Tuesday 8 January 2008

My office collectively realised that it is a leap year this afternoon.

I don’t really understand why it takes humans so long to notice forthcoming leap years. You can see them coming…well, infinitely far off if you know the relatively simple rules which currently govern them, and it’s especially easy in the first few years after the turn of a century, because anyone who doesn’t know their four times table up to at least the first two or three is an idiot.

I only spotted it a couple of days before the New Year. A friend of mine told me how this year he’d bought a ‘366-day calendar’. I was a little confused by this apparent marketing ploy in the calendar and diary market. Do they mean ‘0.27% extra free!!!’, holding out the hope that us consumers are even numerically vain when it comes to calendars? It might work for megapixels, gigabytes or litres of gas-guzzling engine, but surely it can’t for days in a diary? I don’t care how many days my calendar contains as long as it’s the right number.

Perhaps ‘calendar with the relevant number of days for the year 2008’ wouldn’t sell so well. But keep your eyes peeled for ‘367-day calendar—two days extra free!!!’-bearing calendars being sold next to knock-off 360-day ones. Perhaps Moore’s law will come into force in the diary market, and we’ll have 37,000 days per calendar year in a decade’s time. At what cost progress?

The popular opinion in the office was that February 29th should be null and void, and therefore a day off. I expect this would probably be a popular idea even outside my office.

Why is the extra day in a cold, horrible month like February anyway? *

There was also some debate about what to call the nonexistent day, particularly if we wish to eradicate it entirely and even strip it of its status as a day of the week. ‘Nonday’ and ‘Unday’ are both quite punny solutions, but to follow the popular convention for English day-naming, we should really name it after a Norse god.

To which the obvious question is: is there a Norse god of nothing?

It sounds at first like a bit of a crap god to be. No huge hammer to rent the heavens with peals of awe-inspiring thunder…not much of anything, actually. You’re not going to be the kind of lady-killer who can descend from the skies dressed as a stag and make the girls swoon—

‘Greetings, sweet maiden,’

‘Arrgh! A talking stag!’

‘Do not fear (you could try being slightly impressed if you like), for I am not a scary talking stag, but the god Nodin [geddit?], son of Óðinn and Frigg, descended from Asgard to woo you.’

‘Cor, really? That’s pretty sexy. And you came all the way down here just to impress me?’

‘Sure.’

‘Excellent. Let’s have sex next to this idyllic fjord.’

‘Sounds good.’

‘Hang on…what did you say you were god of?’

‘Err…Nothing.’

‘No, really, what are you god of?’

‘Nothing.’

Nothing? That’s pretty weak, isn’t it? Haven’t you got any special powers?’

‘I am the cosmic balance to the mischief of Loki and the might of Thor, and all the…the better gods.’

‘So, you’ve got no special powers at all?’

‘Well, no, and in fact it is their absence that means I possess a unique special power: the power of having no powers. (None of this “no powers” stuff extends to orgasms, by the way.)’

‘I don’t care! That’s rubbish. I’m not sure I’d want an orgasm from the god of nothing.’

‘I have some very interesting philosophical implications..?’

‘Go on, sod off.’

‘Sorry.’

…but then, it was really the Greek gods who were big into that kind of thing anyway. On the pros side, though, it’s going to be a quiet gig. No pesky mortals bothering you with constant prayers—who prays for nothing?

Probably the same kind of idiot who wants a 367-day calendar and can’t multiply four by two.

* This is obviously a stupid question, but I like it because it’s rhetorically strong as well as logically weak. It’s the kind of thing a crowd at a rally would shout ‘yeee…’ to but, instead of finishing with ‘…ah!!!’ as is traditional, would probably peter out in slight confusion. You believe it, agree even, then think about it, and then it takes a second to work out how exactly to explain that it’s total rubbish. A bit like someone at a fish market shouting ‘Roll up, roll up, get yer shrimp, a pound each or three for a fiver!’, or anything a politician says.

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