The man responsible for Wednesday
In this blogposting...
* Pancake Day
* Feedback
* Leap Year and all that
* Hildie’s Joke
* The Legs of Lyon
* Argentina
Go on - I dare you...

Did you celebrate Pancake Day?  How many did you get through?
(However often I visit France, I just can’t bring myself to call them crepes.)

I have to make an unpatriotic admission here.  Much though I love English pancakes, I very much prefer the 'Scotch' variety - ‘drop scones’.  My goodness.  So delicious that they ought to be illegal.  I managed 7.
My preferred option
(on the Comments box of posting 341)
That really is one of the most extraordinary trails of bad luck I’ve ever heard.  I’m afraid it’s perfectly obvious that there’s either something you’re not doing or something you’re doing wrong - although I can’t imagine what this can be.  You aren’t a member of some ungodly cult, are you?  Have you broken several mirrors recently?

I would take Sid’s advice, if I were you.  Make it your business to touch a lot of wood in the very near future.

I’m so glad I’m not the only one sentimental enough to maintain the magpie traditions of my youth.  Although it does mean, as you say, that we spend an unconscionable amount of time asking after the wellbeing of birds who couldn’t care less about ours (touch wood).

And I suppose - in a generous light - the superstition about bees could be seen as an early recognition of something we now know to be true:  that they are much cleverer than we might tend to give them credit for.

But....why is no-one prepared to come forward and admit to the collar-touching tradition of my younger, more innocent days?  Or did it only happen in Peterlee?  Surely not...


So frustratingly, though predictably, inexact is the Earth’s wayward orbit around the Sun that, every four years, the naked apes that swarm over its surface must needs add an extra day to ‘make up the numbers’.  If we didn’t do this, we would eventually end up celebrating Christmas in high summer (as the benighted folk of Australia already have to) and stripping down to our bikinis in mid-November.

Making every fourth year a day longer doesn’t quite do the trick either, of course.  This is because each ‘lunisolar’ year is slightly less than 365.25 days long and adding a day every four years would thus cause our distant descendants no end of inconvenience and confusion.

Which is why, if a year is divisible by 100, it isn’t a Leap Year unless it’s divisible by 400.  1900 wasn’t a Leap Year; 2000 was.

Even this isn’t precise.  Someone whose job I want has worked out that, in 8,000 years, the calendar will still be one day out of kilter.

Researching this bit of esoterica sent me up many pleasurable, calendar-related, cul-de-sacs.  Why, for example (I found myself asking), are days so unevenly distributed amongst the months of our Roman calendar?  Why are there so many months luxuriating with 31 days while poor, weak, palsy-stricken February has to make do with (usually) just 28?

As with so many aspects of civilisation (including, incredibly, the distance between the lines on almost all the world’s railways), the blame can be laid squarely at the door of the aforementioned Romans.

The Roman year began, sensibly, on March 1 and the months ran predictably and alternately with 31 then 30 days, which left lowly February - the last month of the Roman year - with 29 days (or 30 in a Leap Year).  The months from March still follow this pattern as far as July.

The Emperor Augustus changed all that though.  July had been named after Julius Caesar and Augustus wanted the following month - in the height of summer - named after him and to have 31 days, like July has.

Being disinclined to argue the point, the Emperor’s calendar-wallahs immediately changed everyone’s lives forever by adding an extra day to August and taking one off February.

That one man had the ultimate ego-massaging power to alter the calendar is incredible enough; that we still conform to his vainglorious edicts, even more so.


My tireless and selfless researches on this subject also unearthed this excellent titbit on Wikipedia...

La Bougie du Sapeur, first published in 1980, is a humorous French newspaper published every February 29 - that is, once every four years.  Its next edition will be on February 29, 2012.  There have been eight editions of this newspaper to date.

The newspaper's name (literally, ‘The Candle of the Sapper’) is derived from a comics character, the sapper Camember, created by Georges Colomb in the 1890s.  In the story, Camember was born on February 29; so, when recruited into the army, he was 'just five years old'...

The paper was founded by Jacques Debuisson and Christian Bailly. Its editor in chief is Jean d'Indy. Each edition is printed in 200,000 copies.

In 2004, the seventh edition was accompanied by a Sunday special designed to be published on every February 29 that falls on a Sunday - once every 28 years. The next edition of the Sunday special is scheduled to be published on Sunday, February 29, 2032.

Profits of the 2008 edition went to a charity devoted to autism.

It is possible to subscribe to this newspaper, 100 euros for an entire century.

How wonderful is that!

I will be in France on this upcoming Leap Day and will do everything in my limited power to obtain a copy of La Bougie du Sapeur on all our behalves.


Hildie sent me this recently - and I for one don’t blame her for wanting to be rid of it.

Tired of constantly being broke and stuck in an unhappy marriage, a young husband
decided to solve both problems by taking out a large insurance policy on his wife with himself as the beneficiary, and then arranging to have her killed.

A 'friend of a friend' put him in touch with a nefarious dark-side underworld figure who went by the name of 'Artie.'

Artie then explained to the husband that his going price for snuffing out a spouse was £5,000.

The husband said he was willing to pay that amount, but that he wouldn't have any cash on hand until he could collect his wife's insurance money.

Artie insisted on being paid at least something upfront, so the man opened his wallet, displaying the single £1 coin that rested inside.  Artie sighed, rolled his eyes, & reluctantly agreed to accept the £1 as down payment for the dirty deed.

A few days later, Artie followed the man's wife to the local Tesco Superstore. There, he surprised her in the produce department and proceeded to strangle her with his gloved hands.  And the poor unsuspecting woman drew her last breath and slumped to the floor........

