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The Independent Online
WHY THE BRITISH GO ABROAD: to buy cheap cars; to work as slave labour in Germany; to ruin Provence; to buy drugs in Amsterdam; to show off their knees; to have servants; to shout at foreigners; to build dams for Third World countries; to lose at cricket/skating/football; to get away from the British; to moan about the food; to throw spaghetti, wine and brandy at their dining companions (Paul 'I always come to the Via Veneto to get drunk' Gascoigne).

SPAGHETTI STRAND: Last year at Spago's restaurant in Los Angeles, Maya Usova (silver medallist when Jayne Torvill got bronze) threw a plate of spaghetti over Oksana Grit schuk (gold medallist), who had allegedly had an affair with Usova's husband.

TODAY is the feast day of Saint Thalelaeus, a holy recluse, who lived in a hut near pagans who tried to frighten him away with apparitions and hideous noises. He spent 10 years in a barrel-shaped cage to punish his criminal body, says one source. Another source records that, for 60 years, he wept almost without stopping. 'Time is allowed us by the divine mercy for repentance and satisfaction, and woe be to us if we neglect it,' he used to say to those who visited him. He was surnamed Epiklautos, 'weeping much'.

27 February, 1735: John Arbuthnot (above) died in London aged 67. Scottish mathematician, physician to Queen Anne and writer, he was a close friend of Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope and an occasional satirist himself. The fictitious caricature of an Englishman, John Bull, was created by Arbuthnot for a series of political pamphlets on British foreign policy leading up to the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.

1807: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, US poet who wrote 'The Song of Hiawatha', was born in Maine.

1900: British Labour Party founded with Ramsay MacDonald as secretary.

1933: The Reichstag was burnt in what Hitler called a Communist plot.

BIRTHDAYS: Frank Al laun, former Labour MP, 81; Paddy Ashdown, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, 53; Mervyn Jones, author, 72; Edward Lucie-Smith, poet, 61; Rabbi Julia Neuberger, 44; Elizabeth Taylor, actress, 62.

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