

9.      Brought back to England – pickled in rum – four months earlier, Britain’s greatest naval hero Lord Nelson was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral today in 1806 – in second-hand tomb. It had originally been made in 1524-9 for Cardinal Wolsey, but Henry VIII confiscated it.

10.  The word ‘suffragette’ first appeared in print today in 1906, in an article in the Daily Mail.

11.  The feast day of St Balthasar, patron saint of playing card makers. He was also invoked against epilepsy – as well he might, epilepsy being a serious handicap for card-players.

12.  A tough day for novelists; Nevil Shute died today in 1960, and Agatha Christie in 1976. The butler did it.

13.  The birthday in 1628 of French writer Charles Perrault. In the story of Cinderella, he mistranslated vair, the word for fur, as verre, glass, thus making her wear glass slippers. However it is easier to drink from a glass slipper than a soggy fur one.

14.  The Empress Eugenie and Napoleon III were traveling in a carriage near the Opera, Paris, on this day in 1858, when anarchist Felice Orsini bowled three bombs beneath it, killing ten and injuring 156. As she stepped completely uninjured from the wreckage, the Empress was heard to comment, ‘ C’est le metier’ – ‘It’s all part of the job’.

15.  The British Museum was first opened to the public on 15 January 1759. Among the earliest treasures on display were a starved cat and a rat, a tree trunk gnawed by a beaver and a mummified thumb found beneath the St James’s Coffee House.

16.  Drink Anniversary; Prohibition started in the USA, 1920.

17.  Arch-gangster Al Capone was born today in 1899. Prohibition was a blessing in disguise for him, as he came to control the bootleg liquor business.

18.  On this day in 1913, for a bet Tom Elder Heran, an actor, dressed himself as a tramp and stood in Trafalgar Square attempting to sell £5 notes for a penny each. Passers-by were so suspicious that he managed to sell only two.

19.  Duff Prediction No1: John Nash, an Australian, predicted that Adelaide would be destroyed by an earthquake and tidal wave today in 1976. Thousands left their homes, but nothing happened. Nash moved to Warwick, Queensland, which he predicted, would be the safest place in Australia; within days, it was engulfed by the worst floods in living memory.

20.  St Agnes’ Eve, when girls dreamed of their future love – a far cry from the night in 1982 when outrageous rock star Ozzy Osbourne ended his Des Moines, Iowa, concert date in hospital receiving rabies shots after biting the head off a bat. George V died today in 1936. His reputed last words were ‘Bugger Bognor’.

21.  Another surfeit of celebrations: Louis XVI was guillotined, 1793; Sir Joseph Whitworth, the man who standardized screws, died in 1887; Benny Hill was born in 1925; and in 1981 Alfredo Bizarri patented the flying saucer (UK Pat No. 1,582,980).

22.  Today in 1907, Richard Strauss’ opera Salome was banned after the risqué dance of the seven veils’ in its New York premiere shocked the Metropolitan’s directors.

23.  The debut  (sort of) of Alvin Stardust, at a festival in Cannes, 1974. He was previously Shane Fenton, and born Bernard Jewry. ‘Alvin’ came from his heroes, Elvis Presley and Gene Vincent.

24.  Drink Anniversary: On 24 January 1935 Krueger beer, brewed in Newark, New Jersey, became the first to be sold in cans, in Richmond, Virginia

25.  ‘I Told You So’ No 1: Robert Burton, the author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, died in Oxford today in 1640, on the very day he had predicted astrologically as the date of his death.

26.  Triple birthday celebration: Maria A.Trapp (of Sound of Music fame), 1905, Michael Bentine, the most famous Peruvian born in Watford, 1922, and singer-comedienne Marti Caine, 1945 – who very sensibly changed her name from Lynda Crapper.

27.  Lewis Carroll was born today in 1832. His best-known book, Alice in Wonderland, contained no reference to chocolate gramophone records, since they were unknown until this day 71 years later, when Gebruder Stollwerk obtained UK Patent No. 1,992.

28.  Inside Linda Lovelace, the ‘Deep Throat’ star’s ‘autobiography’ was cleared of obscenity by an Old Bailey jury today in 1976. Drink Anniversary: St Charlemagne’s Day, marked in France by drinking champagne at breakfast. Celebrate both events by gargling with champagne.

29.  After over 25 years in preparation, the first part of the massive Oxford English Dictionary was published in 1884 misleadingly titled ‘A-ANT’. It should, of course have been an ant.

Text © Russell Ash from "I'll Drink to That" (Corgi, 1987). Not to be transmitted or reproduced in print or electronically without the prior written permission of the author.

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