Once upon a time there was February 30th

Shakespeare’s Hamlet famously says that “Time is out of joint” and that he was born to set it right. There was a monarch who took this literally. In 1712 King Karl XII of Sweden found himself compelled to add an extra day onto the month of February, over and beyond the 29th, owing to problems of synchronization between the Julian and Gregorian calendars.

Many centuries earlier, the Emperor Augustus had taken a day off from February so as upgrade the month named after himself to 31 days.

February 30th was a one-off date, shrouded in-between the folds of history: we’re unaware if some Swedish soldier may have distinguished himself on the battlefield (there was a war on against Russia, led by Peter the Great), or if anything noteworthy happened on that day. Those 24 hours are still seeking rhyme or reason; all we can do is look for ours.

As is the case every Monday, our diary is rapidly filling up with things to do, yet we already know we’re not going to be able to tick some of the more elusive ones off the to-do list: errands, wild goose chases, will-o’-the-wisps. We could try postponing the lot to 30th February, International Procrastinated Projects Day. On the stroke of March nobody will be able to demand that we account for them.