Friday, 19 April 2013

March winds in April?

Just one look out of the window at the leafless trees swaying in the wind confirms this undeniable truth; it is March. My calendar says it is April but my eyes tell me it is March. How can we get the calendar put back?

I tried my local MP and the press office of the coalition government in Millbank, but both were clueless as to how we can get the calendar fixed. I didn't get the impression they were bothered until I suggested it might buy them some extra time in office.

The (poorly named) Ministry of Information put me on to the department that "does calendars", Her Majesty's Stationary Office, and they suggested: "Perhaps the White House in Washington? After all, they use the same basic calendar as we do and just add in a few holidays of their own."

So I rang the President's Office and was told by a very bright and helpful intern there that the calendar we all use is based on the one created for the Catholic Church in Rome by Pope Gregory in 1582. Over time it slowly replaced Emperor Julius Caesar's Roman calendar of 45 BC, which explains why some of the months are named after Roman gods. (She also told me that Greece stuck to the Julian calendar until 1923 and that it is still used today in Ethiopia and parts of North Africa.)

So much knowledge in such a young head surprised me, until I looked on-line and found the Wickipedia page that she was had, no-doubt, looked up for me as she answered my call.

I apparently needed an audience with the new Pope, but that would take months to organise and because the bureaucracy at the Vatican is rivalled only by the EU Secretariat in Brussels, there's no hope of any subsequent action for a decade at least, even if the Pope agrees with me.

I am not religious but out of desperation I tracked down a parish priest in Cambridge and sought his advice. Over a pint of Guinness and a dozen cigarettes he explained to me why we can't just go moving the months around, even when we know that they are in the wrong order. People plan so far ahead these days that they will already have appointments in next year's calendar. And what about the people who make calendars for a living?  They might have sheds full of next year's calendars ready for posting. And what about birthdays?

I thought about my own birthday which is fixed to pop up on my digital calendars on the same day in March every year, even after I'm dead. It's on my passport and pinned to my identity for use by my bank, my employer and the police. Even more importantly, my birthday is registered with Facebook, Google and iTunes. I can't just shift it to February.

So, even though I know I'm right, I have to admit that resetting the calendar is not practical in the medium term; nor would it be universally popular. If we do get round to it we should probably start from scratch and go metric. I mean, 7 days in a week? 28, 29, 30 or 31 days in a month? 365 days in a year? It's so random!

Guess what? It's already been tried. The French Revolutionary calendar, complete with metric time,  lasted all of 12 years. They made new metric clocks with ten hours in a day and ten days in a week, but still had 12 months in a year. Napoleon abolished it, probably because it made it difficult to organise events such battles against the British and the Russians who still used the Gregorian Calendar.

For now, I'll just sit here in a gale watching the laundry vanish over the fence and, even though it's obviously March, I'll conform to the Bull of Pope Gregory of 1582 and pretend it is April.