The manager of the produce department stumbled unexpectedly onto the murder scene. Unwilling to leave any living witnesses behind, Artie had no choice but to strangle the produce manager as well.

However, unknown to Artie, the entire proceedings were captured by the hidden security cameras and observed by the store's security guard, who immediately called the police. Artie was caught and arrested before he could even leave the store.

Under intense questioning at the police station, Artie revealed the whole sordid plan, including his unusual financial arrangements with the hapless husband, who was also quickly arrested. 

The next day in the newspaper, the headline declared .... 

(You're going to hate me for this .... )



Modern sculpture is often rightly criticised for being needlessly inexplicable.  This one, though, needs no explanation.  It stands proudly outside the Opera House in Lyon.
I love it.


The next port-of-call on our worldwide geographical tour-de-force will be Argentina - the only country on Earth that’s been told not to cry.  As usual, I’ll be very grateful for any offbeat and unexpected information you can find or already know.  What do they eat there?  How do they insult each other?  What’s at Number One?  What are they really good at?

Send me an email....


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com


Kev said...


A leap year is a year in which an extra day is added to the calendar in order to synchronize it with the seasons. Since the tropical year is 365.242190 days long, a leap year must be added roughly once every four years (four times the fractional day gives 0.96876 ie almost 1). In a leap year, the extra day (known as a leap day) is added at the end of February, giving it 29 instead of the usual 28 days.
The extra rule involving centuries is an additional correction to make up for the fact that one extra day every four years is slightly too much correction. This scheme results in the vernal equinox gradually shifting its date between March 19 and 21, being shifted once every leap year, and then being abruptly shifted in non-leap centuries.

In the Gregorian calendar, 97 years out of every 400 are leap years, giving the total number of days in 400 years as 146097.

The leap year was introduced in the Julian calendar in 46 BC. However, around 10 BC, it was found that the priests in charge of computing the calendar had been adding leap years every three years instead of the four decreed by Caesar. As a result of this error, no more leap years were added until 8 AD. Leap years were therefore 45 BC, 42 BC, 39 BC, 36 BC, 33 BC, 30 BC, 27 BC, 24 BC, 21 BC, 18 BC, 15 BC, 12 BC, 9 BC, 8 AD, 12 AD, and every fourth year thereafter, until the Gregorian calendar was introduced which resulted in skipping three out of every four centuries).


Ian Robinson said...

I might have known...
Anything about manipulating numbers and Kev's there like a shot!

Hildie said...

Touch your collar, touch your nose, never go in one of those.
I'm kind of testing whether or not I can post a comment. I've been trying without success lately.

Ian Robinson said...

Well you succeeded this time, Hildie. AND a reference to collar-touching...

Sid said...

Come on then Hildie give us another one of your jokes....

Val said...

Little bit late with these.
I thought it was only new shoes that were unlucky on the table.
In the days when visiting sailors were allowed to wear uniform you used to see quite a lot walking around Newcastle. My Mam told us it was lucky to touch their collars.
If I drop a glove I ask someone else to pick it up as it's supposed to be lucky for them.
When giving a purse as a present always put a coin inside to pass on luck.
If you accidentally put on an item of clothing inside out it's supposed to be unlucky to take it off and put it on the right way. I get round this, say with a jumper, by keeping at least an arm inside while I turn it right side in!

And even later with this - I remember the Clochemerle tv series Ian. It was very funny and our whole family enjoyed it.

Why is it that the 2 words you have to type to post aren't even words and so hard to read!

Sid said...

The inventor of the two word system is either having a chuckle or needs to go to specsavers (other optician services are available).
It's new, and a nuisance, but we'll manage.

Sid said...

Inside out clothes....
Early one morning, Years ago.....I put underpants on inside out and kept them on.
During the course of the day I had an accident which meant I needed a Tetanus injection in the backside.
Both I and the nurse laughed so much, but my face was redder than hers.

Val said...

Sid if you did that through superstition I'm glad I'm not the only daft one round here :)

Ian Robinson said...

Ellie has Commented on the last posting. I thought I'd copy her Comment to here in case anyone misses it there.

'Sid, I remember (a long, long time ago) being told NOT to pick dandelions as I would wet the bed. I remember being terrified of them for some years afterwards. As for Mr. Magpie, I always, salute and say 'Good morning (afternoon, evening whatever is appropriate)Mr. Magpie, I hope all is well with you and yours' - if I failed to give this greeting, bad luck would follow.'

Sid said...

Thanks Ian, I had missed it.

My mother never turned away Gypsy women selling lucky heather or pegs door to door. She told us it was very unlucky if we did.
Many years later a woman selling lucky charms came into a taxi office where I was working. She was met with a little unkindness, so feeling sorry for her I said I would buy one of her charms.
I was a bit surprised to find out they were a £1.
This woman took my hand and her words were, "You son, are to soft with other people". I replied "Yes I know, I've just paid a quid for a lucky charm".
Two days later I took a fare from North Shields to Harwich......how lucky ws that.

Ian Robinson said...

Why would anyone want to go from North Shields to Harwich? Did you ask???

Sid said...

The four young men were crew from a ship that was due to go into dry dock at one of the shipyards we used to have on the Tyne.
They had overslept, and were at risk of missing a ferry that they were booked on, sailing from Harwich that afternoon.
Needless to say I got them there in the nick of time.

Once, when sat on a Taxi rank, a woman got into the back and said "follow that car" that made my day......she was following her husband