Canavan’s column - April 25, 2013

Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
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It has been a difficult week for Mrs Canavan.

It was my birthday a month ago and I finally got round to picking up a book bought for me by my aunty (my aunty Lynda from Rochdale, not my aunty Judy in Eccles, in case you’re wondering).

It is a trivia book and contains pointless facts about pretty much anything. Unfortunately I am an absolute sucker for this kind of thing. I love to know utterly useless facts.

So as soon as I read the first line - “the composer Richard Wagner wore pink underwear”– I was naturally hooked.

I’ve spent the last week leafing through the pages and feel it’s only fair to share some of what I’ve discovered with you, not least because it will give Mrs Canavan a break (me: ‘Did you know dogs deposit 16 tonnes of excrement on Parisian streets and sidewalks every day?’ Mrs C: “Not now dear, Homes Under The Hammer has started”).

So one to get us underway. Benjamin Franklin – one of the founding fathers of the United States and so, you know, a fairly important bloke – rose early every day and sat naked for an hour either reading or writing, a practice he described as ‘agreeable’. He would then return to bed for ‘one or two hours of the most pleasing sleep that can be imagined’. Each to their own.

Next, William Wordsworth, one of the finest poets to grace this world. But did you know he never wrote at a table or desk? Instead he preferred sitting on a chair with a writing board on his arm. His usual meals were either porridge or boiled mutton, though he was also partial to Cheshire cheese. He slept not lying down but in a half-sitting position, suffered from piles and had no sense of smell.

I think, at this juncture, you can understand why I was starting to get rather fascinated by this book.

I scanned through to see if I could find anything about Blackpool. There was only one fact, and not particularly thrilling – if the Tower wasfour metres higher, it would be exactly half the height of the Eiffel Tower. Which got me thinking that maybe they should just stick a little extra bit on top, though then again maybe not ... after all the slogan ‘Come to Blackpool - we’ve a Tower half as big as Paris’ isn’t exactly the sexiest.

A few quickfire ones: ‘A world record for the longest speech was set by 62-year-old Frenchman Lluis Colet in 2009 who talked non-stop for 124 hours (five straight days and four nights) about Spanish painter Salvador Dali’; ‘The tallest man who ever lived was Robert Wadlow of Alton, Illinois. He was 8’11 when he died in 1940 at the age of 22, suffering from a disorder of his pituitary gland which caused him to continue growing all his life. He was buried in a half-ton coffin carried by 12 pallbearers’; and the rather bizarre ‘King George V had a pet parrot called Charlotte. The King always made a point of falling asleep at 10 past 11’.

But let me finish on this, for I had never come across it before and was mildly fascinated. The first person to be killed in a road accident in Britain was Bridget Driscoll, run down by a car at Crystal Palace, London, in August 1896 – kind of unlucky as at the time there were, at most, 20 petrol-driven cars in Britain.

Apparently Mrs Driscoll stood transfixed as the vehicle moved towards her and, despite the car having a top speed of 4mph, failed to get out of the way. The driver said he had rung his bell and shouted “stand back” but she seemed “bewildered”. At the inquest, the coroner said he hoped this would be “the last death in this sort of accident”.

The Bridget Driscoll in this accident, by the by, should not be confused with the Bridget O’Driscoll who survived a different accident in 1912: she was a passenger on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, but was rescued when the ship sank, She lived until 1976 when she died at the age of 91.

I don’t think your brain can take any more so I’ll sign off now.

Bet you can’t wait for next week...

All bark and a bit of bite

A 10-game ban for Luis Suarez. What a joke. That Chelsea lad clearly put his arm in Suarez’s mouth. It’s a stitch-up.

I jest, obviously, for just about the only funny thing about the Uruguayan’s latest stupid brush with the authorities was Liverpool’s reaction.

Basically they did the exact opposite of the last time Suarez (left) was in trouble, when he racially abused Patrice Evra. Back then Liverpool and then manager Kenny Dalglish steadfastly refused to even so much as lightly chastise their player. Indeed in one of the games soon after (when Suarez was beginning a lengthy ban), Liverpool’s players wore T-shirts in support of their team-mate during a pre-match warm-up.

I doubt this time we’ll see them on the pitch in shirts bearing the slogan “We love you Luis – it’s all right to bite!”

Credit to Liverpool for strong criticism of their own player this time (though given the video evidence they couldn’t react any other way). Shame on Suarez for once again letting down his employers and making them look like fools.