Every weekend Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …
In 1872 the Ballot Act introduced the secret ballot to UK elections. The word ‘poll’ comes from the days when votes were cast in public – it means ‘head’, as voters stood together and their heads were counted.
Nick Faldo (born 1957). On a trip to Florida, the golfer asked his Swedish caddy Fanny Sunesson if she would mind buying him a toothbrush, as he’d forgotten to bring one. She returned with two, saying: ‘I did not know if you wanted the hard bristols or the soft bristols.’
In 1900 the Paris Metro opened. The system has only one station that shares a name with a London Underground station – Temple.
Bruce Lee (died 1973). Before he became famous for his martial arts movies, Lee was the 1958 Cha-cha champion of Hong Kong.
Ernest Hemingway (born 1899). The novelist had a one-cent piece embedded in the cement at the bottom of the swimming pool at his Florida home, because he said it had cost him his last penny.
Long John Baldry (died 2005). The blues singer was the inspiration for the surname when Reg Dwight became Elton John. And to this day Rod Stewart carries a photo of him in his wallet – it was Baldry who told Stewart how to stand at the microphone. (With your feet planted well apart.)
Pi Approximation Day. Just as Pi Day is observed on March 14 (because the American format of 3/14 matches 3.14 …), so the value of pi can be approximated to 22/7.
In 1686, Albany, New York was chartered as a municipality under English rule. Its name – like that of the state itself – was in honour of Charles II’s younger brother (later James II), who was both the Duke of Albany and the Duke of York.
Richard Rogers (born 1933). The architect still calls the Pompidou Centre by its original name of the Beauborg, because he can’t bear the thought of one of his designs being named after a politician.
Daniel Radcliffe (born 1989). The actor once changed the settings on the mobile phone of fellow Harry Potter star Robbie Coltrane, so the display was entirely in Turkish. No one could work out how to change it back until one of the make-up artists, who was Turkish Cypriot, phoned her mother for instructions.
Peter Sellers (died 1980). The actor once rang Spike Milligan’s doorbell at 3 a.m. Milligan opened the door to find Sellers standing there naked, apart from a bowler hat, socks and shoes. ‘Do you know a good tailor?’ he asked.