The rarest day

Tomorrow is that rarest of days, so here is the recipe for the Leap Day Cocktail invented by pioneering bartender Harry Craddock at the Savoy Hotel. The 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book claims: ‘it is said to have been responsible for more proposals than any other cocktail ever mixed’, and you can make your own Leap Day cocktail with Craddock’s original recipe: 2 ounces gin; ½ ounce Grand Marnier; ½ ounce sweet vermouth; 1 dash fresh lemon juice, shake, serve, garnish with a lemon peel.

So pour yourself a cocktail as CabbieBlog gives you 29 leap year facts:

① Today is the sixth leap day of the 21st century

② There are only 24 leap years this century because 2100 won’t be a leap year (ditto 2200, 2300, but not 2400)

③ Leap year babies celebrate their birthday only once every 1461 days

④ You have a 1 in 1,461 chance of being born on 29 February. The odds are a lot higher if your parents have sex on 29 May the previous year

⑤ Over a 400 year period, the odds of being born on 29 February lengthens to 1 in 1,506

⑥ About 40,000 people in the UK are leap day babies, about 4 million people worldwide are leap day babies

⑦ The Queen sent no centenarian birthday telegrams on 29 February 2000, because there was no 29 February 1900

⑧ Today is the 515th leap day to be observed since the first in 45BC

⑨ Leap years occur every four years. They’re required because a solar year is almost exactly 365¼ days long, and over a four year period those four quarter-days add up to make one whole extra day

⑩ The composer Rossini was born on 29 February 1792, Pope Paul III on 29 February 1468, and actor Joss Ackland on 29 February 1928

⑪ If you have a leap year birthday you have to decide when to celebrate it in non-leap years – 28 February or 1 March, in legal situations, UK law dictates 28 February

⑫ The Gilbert & Sullivan operetta The Pirates of Penzance revolves around a 29 February birthday. Frederic is a pirate’s apprentice, free to return to respectable society on his 21st birthday, except that at the age of 21 he realises he still has 63 years to go. A leap child’s lot is not a happy one

⑬ Tomorrow is the first leap day to fall at the weekend since 2004, the first Sunday will occur in 2032

⑭ The first thirteen leap years were 45BC, 42BC, 39BC, 36BC, 33BC, 30BC, 27BC, 24BC, 21BC, 18BC, 15BC, 12BC and 9BC. At this point, Roman priests spotted they’d been adding leap years every three years, rather than every four as Caesar decreed, so all leap years were temporarily suspended. They restarted in 8AD, after which they continued every four years as intended

⑮ Exactly 500 years ago today, Christopher Columbus pulled off his great eclipse trick. A leaky ship forced him to land on the beach in Jamaica, and he and his crew rapidly ran out of supplies. Fortunately, Columbus knew his astronomy and realised that a total lunar eclipse was due on 29 February 1504. He gathered the local natives together at sunset and told them God was displeased and would eat up the Moon. The eclipse started, the natives were sore afraid, and Columbus eventually agreed to ‘return the Moon’ in return for food

⑯ Leap years are quadrennial, like the Olympics or the World Cup

⑰ Leap day is also St Oswald’s Day, named after a 10th-century archbishop of York who died during a feet-washing ceremony on 29 February 992. His feast is celebrated on February 28th during non-leap years

⑱ When Julius Caesar introduced leap years the extra day wasn’t 29 February, it was February 24th. The Romans repeated the sixth day before March 1st, or “dies bissextus”, and leap years are still sometimes called bissextile years

⑲ Leap Day number ones over the past years would make a fascinating compilation: Dean Martin (Memories are made of this, 1956); Anthony Newley (Why, 1960); Cilla Black (Anyone Who Had A Heart, 1964); Esther & Abi Ofarim (Cinderella Rockefella, 1968); Chicory Tip (Son Of My Father, 1972); Four Seasons (Oh What A Night, 1976); Blondie (Atomic, 1980); Nena (99 Red Balloons, 1984); Kylie Minogue (I Should Be So Lucky, 1988); Shakespear’s Sister (Stay, 1992); Oasis (Don’t Look Back In Anger, 1996); All Saints (Pure Shores, 2000); Peter Andre (Mysterious Gril, 2004); Duffy (Mercy, 2008); Gotye (Somebody That I Used To Know, 2012); and Lukas Graham, not 4 but (7 Years, 2016)

