Monthly Archives: February 2012

Leaping High


Leap year. A year of 366 days, a BISSEXTILE year, i.e. in the JULIAN and GREGORIAN CALENDARS any year whose date is exactly divisible by 4 except those that are divisible by 100 but not by 400. Thus 1900 (though divisible by 4) was not a leap year, but 2000 was.

Am lost. *trying to keep up and look intelligent* 4… 100… 400… Hoping for the best and going on.

In ordinary years the day of the month that falls on Monday this year will fall on Tuesday next year, and Wednesday the year after, but the fourth year will ‘leap over’ Thursday to Friday. This is because a day is added to February, the reason being that the astronomical year (i.e. the time that it takes the earth to go around the sun) is approximately 365 1/4  days, or more precisely 365.2422, the difference between .25 and .2422 being righted by the loss of the three days in 400 years.

My brain is hurting. The numbers slide about my brain like wet soap on an ice rink. I understand it now – sort of – but I won’t understand it again in 4 years’ time and will have to go through the whole soap-on-ice business again. Such is life with a creative and completely impractical brain. Last and favourite bit coming up.

It is an old saying that during leap year the ladies may propose, and, if not accepted, may claim a silk gown.

I always remember the proposing part, because I am an incurable romantic who once found herself in Paris with a man on 29 February and kind of jokingly suggested it.

I DIDN’T know the silk gown bit. A trip to the shops is long overdue. Taxi!


swap horses in midstream, To. To change leaders at the height of a crisis. Abraham Lincoln, in an address of 9 June 1864, referring to the fact that his fellow Republicans had renominated him for President, even though many were dissatisfied with his conduct of the Civil War (1861-5) said that the Convention had concluded ‘that it is best not to swap horses while crossing the river’.

Not so much horses around here as penguins and superheroes. One minute I’m doing penguins, then a superhero comes along and demands my attention. What’s a writer to do?

Image               Image

Decisions, decisions

International Polar Bear Day


The world needs polar bears. They are elegant, magnificent, threatened and perfectly suited to wearing armour and having daemons. They are also the subject of one of my recent ANIMAL ANTICS books. The perfect gift if you are stuck for how to celebrate International Polar Bear Day, which I am sure is a constant headache for you all.

Run for it


Run the gauntlet, To. To be attacked on all sides, to be severely criticised. The word came into English at the time of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) as ‘gantlope’, meaning the passage between two files of soldiers. It is from Swedish gatlopp, literally ‘passageway’, from gata, ‘way’, and lop, ‘course’. The reference is to a former punishment among soldiers and sailors. The company or crew, provided with rope ends, were drawn up in two rows facing each other, and the delinquent had to run between them, while every man dealt him as severe a blow as he could. The spelling ‘gauntlet’ is due to confusion with gauntlet, ‘glove’ (Old French gantelet, a diminutive of gant, ‘glove’).

This cat should get out more

I ran the gauntlet today. The rope-end swingers were my fitness and my ankles. POW! from one as I heaved for breath up the hill, on the first run I have attempted in twenty years. BIFF! from the ankles as they creaked along the road in embarrassingly elderly trainers. I was the same colour as Father Christmas’s bottom by the time I had finished. It wasn’t even very far. I’m proud that I made it all the way to the top of the hill before collapsing in the nearest hedge. This was an unexpected bonus.

What is this madness? A promise made to my running husband. The light of joy is in his eyes that I might be accompanying him on a regular basis. I shall go into conference with my muscles tomorrow morning on the subject. Assuming I can get out of bed.

Name change


I changed my bedroom layout a great deal when I was young. My room wasn’t very big – 10ft square at most – but I tried every possible angle with varying success. Bed by left wall, check. Bed by back wall, check. Bed by window, head to window, toes to window, head to bookshelves, plumb in the middle of the room: check. The only one I didn’t manage was diagonal, for the simple and rather irritating reason that the head of my bed wasn’t diamond-shaped. This may have been a reaction to not being able to change dormitory layouts in term-time, or simply because I was bored.

I have changed the name of my blog for similar reasons. Today’s inspiration lies with a fantastic book called BREWER’S DICTIONARY OF PHRASE AND FABLE, first published by Dr Brewer in 1870 and containing such linguistic gems as:

Before the cat can lick its ear. Never. No cat can lick its ear. (It licks its paw and uses that to wash its ear.) See also NEVER.

Pictures and tales of Crumblechops will still doubtless feature along the way, provided she doesn’t eat any long-tailed tits anytime soon.

So. Off I go to do a thousand press-ups before the cat can lick its ear.

[Heads for the kettle and the biscuit tin]