Being English we are seldom ever out without an umbrella (or brolly as we call them), and we're particular fans of the nifty pocket-sized fold-up variety. Umbrellas are certainly deserving of their own celebratory day.
The word 'umbrella' apparently evolved from the Latin umbella, the name of a flat-topped rounded flower. The first umbrellas, or parasols, protected from sunlight rather than rain and first appeared in ancient Egypt over three thousand years ago. Obviously, rain wasn't and still isn't a major issue in Egypt so it's the Chinese we have to thank for the first waterproof umbrellas. Dating back to 11th century BC China these were made of leather.
So in celebration of both the great British weather (at least it gives us something to talk about) and umbrellas of all sizes and colours, we're drinking a Damn the Weather based of course on London dry gin - the dry spirit to emerge from our often damp city.
Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel led an extraordinary life. She introduced clothing staples such as bell bottoms and pea jackets to women around the world and was the only couturier to be included in Time's 100 Most Important People of the Century list.
Gabrielle came from humble roots. When her mother died, her father did a runner, and she consequently spent six years in an orphanage where she learned to be a seamstress. After a brief stint as a cabaret singer, she met a young French textile heir and became his mistress, simultaneously falling in love with diamonds, dresses and pearls. She had other affairs, but her true marriage was always to her label which she worked for up to the day she died.
The Mary Pickford, a Prohibition-era drink from the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, is one of our favourite old-school cocktails. And this is the anniversary of the day the actress became famous enough to have a drink named after her, for it was this day in 1914 when Mary Pickford first saw her name up in lights, publicising a silent movie called Hearts Adrift.
Soon she would be known as "the most famous woman of all time". Her second marriage to Douglas Fairbanks made her "Hollywood royalty". The 1920s' answer to Brangelina, their circle of friends included Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Noël Coward and Amelia Earhart, as well as everyone who was anyone in movies.
An ultra-tough cookie and famously hard negotiator, Pickford demanded - and got - the role of producer on all her movies from 1916 and co-founded the United Artists studio in 1919. Though she didn't get everything right. Pickford argued, famously, that "talking pictures are like lip rouge on the Venus de Milo", and her acting career didn't long survive the arrival of sound.
How long have we got before computers become more intelligent than us? Are they already? An early indication occurred on this day in 1996 when the international chess grandmaster, Garry Kasparov, lost the first-ever chess game between a human champion and a computer, named Deep Blue. Kasparov recovered and went on to win the match 4-2, but it was an ominous sign - a year later he lost not only games but the match.
A sign of things to come? Possibly. But since the world's AI experts have yet to build a computer that can hold a natural conversation, our Terminator nightmares may take a while to come to fruition. In the meantime, in honour of Deep Blue, and all its scarily intelligent descendants, we are drinking a Blue Moon.
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