First of the First

01Jan09

copyright-richard-baker-200803-12-04_2008

The thing I don’t get about New Year’s resolutions is that in the lull between a nauseous traipse around the Next sale followed by the neighbour’s party, we feel the need to point our sad, disappointed lives towards a seemingly happier conclusion. To find ourselves.

January comes from Janus. God of beginnings, guardian of doors and entrances, with a face at the front and a face at the back of his head to see the past and future. Julius Caesar gave us the 12-month, 365-day Julian calendar that would more accurately reflect the seasons. As another gesture of Roman forward-thinking we also inherited WeightWatchers and Nicorette ads; a guilty rush for Ramblers Association and RSPCA subscriptions; Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, the swapping of a 4×4 Range Rover for a 2×2 Claude Butler commuter bike. Filofax-mania was the ultimate in administrative tedium where family men spent the holidays laboriously writing up hundreds of contacts onto paper-thin inserts and then next year do the whole thing again by replicating each byte of data into a Psion PDA .. whose screen cracked the year after and .. on the chore went until the arrival of Moses’ latter-day tablet, the Blackberry.

Dear diary dilettantes! the chroniclers’ interference didn’t stop there. Middle Ages Christians changed New Year’s Day to December 25th – the birth of Jesus, then to March 25th – the Annunciation. In the sixteenth century, Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian calendar again and the celebration of the New Year was returned to January 1st.

Julian and Gregorian calendars are solar but lunar versions have less than 365 days because the months are based on the phases of the moon. Consequently the Chinese New Year begins at the time of the first full moon after the sun enters Aquarius, sometime between January 19 and February 21. It is as confusing to wonder why the Dulwich mum selling individual contents of her house on eBay is always ahead of me in the post office and that we never see anyone we know in Lidl?

But here is another conspiracy that’s long bothered me. Friends, sinister forces may be at work within our calendar unnoticed to the those of us outside MI5’s grid, like some cryptic code that activates as the clock strikes 12. British traitor Kim Philby wasn’t the only famous spook to be born on January 1st (1912 ). Bizarrely, FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover (1895) and German military intelligence head, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (1887) were too.

And there’s more. Whether you intend to lose 10lbs or gain a monthly direct debit; kick a habit or staple some addresses; dance the night away north of a border or lie down in the dark till at least mid-day this new year, may I also offer suspicious birthday wishes to: Svetlana Georgievna Beregovkina, Yevgeni Vladimirovich Saley, Nikolai Tikhonovich Moskalenko, Alexei Ivanovich Bobrov, Gennadi Vassilyevich Sarafanov, Valentin Nikolaevich N Benderov, Ravshanbek Aliyev, Kirgiz, Abdul Ahad Mohmand, Anatoli Borisovich Polonsky, Sergei Vasiliyevich Avdeyev and Ravshanbek Aliyev: Eleven Russian cosmonauts who will all be puffing out their many candles on the first day of 09.

You are Here. And not There. Whenever That is.

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