Mark Mason

Flavour of the month: December – luna graffiti, Sinatra’s pockets and the voice of golf

A selection of peculiar moments in history

  • From Spectator Life
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This month’s timely trivia includes a canny England footballer, an endangered Lady Astor and a confused Nicholas Parsons. Oh, and we learn how many cups of coffee Steven Spielberg has drunk in his life …

  • 1 December 1919 – Lady Astor becomes the first female MP to take her seat in the House of Commons. One of the regular visitors to her country house Cliveden was Baroness Trumpington, whose young son enjoyed sledging in the snow there. ‘Adam’s other main entertainment,’ wrote Trumpington in her memoirs, ‘was travelling up and down in the lift. He also, to my shame, headbutted Lady Astor.’
  • 2 December 1697 – St Paul’s Cathedral is consecrated. One of the radio commentators at the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana was Test Match Special’s Brian Johnston, who informed listeners that Earl Spencer and his daughter were about to ‘go up the steps of the pavilion… I mean St Paul’s’.
  • 4 December 1971 – a fire during a Frank Zappa concert at the Montreux casino destroys the venue, inspiring Deep Purple to write Smoke on the Water.
  • 5 December 2020 – death of the BBC’s ‘voice of golf’, Peter Alliss. At his birth in 1931, he weighed 14lb 11oz, which was believed to be a European record.
  • 7 December 1972 – launch of Apollo 17, the last time that mankind travelled to the Moon. While on the lunar surface, astronaut Gene Cernan wrote his daughter’s initials in the dust. Because there is no wind on the Moon, they are still there now.
  • 8 December 1980 – John Lennon is murdered. The next night David Bowie took to the stage at New York’s Booth Theatre for another performance in his run as John Merrick in The Elephant Man. There were three empty seats in the front row. Two had been for Lennon and Yoko Ono. The third was for Lennon’s killer, Mark Chapman.

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Written by
Mark Mason

Mark Mason talks about trivia via books, articles, guided walks and the pub.

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