Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Birth And A Bludgeoned Raisin

Why do we have this almost insatiable urge to discover what famous events happened on the day of our birth? Having just celebrated my 60th birthday I was tempted to send off to one of these companies which promises a "genuine facsimile" of a newspaper published on the day of your birth, but being a tight-fisted old bugger, I decided to search on-line instead. As I discovered, there are a number of problems with this approach.

In the first place, in order to discover what happened on the day of your birth you need a newspaper published the day after your birthday. None of the companies specialising in novelty birthday gifts have managed to face up to this paradox and one can only imagine the disappointment of their customers who have shelled out good money only to read about things which happened before they were born.

The second problem relates to the still largely Americo-centric nature of the Internet. I managed without too much difficulty to locate newspapers from 18th June 1948 (and therefore reporting events on the 17th June) but the list of available titles was composed of papers such as "The Fresno Bee" and "The Mansfield News-Journal" (not the Mansfield in North Nottinghamshire I might add). I am therefore in a position to tell you what happened in California and Ohio on the day of my birth and, for the moment at least, that is what you will have to put up with.

The most notable event was the crash of a DC6 passenger plane in Pennsylvania will killed all 43 people on board. The discovery that your arrival in the world coincided with a burning plane ploughing into a 60,000 volt power cable is not guaranteed to fill you full of birthday joy. Moving quickly on, I also discover that as I entered the world with a cry and a scream, Lucile Williams left the world with a cry and a scream as she was being bludgeoned to death by her husband in Everett, Washington. Continuing the good news run, as I was taking my first breath, John W Reeves of Fresno was taking $2 worth of petrol from a filling station without payment. When the Filling Station owner tried to stop him, Reeves shot the man dead.

Searching for happier news from the overseas sections of the papers, I discovered that to mark my birth (well that's how it feels) an earthquake killed 10,000 in China, a mine explosion killed 52 in Japan, a new and more bloody phase of the Greek Civil War was launched, and 50,000 workers went on strike in France. And, in a gesture which I am still unable to quite understand, to celebrate my birth, the field price of raisins jumped by an unprecedented $5 a ton.

You have to admit, that star in the east had nothing on that lot.

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