Taught economics at Harvard as a visiting scholar in 2002-2003 before becoming an MP

    24th December: how quickly can Ed Miliband complete a Rubik’s cube?

    17 December 2020

    Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …

    December 19

    Image: Rex/Shutterstock

    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.

    December 20

    The Queen and Anna Wintour at London Fashion Week (Getty)

    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.

    December 21

    Carrie Symonds with Dilyn the Jack Russell (Getty)

    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.

    December 22

    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.

    December 23

    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.

    December 24

    Delivered address to the graduating class at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government

    Ed Miliband

    Ed Miliband (born 1969). As a child, Miliband could complete the Rubik’s Cube in one minute 20 seconds … one-handed.

    December 25

    Image: Getty

    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.’