Posted in Writing

Thank You for the Days

In my column for the April issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News, I was musing about changing the clocks for British Summer Time and comparing it to losing whole days when the world switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar – which, astonishingly, happened in different years in various countries around the world 

(Photo by DAVIDCOHEN on Unsplash)

If you begrudged losing an hour at the end of March, think yourself lucky. If you’d been alive in 1752, you’d have lost eleven days.

That’s when it became clear that the Julian calendar we’d been using since the days of Julius Caesar was an inaccurate measure of a solar year, ie how long it takes the earth to go round the sun. The only way to realign the calendar with astronomical events such as the spring equinox was to skip forward a number of days. The Gregorian calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, provided a new system that we still use today.

How many days you sprang forward depended on how quickly your country switched to the new system.

Early adopters France, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain sacrificed 10 days of 1582, whereas countries leaving it until the twentieth century, such as Russia, Greece and Turkey, lost 13.

When England took the plunge in 1752, we missed 11 days, the government decreeing that Wednesday 2nd September would be followed by Thursday 14th September. You can’t help but feel sorry for the people born between 3rd and 13th, missing out on their birthdays that year.

The 11 abolished days also account for why the British tax year starts on 6 April. Historically, rents and debts fell due on the four quarter days of the Christian calendar:

  • Lady Day (25 March)
  • Midsummer Day (June 24)
  • Michaelmas (29 September)
  • Christmas Day (25 December)

Lady Day had always been the start of the tax year. When the government realised that switching to the Gregorian calendar would cost them 11 days of tax revenue, they simply extended the tax year, making it end on 5 April.

My new millefiori watch
And the time now is forget-me-not past daisy.

Sweden intended a more gradual approach to switching calendars, planning to simply cancel leap year days from 1700 to 1740. After errors prevented that happening in 1704 and 1708, they postponed their plan, designating 1712 a double leap year to restore the Julian calendar. This move created a one-off opportunity to be born or married on 30 February, thus never being able to celebrate your birthday or your wedding anniversary on the right day again. (They eventually went Gregorian in 1753.)

So while we may feel that we’ve missed out on many things during the last year due to Covid-19 restrictions, at least we still had the right number of days, even if it was often hard to tell them apart.

(With apologies to The Kinks and Kirsty McColl for the title,
inspired by their wonderful song).




Just 33 days to go (from the date of this blog post) until Murder Lost and Found is unleashed on the world – the seventh Sophie Sayers Village Mystery.

In this story, set in the school summer holidays, Sophie finds a dead body in the school lost property cupboard – but her plans to investigate are scuppered when it promptly disappears!

Join Sophie, Hector, Billy, Tommy and their fellow villagers – and meet some new characters too, including an irreverent trio of workmen building a new playground and a new member of staff at Hector’s House!

Murder Lost and Found was originally intended to complete the series of seven novels, seeing Sophie through her first year in the village, and running the course of a village year from one summer to the next. However, due to popular demand, there will be at least an eighth novel in the series, set in the Scottish Highlands, and further spin-offs, including more in the Tales from Wendlebury Barrow series of quick-read novelettes featuring Sophie and friends.


(Paperback will be available from launch date of 23rd May)

Posted in Uncategorized

Which hour will you Spring Forward tonight?

(Photo: Wikipedia)

British Summer Time will be touching down on these shores tonight and I’ll be first in the queue to welcome it. I love Daylight Saving Time: this kickstart for  the annual countdown to the midsummer solstice. To optimists like me, it seems to bring the chance of  sunshine and warmth that little bit closer. But it irks me that the national timeshift takes place when most of the nation are oblivious in sleep. If we’re going to lose an hour of our lives, wouldn’t it be better if we could choose precisely which hour  we want to sacrifice?

Every autumn, when the clocks move in the opposite direction (“spring forward, fall back”, as they say), I kid myself that I’m taking advantage of the hour we gain by staying up an hour later than usual. I then get stuck into a good late-night film or a book, inevitably lose track of time and end up going to bed far later than originally planned. As a result, I wake up groggy and tired, and far worse off despite the supposed hour gained.

So this spring I’m taking control. I’m going to consciously choose the hour that I’ll be foregoing – and it won’t be an hour of much-needed sleep.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

My plans for today are a mix of treats and chores. This afternoon there’ll be lunch at my mum’s followed by a family theatre trip to see the stage show of one of my favourite  Fred Astaire films – “Top Hat“. Topping and tailing this outing will be: tidying the house (again), ironing, laundry, cooking two meals, blogging, and a routine training run for the Bristol 10K in May.

If I lived anywhere near a take-away, that would be the obvious means to cut out an hour of chores. But in these rural parts, getting a take-away or buying a supermarket ready-meal takes far longer than cooking from scratch. So that’s out.

I really need to run – I’m way behind in my training schedule, delayed by coughs and colds in February.  (Thanks, BBC Sport Relief Mile, for livening up yesterday’s training. I did it twice, but two miles is not a patch on 10K.)

And I’ve really neglected my blog lately, so updating that’s a must. (Oh, and I’ve nearly done that now, haven’t I?)

The laundry basket’s overflowing, waves of dirty clothes ebbing across the bathroom floor. If I load the washing-machine a few times, that will also count as tidying up.

Manufacture of self-sealing gas tanks, , .
Is it me, or is she gritting her teeth?(Photo: Wikipedia)

So there we have it: a new, creative and indisputably rational excuse to avoid the ironing for another day. It’s just a shame the opportunity only comes once a year.

Which hour will you choose to skip today?

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to read: How to Cut Down on Your Laundry