I celebrated my 55th birthday yesterday. The most compelling refutation of astrology for me is to look in the newspaper that day at the birthdays of the famous. In what sense could I be said to have anything in common with Paddy Ashdown, Ralph Nader, Julia Neuberger, Robert Scruton or Elizabeth Taylor?
It is more fun to look at the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) whose praises I have sung before. It is simplicity itself to construct a search for those in it who were born on 27 February, and amusing to imagine that I might share more than just a natal date with some of them.
And so I find myself sharing a birthday with Frances Cornford, the classicist, Henry Custance, the jockey, Lawrence Durrell, who is not read as much as he should be these days, John Fothergill, author of An Innkeeper's Diary, but who I did not know until today was one of Edward Perry Warren's circle of young men, the Lewes House Brotherhood, Richard Garnett, librarian and developer of the printed catalogue at the British Museum, described as being 'always been susceptible to intelligent young women', Kenneth Horne, of Round the Horne and Beyond our Ken, James Klugmann, historian of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Cyril Bertram Mills, the circus proprietor, Seán O'Faoláin, the writer and Ellen Terry the actress. These links all go to the ODNB entries, but you may need to go by way of your public library if you are not in an institution that has access. Most public libraries have subscribed.
There is another sense of accident about my birth but I will save that for a future post.