With ‘normal’ news on hold at the moment, it’s to the past that we have to turn for ‘take your mind off the virus’ material. In that spirit, every weekend Spectator Life is bringing you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history.
Lord Carrington (born 1919). The Conservative politician was both Baron Carrington and Baron Carington. His hereditary title was the one with two ‘r’s, but in 1999 the right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords was removed.
Carrington was among a few given life peerages to enable them to carry on contributing to the Lords – and he chose to spell his with a single ‘r’. This reflected the spelling of his family surname, which, in one of those quirks beloved of the aristocracy, differed from the hereditary title. So he was Peter Carington, 6th Baron Carrington, Baron Carington of Upton.
Ian St John (born 1938). The Liverpool footballer was so revered that when a piece of graffiti appeared in the city asking ‘What will you do when Jesus comes?’, someone added ‘Move Ian St John to inside left’.
In 1946, BBC TV resumed broadcasting after the Second World War. They deliberately chose to start with the same Mickey Mouse cartoon they’d been playing when the service was suspended in 1939.
In 1949, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was published. The author named the terrifying Room 101 after a room in Broadcasting House where he had to sit through boring meetings while working for the BBC.
Charles Dickens (died 1870). The novelist always had to sleep with his head pointing north. He would reposition his bed in a hotel room to achieve this, even if he was only staying a single night.
In 1947 Saab produced their first car. One of the company’s first dealerships in the US was run by a young Kurt Vonnegut. He criticised Swedish engineering, and later claimed jokingly that this was the reason he never won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Jean Robic (born 1921). The French cyclist was only 5’3” and very light, so found it hard to pick up speed on downhill descents. To counter this he collected drinking bottles filled with lead at the top of hills. When the authorities banned bottles filled with solids, Robic switched to bottles containing mercury.
Frank Beard (born 1949). Despite his name, the drummer is the only member of ZZ Top without a beard.
In 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark received its premiere. The sound of the Ark of the Covenant’s lid being opened was a recording of a toilet cistern having its top removed.