17 Agosto

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Today is Air Mail's birthday

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Air Mail

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On this day in 1859, balloonist John Wise attempted the first ever mail delivery by air - taking to the skies in Lafayette, Indiana, and aiming for New York, accompanied by a bag of 123 letters.

He didn't make it. The winds weren't kind, and after a flight lasting over five hours, he landed a mere 30 miles away, having dropped the mail ahead of him on a home-made parachute. Airmail proper wouldn't hit the scene for another 70ish years.

And Wise? He carried on flying, researching and writing on ballooning, until, aged 71, he disappeared, while flying over Lake Michigan in high winds. We are toasting this pioneer with an Air Mail.

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It's also Mae West's birthday

"When choosing between two evils, I always like to pick the one I never tried before," Mae West once remarked. The ultimate brassy blonde, Mae West was born on this day in 1893 in Brooklyn, New York.

Known for her bawdy double entendres, she first made a name for herself as a vaudeville star and then moved to Hollywood, where she repeatedly came up against the censors. Her view was, "I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it." The Mae West Cocktail, a hot pink cherry-chocolate confection, is the perfect tribute to the queen of the high life.

It's Indonesian Independence Day

Sprawling across over 17,000 islands, Indonesia is actually one of the biggest countries in the world, stretching more than 3000km across the equator, and incorporating over 700 different languages.

Today more than 200 million Indonesians are celebrating their independence, which they declared on this day in 1945. It would take, however, more than four years of fighting before the Dutch, who had ruled most of Indonesia's islands before the war, accepted the country was free.

Besides the usual parades and flag hoisting, food plays a big part in independence celebrations, with competitions to see who can eat the most prawn crackers. In some towns, men compete to climb a slippery tree trunk for prizes including bikes or TVs. We won't be climbing any slippery poles. But we will be marking the day with a cocktail named for Indonesia's best-known island, Bali.

Britain's first Oscar winning film

On this day in 1933, The Private Life of Henry VIII debuted in British cinemas. Made at a time when British cinema was about as well-regarded as British wine, it would become the first British film to achieve any international success.

And so, what if the director was Hungarian?

A laugh-a-minute knockabout comedy, featuring the lovable King Henry VIII who famously beheaded no fewer than two of his six wives, it propelled Charles Laughton to international stardom and an Oscar for Best Actor. It was also the first British film to ever be nominated for Best Film at the Academy Awards.

Henry VIII was a great fan of wine, particularly the sweeter styles. So we think he'd have appreciated this Rhine Wine Cobbler, created by his namesake Harry (Henry) Johnson.

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