26 Nov 2010

The most boring day ever? 11 April 1954

As scientists name 11 April 1954 the most boring day of the 20th Century, Channel 4 News site editor Malcolm Boughen – who was born on that day – asks can it be true?

The most boring day ever? 11 April 1954

All the days in all the years in all the world and they had to walk into mine.

“Experts”, we’re told, have calculated that the most boring day of the 20th Century was 11 April 1954 – the day I was born.

The “experts” work for a search engine organisation based in Cambridge and came to their conclusion by feeding 300million headline-making facts about “people, places, business and events” into a computer and breaking them down into the day on which they happened. 11 April 1954, it appears, had the fewest.

There was a General Election in Belgium, the Americans were preparing to support the French army in Indo-China (a fore-runner of the Vietnam War) and Abdullah Atalar – who went on to become a Turkish academic – was born. As was I.

Being born in Norfolk has a way of preparing you for a quiet life.

Now, as far as I know, my birth did not make headlines in the Kings Lynn Advertiser and I’ve made none since – though I’ve written a few. Maybe I was subconsciously driven to search out news by the paucity of it when I entered the world.

Of course, having been born on the 11 April 1954, by definition I don’t remember much about it. Among my earliest big news memories was England winning the World Cup in 1966 – I think in retrospect that was when I started wanting to be a reporter – a sports reporter. It was Watergate a little later that steered me towards political journalism.

Being born in Norfolk, though, has a way of preparing you for a quiet life. Very flat, Norfolk. Very peaceful. What was that word again? Began with a b.

Worldwide phenomenon

But this seems to be a worldwide phenomenon. Search as you might on the internet, there are few entries for 11 April 1954. Those at the top of the Google list include The Bob Hope Show, What’s My Line? and I Love Lucy. Even by then television had become – if not the opium – then perhaps the valium of the people.

Look up celebrity birthdays and the cupboard is equally bare. Jeremy Clarkson shares my birthday – but was born a few years too late. Joel Grey (of Cabaret fame) was much too early. The only celebrities born on 11 April 1954 are from Hungary and Lithuania – and no, you wouldn’t have heard of them.

But I’ve always been quite happy with my birth date. It fell – as it often has since – on Easter Sunday. It was far enough from Christmas to ensure nice birthday presents and celebrations as a child and, as an adult, I’ve often been able to take an Easter holiday to coincide.

We are a bit of an in-between generation. We missed the baby boom – and are gradually seeing the benefits enjoyed by those ten or so years older than us disappearing before we reach them. But we have not had to endure a world war as our parents did – and have enjoyed a generally prosperous time that is only now coming to an end.

And, hey, things could be worse. At least on the day I was born the BBC did not have an announcer (as they did on 18 April 1930) begin – and presumably end – a news bulletin with the announcement: “There is no news”.