The More Things Change | Issue 17
29 July-4 August
2 August, 1377: In the name of land and power (as such things often are), a bunch of Russian troops faced off against a bunch of Mongol troops. It was at a place called Pyana River, and the memorable thing about it is that the Russians were all drunk. This gave the fierce Mongolian horde a great chance to blindside them, and in the resulting battle the Russians got absolutely destroyed – possibly because many of them drowned in the river. The best bit is that the river was originally called Piana, but after this incident was renamed to Pyana, which translates from Russian as “drunken.”
31 July, 1703: Daniel Defoe, perhaps best known for writing Robinson Crusoe, was put in the stocks because he’d written a pamphlet of political satire. The government at the time took that sort of thing very seriously, but the public evidently didn’t – the usual procedure was to pelt people with rotten food and stuff, but they just threw flowers at Defoe instead. One only hopes that he didn’t have a pollen allergy.
30 July, 1894: Two brothers working at a psychiatric hospital invented a new food, known today as cornflakes. They were too cheap to throw away some dough they’d left out for too long, so they just rolled it out into flakes and toasted it. The institution of cornflakes as a breakfast food has not escaped turmoil: the addition of sugar caused a rift between the brothers as they were originally intent on creating the blandest foodstuff possible. As you do.
31 July, 1922: The first water skis were ridden, which, considering they were constructed out of little more than a pair of boards and a clothesline, is rather impressive. Apparently speeds of about 30 kilometres per hour were achieved, but there is no word on whether the rider was ever injured during his exploits. Water skiing remains a fairly dangerous and technical sport, with the first requirement for participation being that the rider “should know how to swim.”
31 July, 1970: This was the day that the Royal Navy’s rum ration met its tragic demise. It was originally not rum at all, but beer, and an astonishing 4.5 litres per sailor per day. Rum was introduced in the seventeenth century, and after that the Navy steadily decreased the amount it gave out – it went down to 70mL per day in 1970, when some Admiral decided that it might make the sailors less capable of operating heavy machinery. Apparently there was a mock funeral in one of the training camps.