Mark Mason

On this day: what do Gordon Brown and Jack Straw have in common?

On this day: what do Gordon Brown and Jack Straw have in common?
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Every weekend Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history.

20 February

Gordon Brown (born 1951). Brown is blind in his left eye. Jack Straw is deaf in his right ear. When Brown was Prime Minister, Straw (the Lord Chancellor) sat to his left in Cabinet, meaning their awareness of each other was severely limited. Many said this was appropriate, given their strained relationship.

Image: Getty

21 February

Drew Barrymore (born 1975). When the actress (then six) was filming E.T., she found it impossible to look the puppet in both eyes at once, as they were so far apart. So director Steven Spielberg told her to concentrate on just one eye.

22 February

In 1889 North and South Dakota were admitted as US states. The Dakota Building in New York, where John Lennon lived, got its name because when it was constructed in the 1880s it was the only major building in that part of Manhattan. Its remoteness, way to the north-west of the city’s heart, mirrored the Dakotas’ relation to New York state itself.

23 February

Edward Elgar (died 1934). The writer James Lees-Milne once dined with Elgar at Brooks’s club. ‘Before we went into dinner, he warned me that he was expecting an urgent telephone call. Then the hall porter emerged from his booth. “They are on the line now, Sir Edward.” “Thank you … Hullo, hullo …” Down the line, I could overhear strange noises. Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! – barks and snuffles. Sir Edward admonished: “Now, be good dogs and don’t bite the cushions. Good night, good night."’

24 February

Brian Close (born 1931). The cricketer was a chain smoker for most of his 84 years on this planet – it has been calculated that during his lifetime he smoked two million cigarettes.

25 February

George Harrison (born 1943). A tree planted in the musician’s memory in a Los Angeles park in 2004 eventually died after it was infested by beetles.

Image: Getty

26 February

In 1919 the Grand Canyon National Park was established. The canyon is so big that it could contain every human being on Earth.

Horseshoe Bend at sunset (iStock)