I don’t wear a watch, preferring instead to allow my body-clock to perceive time through the motion of the Earth as it orbits the Sun. It’s a primeval instinct that all of us were born with, but few people depend upon. No one, who knows me well, is terribly surprised when I turn up late almost everywhere that I go.
And nor should they be – it’s exactly what you might expect, because the Earth doesn’t orbit the Sun once a year. It actually takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds – five hours being a fairly significant margin of error and one that excuses all but my most extreme incidences of tardiness.
It was Julius Caesar who decreed 2,065 years ago that we should have a Leap Day every four years to keep us straight – and Pope Gregory XIII who adjusted the calendar again in 1582, abandoning the Leap Day once every 100 years. Which means, of course, that this weekend we all get an extra day to catch up on the things that we’ve been meaning to do but haven’t quite had time for – like taking in a day at Kelso Races.
So often, when I talk to people, they tell me that they would have come racing last month but they really needed to catch up with the gardening, or the cleaning, or something even more dreary. But this weekend we’ve got that extra day – and it’s a great opportunity to catch up with friends, family and all the exciting people who you miss when you haven’t been to the races.
Other cultures have different ways of measuring time. In 1929 the Russians abandoned the seven-day week, with its inconveniently unproductive weekend breaks, introducing a new five-day week with months of a regular length – so not just 29th February, but 30th February too. It didn’t last very long.
The Hindu Calendar is based on each month being equivalent to a lunar month, leaving it about 11 days short of Gregorian Year – a problem which they fix by adding a mixture of Leap Days and Leap Months when required (a complicated system which probably excuses me for missing an appointment, by a full month, at the dentist’s this week).
Following the invention of the atomic clock, scientists have discovered that the spin of the Earth is actually slowing down by one and half seconds every three years – resulting in the introduction of Leap Seconds, roughly every 20 months or so. I can’t say that I’ve ever noticed the introduction of a Leap Second and it doesn’t bother me greatly, but I do wonder whether it means that we can’t rely on the Racing Post’s Top-speed Ratings from year to year…
Either way, the winner of the William Hill Premier Novices Hurdle always turns out to be a decent sort – this year’s selection is Elf De Re.