Swiftly leaping into the new year

Happy New Year! And if you too are wondering what happened to the old year, brace yourself. This year is going to pass even more swiftly – 2017 has only 365 days in comparison to 366 days last year which, if you remember, was a leap year. (You’d remember for sure if by tradition, your girlfriend proposed and you replied “Thanks, but no thanks”)

It was Julius Caesar who introduced leap years more than 
2 000 years ago. However, in 1582 Big July’s Calendar was replaced by Pope Gregory XIII because it did not properly reflect the actual time it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun. It also produced too many leap years whereas the Gregorian Calendar was more accurate with its three criteria for a leap year.
The year could be evenly divided by 4. If the year could be evenly divided by 100, it was NOT a leap year, unless the year was also evenly divisible by 400.

Why do we bother with leap years? It’s because the Earth takes approximately 365¼ days to travel the 150 million km to complete one orbit. So to fit into the Gregorian Calendar we have 365 days for three years and 366 for a leap year. Otherwise after a century our calendar would be out of kilter by 24 days and if this error were perpetuated, eventually summer would happen in winter!

That would never happen now as we have highly accurate atomic clocks.

However, it took 300 years for most countries to switch to the Gregorian Calendar. The longer they waited the odder the dates. Some months had only 18 days and one February had 30 days, while in North America the September of 1752 skipped 11 days.

So people who went to bed on September 2 woke up on September 14.This headache was far worse than experienced by revellers on our New Year’s Eve. It was caused because Britain and her overseas possessions had implemented the Gregorian Calendar to start the New Year on January 1 and not, as before on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation.

E-cards lose the spirit of Christmas

One of the good things that have happened in recent years is that we are no longer embarrassed by returned cheques because of an old year date.

I was always getting caught out. So I got into the habit of pre-dating the coming year on several cheques at the same time as I wrote my Christmas cards.

Now I use so few cheques that I wouldn’t dream of pre-dating any — they could so easily be out of date. In November 2016 when I paid my car licence for 2017, I noticed that the last time I had written out a cheque was in November 2015 for the 2016 car licence. One cheque only for the whole year!

While the convenience of internet banking along with cheque forgery has made cheque books history, I do regret that Christmas cards are considered passé, partly due to the cost of the cards, postage and the unreliability of delivery. I appreciate friends who take the trouble to send beautiful e-cards, but the big disadvantage is that they don’t lend themselves to stringing up over the fireplace or decorating the walls with the spirit of Christmas.

You read them once on the computer and that’s it.

Library closed

Bang goes my first date on the January calendar. The Tokai library is not going to reopen on January 3 after all.
An email from the Tokai Residents’ Association warns that the library will not be opening in the first couple of months and possibly could be closed for the first six months. This is due to the high cost of the damage to the building by the pine tree falling on the library’s roof.

So what’s to be done? We should take advantage of borrowing books from friends and supporting the second-hand books and charity shops, as well as book sales at fetes and craft markets etc. There are some amazing bargains to be had for peanuts.

Some months back a CapeTalk presenter invited listeners to her regular book programme to phone in with the names of their all-time favourite books. Two of mine came up: Gerald Durrell’s absolutely hilarious My Family and Other Animals and Daphne du Maurier’s haunting thriller Rebecca with its unforgettable opening line Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again….”

Our copy of Rebecca disappeared years ago. But imagine my joy to find in perfect condition in one volume a second-hand copy of Du Maurier’s four great Cornish novels – Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek and My Cousin Rachel. All for the sum of 
R50.

The perfect gift

Christmas is always associated with receiving two special gifts: Zapiro’s book of brilliant political cartoons and a copy of Frans Groenewald’s quirky and tongue-in-cheek calendar. Neither annual was available in December.
Since 2009 we’ve had Groenewald’s colourful characters cheering our kitchen with their clever antics associated with food and cooking but in 2017 the Somerset West artist’s calendar has been replaced with one featuring landscapes and flowers by that leading impressionist, Oscar-Claude Monet (1840-1926).

We did receive one marvellous book by a Capetonian: Forgotten 
Cape Town: A visual History 1850 -1950.

The remarkable photographs were researched and captioned by Tony Grogan, former cartoonist of the Cape Times.

A barman’s worth

On New Year’s Eve, Marilyn stood up in the local pub and asked every husband at the stroke of midnight to stand next to the one person who made his life worth living. The poor barman was almost crushed to 
death.

fionachisholm@iafrica.com