• Vivienne Boucherat

Blog 19: ‘Time and Tide’

I was surprised to find out this week that 2020 is a Leap Year! There is usually a fair bit of hype around a Leap Year, and it feels as if everyone is aware of it...but not this year! Of course I could have worked it out, but it didn’t occur to me, and here I am on the 29th of February. It set me off thinking about how we impose rules on time to help us work with it, or have it work for us. By dividing up our days and years, we are able to organise ourselves and set goals, mark occasions and make plans and predictions. Time is elastic for us - it stretches and shrinks. As kids things seem endless, as adults time passes more and more quickly, we sleep and dream, we travel, we cross time-zones, we work shifts or long hours. The history of calendars is a massive subject of course. Different cultural calendars still exist throughout the world, but the Gregorian calendar is now the international standard. I read that the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582, but took hundreds of years to be adopted by every country because of its links to the church. It was adopted in Turkey as late as 1927! That seems so recent!  It is a solar calendar, so based purely on the position of the Sun as seen from the Earth. Our calendar year is 365 days, but it takes the Earth 365.24 days to go around the Sun, so every 4th year (Leap Year) an extra day gets added to correct the shortfall.

Time is abstract, but it is predictable and measurable in many ways. I have a soft spot for objects measuring time, the movement of the sun, moon and planets and seasons - they are often so very beautifully crafted and elegant. Science crossing with art. Synchronicity, time travel and temporal issues of all sorts are the creative inspiration for hundreds of authors, artists and musicians. These days, most of the natural rhythms and cycles which surround us go unnoticed, we may still remember an equinox or solstice or spot a full moon but unless you work on the land or at sea, few of us live by these rhythms any more even if we are still aware of them at some deep fundamental level - our internal circadian clocks.  Our 24 hour cities in their turn, often interrupt the rhythms and cycles of all of us, and the birds and animals.  I enjoy this feeling of an ‘extra day’ though of course I know it is not really ‘extra’, we have just given it another label. If you have a birthday or an anniversary of any sort on this day it must seem slightly weird, but a bit special! In the Leap Year tradition, if, as a female, you have asked your partner to marry you, I do hope you get the answer you want.

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