February 2021



What a month! February.

February has its moments. So far as the Church goes, we commemorate Candlemas on the 2nd, Shrove (Pancake) Tuesday on the 16th and of course Ash Wednesday the next day. I’m sure more sensible people will deal with these notable religious feast days; I’ll just rummage around elsewhere.

The poet, T S Eliot, wrote in The Waste Land, “April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land…” Well, I’m sorry Thomas, but I think I disagree; it seems to me that April is a Mediterranean cruise on its way to Monte Carlo compared to February. Apart from anything else February is the month where you learn exactly how many wo/men don’t really love you thanks to that silly St Valentine!

Readers will know the nursery rhyme to remember the number of days in each month. (Assuming you remember the nursery rhyme).

 

Thirty days hath September,

April, June, and November,

all the rest have thirty-one.

Excepting February alone with twenty-eight,

but leap year coming one in four

February then has one day more.       (Or something like that)

 

I ask you, would it have killed January or March, both with 31 days, to give February an extra one? Did you know the Earth does not orbit the sun in 365 days? Probably not. Because you have a life. Anyway, I’ve started so I’ll finish: the Gregorian calendar is a modification of the Julian calendar first used by the Romans. The purpose of leap year is to “make up the difference between the calendar year and the solar year. We go by a calendar year of 365 days. The solar year, which measures time by the movement of the Earth round the Sun, is actually 365 days and about six hours long.”

You still awake? Anyway, 4 x 6 = 24 = one extra day. Equals leap year. That’s why for 269 years since England adopted the Gregorian calendar, we have been tricked into remembering that rhyme or counting on our knuckles (but that’s another story!)

Don’t try and tell me about April’s cruelty! It seems to me that Valentine’s Day is probably the only bright spot in February (except my birthday on the 6th and yours if it’s this month). But for most of us, February isn't much more than the shortest (and sometimes dreariest) month of the year. We trudge on, keep our heads down, and hope that it passes us by quickly (a bit like most months during lockdown actually).

Is it any wonder that February is (apparently) the most misspelled of all months? Perhaps because we pay it so little attention in our collective struggle to get to March. As my hero George Herbert put it "February makes a bridge, and March breakes it" (Finest Fancies of Moderne Muses, with a Thousand Outlandish Proverbs).

Sometimes we might wish we could just hibernate through February. But I understand that one health-related fact about February-born people is that they are more likely to suffer from sleep disorders, so that’s me out!

Yes, there are some dates to remember in February. The month starts with Children’s Mental Health Week (1st to 7th), clearly important to children and to adults. Time To Talk Day (4th) reminds us of the mental health of all of us, never more important than in lockdown. And not forgetting our furry, feathered, and finned friends on National Love Your Pet Day (20th), perhaps a day for extra walkies (NB Not for goldfish or budgies).

Enough of this! The American poet Longfellow wrote of February that

 

The day is ending,

The night is descending;

The marsh is frozen,

The river dead.

Through clouds like ashes

The red sun flashes

On village windows

That glimmer red.

He’s right. There’s a lot to be said for staying in. And it is government advice after all. But April is for the birds.

Colin Dixon




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