Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …
Jake Gyllenhaal (born 1980). Before finding fame as an actor, Gyllenhaal worked as a lifeguard. He once relieved the pain of a swimmer’s jellyfish sting by urinating on her leg.
In 2007, the Queen became the oldest British monarch ever, beating Queen Victoria’s 81 years and 243 days. The contents of her handbag always include a plastic suction hook, which she moistens and attaches to a nearby surface (often a lunch or dinner table) so she always has something from which to hang the bag.
Jack Russell (born 1795). The Devon vicar deliberately bred the terrier named after him so that it was predominantly white – until then terriers had been brown, which made them difficult for huntsmen to differentiate from the foxes they were chasing. Russell’s first dog was called Trump.
Samuel Beckett (died 1989). While at Dublin University the playwright took part in two cricket matches against Northamptonshire. To this day he remains the only Nobel prize winner to have played first-class cricket.
In 1815, Jane Austen published Emma (the last of her novels to appear during her lifetime). As a young writer, unsure of her new endeavour, Austen wrote on small pieces of paper, so she could quickly hide them underneath a blotter if anyone entered the room.
Ed Miliband (born 1969). As a child, Miliband could complete the Rubik’s Cube in one minute 20 seconds … one-handed.
Alastair Cook (born 1984). The cricketer was a schoolboy chorister at St Paul’s. However, Graeme Swann says that little evidence of Cook’s talent remained by the time they played together for England: ‘For a man who went to one of the country’s most prestigious choir schools, it’s shocking how tone deaf he became once his balls dropped.’