Every weekend Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …
In 1953, sugar rationing came to an end in Britain. Because of the sugar it contains, a can of Coke will sink in water, whereas a can of Diet Coke will float. (The sweetener used in Diet Coke is less dense than water.)
In 1969, the Beatles released Abbey Road. In 2013, police in the Indian city of Kolkata used the album’s ‘zebra crossing’ cover photo in a campaign to discourage jaywalking. The caption read: ‘If they can, why can’t you?’
Gwyneth Paltrow (born 1972). On the morning of 9/11, the Sliding Doors actress gave someone their own Sliding Doors moment. Paltrow was driving home from an early yoga class when she almost collided with a 24 year-old woman crossing the street. The pedestrian, Lara Lundstrom Clarke, said later: ‘It developed into one of those classic who-goes-first situations.’ The delay meant that Clarke just missed her subway train to work, and had to catch the next one. Her job was on the 77th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. She arrived at the station underneath the towers just as the first plane hit the other tower, so had time to make her escape.
In 1785, the 16 year-old Napoleon Bonaparte graduated from the Ecole Militaire in Paris. The future conqueror of Europe came 42nd in his class of 51.
W.H. Auden (died 1973). On seeing the poet’s wrinkled appearance, Noel Coward once said: ‘If that’s his face, what must his scrotum look like?’
In 1994 Aldwych Tube station was closed permanently. While closed during World War II its tunnels were used to store the Elgin Marbles, while in 1996 the Prodigy used those same tunnels to film the video for Firestarter.
In 1861, Mrs Beeton published her Book of Household Management. She died four years later, aged just 28.
Sting (born 1951). The musician got his nickname because of a yellow-and-black hooped jumper he wore as a child.