I'll be in Denver when you read this, coping with jetlag. It just isn't natural for a human being to go back in time six hours through speeding across the Atlantic for nearly ten. I am abnormally chrono-sensitive (don't look it up; I just invented it). I wear my watch day and night, taking it off just for baths, showers and swims (though I have a waterproof "swimming watch" I substitute for it straightaway). I made a friend, who does not wear a watch, laugh recently by saying, "time is round!" as an explanation of why I didn't want to consult my mobile phone or computer. You might remember from my Janus post that I see the year in the same circular fashion.
A fascination with time is pretty often linked, as in my case, with a predilection for all things calendrical. I'm not the only History Girl who feels this way. See H.M. Castor's post on this subject. I even have a character in my Stravaganza sequence of novels featuring alternative history in 16th century Italy, who is a Calendarist. (That is the Elizabethan alchemist Doctor Dethridge, for whom I have drawn heavily on the historical John Dee).
I am also fascinated, though I don't claim to understand it, by the Precession of the Equinoxes, thought to be at the heart of the mysteries of the Mithraic religion.
I digress, but that's what the calendar makes me do. There's the Solar calendar, which gives us the whole year and the hours of daylight we experience, the Lunar calendar, which (roughly) gives us the months with a 28-day cycle (and no, I don't think this has anything to do with menstruation, though you'd be amazed how often this is mentioned without challenge). Did you know there was a thirteenth month, Mercedonius, invented by Numa, the second king of Rome (715-672 BC)? It was an intercalated month of 22-23 days between February and March. Julius Caesar put a stop to it
It was his adviser Sosigenes who suggested abandoning the intercalary month in favour of an intercalary day once every four years. He knew that that the Julian calendar would eventually run into difficulty because the year is not exactly 365 and a quarter days long.
The Julian and Gregorian calendars were mentioned by H.M.Castor. For those of us who write about the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods, that change in the beginning of the year is a real pain! To recap, in 1582, under Pope Gregory Xlll, the Julian calendar was "reformed." This was done by Papal Bull, according to a proposal by one Aluise Baldassar Lilio (1510-76).
I was reminded of this when the people of Samoa skipped 30th December 2011 to bring them more in line with Australia and New Zealand.
Having that extra day is known as an "intercalation." In the 1604 edition of the Book of Common Prayer was written: On every fourth year, the Sunday Letter leapeth." Hence, Leap Year. Nothing to do with Leaping the Broomstick or anything like that.
The tradition of a woman being the one to propose on Leap Day goes back a long way. According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (an essential part of my library), "A Scottish law of 1288 says that 'during the rain of hir maist blissit Megeste, for ilke yeare knowne as lepe yeare, ilk mayden ladye ...shal hae liberte to bespeke ye man she like, albeit he refuses to taik hir to be his lawful wyfe, he shall be mulcted in ye sum of ane pundis.' " An alternative fine was a silk gown.
(I hope you didn't find that difficult to read; it's pretty much the way Dr Dethridge speaks and spells).
At Christmas 2010, we were given a total of nine calendars. Thanks to the recession and cost-cutting by the local garage and Indian take-away - both places we frequent regularly - the number was reduced for the Christmas just gone by. In fact, we are down to three.
I have the greatest difficulty in throwing calendars away - those Polar Bear cubs are so cute; perhaps I should cut them out and keep them? I still have fond memories of Jackie Morris's ginger cats, a lovely one I had of the phases of the moon, and I have cut out Mr February from the gondolier calendar Michelle Lovric sent me last year.
OK, maybe that last isn't really part of my calendrical obsession. But now I'm wondering, shall we make a History Girls' calendar for 2013? Would you like one? Emphatically not like Julie Walters and co. in Calendar Girls!