Every week Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …
In 1806, Nelson’s funeral was held at St Paul’s. He is buried in the crypt, directly underneath the top of the cathedral’s dome. His coffin was made of wood taken from a French ship captured by his forces at the Battle of the Nile.
Rod Stewart (born 1945). When the singer made his first serious money, he told his mother he wanted to buy her a huge gift. She said she didn’t want anything. He begged her. She said she’d think about it. Eventually she rang back, and told him she’d like a new bread bin.
Edmund Hillary (died 2008). When the mountaineer conquered Everest in 1953, the Times correspondent James (later Jan) Morris sent a telegram to the paper in London with the message ‘Snow conditions bad’. This was the agreed codeword to signify that the expedition had been successful.
Jeff Bezos (born 1964). The first book sold on Bezos’s site Amazon, in July 1995, was ‘Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought’.
James Joyce (died 1941). The writer’s wife was called Nora Barnacle. They had their first date on June 16th, 1904 – which is why Joyce set Ulysses on June 16th (or Bloomsday as fans of the novel call it, after its character Leopold Bloom).
LL Cool J (born 1968). The rapper’s real name is James Todd Smith – his stage name stands for ‘Ladies Love Cool James’.
In 1892, James Naismith published the rules of basketball. The PE teacher had invented the game as something for his students to play inside on a rainy day. The original net was a peach basket nailed to the wall. Even when this was replaced with hoops supporting nets, the bottom of the nets were closed. This meant that every time someone scored, they had to climb up to get the ball back. It was 1906 before someone had the idea of cutting open the bottom of the net.