If you are reading this column on Saturday, October 11, then you are reading this column on my birthday. If you are reading this column on a day other than Saturday, October 11, it doesn't really matter because it's the thought that counts. And the thought, today, is all about other people's birthdays, not mine. Yes, I could have written a column about the vagaries of getting older and the inevitability of ageing, but the worst thing you can do on your birthday is contemplate any of these things, as this can lead to drinking and crying.

No, a much more fun thing to do on your birthday is to look up on the internet the names of other people, the famous and the infamous, who popped into the world the same day as you - in my case, October 11. This may also lead to drinking (it being my birthday and all), though hopefully without the crying.

Samuel Clarke, my date buddy of 1675, was an English philosopher who devoted his thinking life to trying to prove the existence of God. In some ways Samuel and I are very similar, although I tend to confine my attempts to prove the existence of God to the golf course, where, to date, I have had very little success in proving anything except my own inadequacies in the game of golf. Mind you, given that people are still debating the existence of God to this very day possibly Samuel was to philosophy what I am to sport.

Another member of the exclusive October 11 club who was of a religious bent was Johan Oscar Smith, a Norwegian bloke who almost emigrated to New Zealand but instead decided to stay in Norway and start his own church. Smith (which, I have to say, is not the most Norwegian name ever) and his followers believed that obedience was the way to Christian virtue. Or, to be more accurate I guess, Smith believed it and his followers virtuously obeyed.


Prince Pierre-Napoleon Bonaparte (born October 11, 1815) lived a rather exciting life, by all accounts, spending a fair whack of time fighting in insurrections, killing people in duels and generally being quite debauched on it. I have never fought in a duel because: (a) no one has ever challenged me to one; and (b) I am very afraid that I would be crap at duel-fighting and that is one thing you definitely do not want to be crap at.

My date mate of 1758 is/was Wilhelm Olbers, the German astronomer who, among other things astronomical, discovered a couple of asteroids I have never heard of: Pallas and Vesta. Occasionally I discover things like coins and remote controls down the back of the couch, and I also like to look up at the stars and think how cool they are. Wilhelm and I clearly have a lot more in common than just a birth date.

Musically I share my date of birth with Daryl Hall, of Hall and Oates fame; Al Atkins, the original lead vocalist of Judas Priest; and the drummer from Haircut One Hundred. I'm not entirely sure, on this basis, that October 11 is a stellar day in musical terms.

In terms of actors, however, things are marginally better for 11/10 with the fantastic Joan Cusack first drawing breath on that date. Dawn French also popped into the world on October 11, along with a guy who falls into the "that guy, he's been in heaps of things" category (David Morse - St. Elsewhere, Treme and about a billion other things) and another guy who falls into the "whatever happened to" category, Luke Perry (aka Dylan from Beverly Hills 90210).

One birth buddy I have a clear and undisputable link to is Henry J. Heinz. Primarily this is because we both come from families that did (and still do) stuff with food, in terms of making it and selling it. True, Henry founded a global food processing empire and I have never baked a biscuit in my life, but in principle we are practically one and the same person. Also I grew up in Hawkes Bay, which is famous as the birthplace of Wattie's, which is now owned by Heinz. Were it not for the fact that we were born 117 years apart and on different sides of the planet, Henry J. and I could be identical twins.

And my list of birth buddies goes on and on: Andreas Gryphius (a composer who has an asteroid named after him); phrenologist Orson Squire Fowler; Friedrich Bergius, who extracted fuel from coal and then fled to Argentina; and heaps and heaps of other people I've never heard of but with whom I have one thing in common.

Happy birthday to you, one and all, my date mates.