Was it Mr Gradgrind in Hard Times who sang the praises of facts?
I'm not a Dickens fan but I seem to remember something along those lines from the days when I had to study him whether I liked it or not.
Well, my head takes in such a lot of facts. On nights when sleep evades me, I get up, make a Horlicks and sit in the warm kitchen. By my chair is my special bookshelf, filled with cookery books and books to dib into; books by Ronald Blythe, Roger Deakin, John Lister-Kaye, Robert Macfarlane; books I can pick up, open at random, read a page or two and then put away.
I read so many fascinating things, think, 'I'll remember that,' and promptly forget it. So here, while they are fresh in my mind are several facts I read a couple of nights ago when I couldn't sleep -
Did you know that James Joyce, arguably Ireland's best writer of all time, had so many rejection slips before he had any work accepted, that he papered the loo walls with them?
The Mayor of Naples. a city notorious for appallingly bad driving, was once asked what exactly did the traffic lights mean. He said that if the light was at red you had to be a bit careful with how you proceeded, if it was at green it was fine to go along as you were. What about the yellow, somebody asked? That is just for gaiety was his answer.
The third fact concerns the composer, John Ireland, who died in 1962. He was asked out to lunch by Geoffrey Shaw. Shaw had in his pocket a poem written in 1664 by the poet, Samuel Crossman.
He passed it across to Ireland and asked whether the poem would be suitable for setting to music. Ireland read it and then, turning over the menu in the restaurant, wrote a tune there and then. It was what is now one of the favourite hymns - 'My song is love unknown.'
I expect, like me, you will forget all of this in a short while. But it makes interesting reading, doesn't it?