Charles Nevin: Let's hear it for Barbie's belly button

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The Independent Online

Happy Monday. And an exciting week this is, or rather has been, featuring a fascinating combination of the 219th, 158th and 52nd anniversaries of the self-flushing toilet, condensed milk and Barbie, respectively. It's also 820 years on Thursday since Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre. The ceremony took place in Cyprus, a precedent that could easily have been employed to prevent all that fuss at the end of last month. And handy for a honeymoon. Did you know that Barbie didn't acquire a belly button until 2000, and that there has been Palaeontologist Barbie? Berengaria, too, is the only Queen of England never to bother coming here. Thanks.

Oh, yes, it's also 528 years ago on Saturday since the coronation of Charles VIII of France. He was known as Charles the Affable, which seems a touch faint-praise, and likely to be challenged by Italy, which he invaded. My favourite soubriquet? The father of the Byzantine emperor, Romanus I, was known as Theophylact the Unbearable. Charles, by the way, was killed by a tennis ball to the head: I had no idea they could be so dangerous. Do you think Andy Murray would do better in a helmet?

Research showing that men become aggressive when doing chores traditionally considered women's work didn't surprise me. I am in touch with my inner macho, and allow for it. Here are some top tips to practise or pass on: 1. I always do the washing up stripped to the waist, with a tea towel as bandana. 2. I pretend the vacuum cleaner is a deadly Martian ray gun. 3. I chew gum when I'm ironing. 4. Sometimes, I don't wear rubber gloves. 5. I dust without a safety net. 6. I clean the shower while I'm having one, fiercely resisting being waterboarded. 7. How many glasses can you carry at once to the cupboard? 8. Six, that's right, six. 9. Your record for putting on a duvet cover? 10. Blindfolded, with your teeth? Thought not. Eat feathers!

I almost forgot to mention the American Civil War battle of Spotsylvania, going on now in 1864, and setting for the end of Major General John Sedgwick, whose famous last words serve to remind of both our optimism and fallibility: "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance!" Happy Monday.