8 May

It's International Red Cross and Red Crescent Day

So we are drinking a...

Red Lion (Difford's recipe)

It is hard to imagine an era before the Red Cross. Not so much for the minutiae of life, such as First Aid training and cleaning cuts and grazes. But for its role on the battlefield.

Before Henry Dunant created the Red Cross in 1863, there was no agreed system for treating casualties on the battlefield. The wounded were picked up as best they could by colleagues, under fire unless a truce had been negotiated, and many did not survive the wait for assistance.

We have the Red Cross to thank for the first ever Geneva Convention, which, in 1864, began to define what was acceptable and unacceptable in times of war, something we still struggle with today.

Its medics, who operate as the Red Crescent in Islamic countries, still provide assistance in times of conflict around the world. Today is Henry Dunant's birthday, and Red Cross Day as well. We are toasting both Henry and his brave organisation with a Red Lion.

Today is the anniversary of when Moscow pulled out of the Olympics

The Olympics are, in theory at least, an occasion when nations can put aside those little differences that otherwise tear the world apart. Israeli athletes can face off against Iranian athletes; African-American athletes can race against Nazis; Serbs and Bosnians can get along just fine.

This day in 1984, though, when Vladimir Putin was just a humble KGB officer learning the spying craft in East Germany, the USSR pulled out of the Los Angeles Olympics, probably in a tit for tat because the US and other countries had boycotted the Moscow Olympics four years earlier.

Thank goodness those Cold War days are behind us, right? And that Russia's now a totally normal country, and Trump and Putin are cuddle-buddies, and there's no danger of Russia invading anywhere... Oh, wait.

In the hope that we can all get along well enough to make it through to Tokyo's 2020 games without World War III, we're toasting today's anniversary with a White Russian.

It's 70 years since the battle of the Atlantic

Today we are also commemorating the Battle of the Atlantic, which reached its peak this day back in 1943.

Not heard of the Battle of the Atlantic? That's probably because it rolled on for years, as the Merchant Navy tried to keep the Atlantic safe for sea traffic, bringing vital supplies from America to England, and protecting them against submarine attacks.

Over 30,000 British men died in the Battle of the Atlantic, most of them from drowning or exposure in the chilly north Atlantic. Although civilians, they sailed often elderly, rackety and outdated ships through seas full of hostile vessels, and kept the war going even in the darkest days.

We'll be raising a glass of The Limey Gimlet to those brave men - it's our own variation on the classic naval cocktail.