⑳ IT-type people feared computers might go wrong on Leap Day 2000, misinterpreting the date as 29 February 1900, a date which didn’t exist. They were wrong

㉑ Leap year babies endured seven consecutive years with no birthdays from 1897 to 1903, and will again from 2097 to 2103

㉒ Every leap year the town of Antony on the Texas/New Mexico border holds a Leap Year Festival

㉓ Brothers and sister Heidi, Olav and Leif-Martin Henriksen of Stavanger, Norway were all born on 29 February – in 1960, 1964 and 1968 respectively

㉔ There has, just once, been a February 30th. It happened in Sweden, and it happened in 1712. The Swedes needed to lose 11 days to come in line with the Gregorian calendar, but forgot to miss out 29 February in 1704 and 1708 so had to add an extra leap day in 1712 to get back in sync. Pity the Swedish babies born on February 30th 1712, because they never saw another birthday

㉕ The Academy Awards have twice been awarded on 29 February – in 1940 (best picture: Gone With The Wind) and 2004 (best picture: Lord of the Rings III)

㉖ In any 400 year period, there are 97 leap years, after which the calendar repeats. The most likely days of the week for 29 February to fall are Monday and Wednesday. The least likely are Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday

㉗ Sir James Wilson, former Premier of Tasmania, was born on 29 February 1812 and (unbelievably) died on 29 February 1880 – his 17th birthday

㉘ Leap year rules make the Gregorian calendar accurate to 1 day every 3236 years. But far better is the modern Iranian calendar (eight leap days inserted into a 33-year cycle) which is accurate to 1 day every 110, 000 years

㉙ In the Chinese calendar, a leap month is inserted if there are 13 moons from the start of the 11th month in one year to the start of the 11th month in the next year

Tesco’s loading bay

Tesco the ubiquitous retailer has its shops in almost every location. Take the one in Covent Garden it has because its loading bay in a road so small I defy most cabbies to be able to locate New Row. To stock, their store Tesco despatch an articulated lorry the size of a small house, its driver just about managing to manoeuvre his vehicle into the tight space. If that wasn’t enough the geniuses in charge of logistics send their lorry at the height of the evening’s theatre-going public arriving, so the driver has to contend with negotiating the vehicle as hundreds of people try to squeeze past and then try vainly to get into Strand past dozens of parked cars.

Statistics 2019

It’s been another eventful year for CabbieBlog.

You have probability noticed yet another change in CabbieBlog’s appearance. As I mentioned previously hosting for all these keystrokes and pictures with CabbieBlog, now in its 12th year in cyberspace, comes at a cost.

A domain name to find your work on the internet; the purchase of back-up support should the site become corrupted; a speed optimization plugin, a selection of typefaces; Patreon as a means for any fans to support the work; the yearly purchase of an SSL certificate to give the domain name an https prefix required by Google in its rankings; and updating PHP, the programming language used to maintain WordPress required for the second time in a year. Added to that protection from hacking, viruses, and malware. This entailed the removal of someone’s nasties inserted within my missives last year, an expensive and a problem which, believe it or not, got CabbieBlog banned from the internet.

Now, excuse me, but with all that protection the site should have been as sound as the Bank of England. Not so! More malware had been inserted by the back door into CabbieBlog.

So with all those excuses, and in part as an apology for the site’s more basic appearance, I have reverted to CabbieBlog’s second incarnation (the first was a defunct platform now no longer lamented), which will be similar, but different.

So with those caveats here are the annual blogging statistics for 2019. As before, with the data amassed over the last year (taken from both sites), I’ve broken it down into bite-sized chunks with comparable figures for the previous year.

Blog visitors and page views

The numbers of visitors has decreased, but and those willing to loiter around CabbieBlog have increased quite substantially, which is been very encouraging. (Average hit rate per visitor: 2018 – 1.737; 2019 – 1.8117).

Visitors – 34,255
Page views – 59,503

Visitors – 22,994
Page views – 41,659

CabbieBlog’s readers from abroad

The different countries whose residents have viewed CabbieBlog again include Jersey and Guernsey as if they were sovereign countries and curiously the European Union with 497, a huge drop from the 1,166 visits last year, presumably the result of us being released from their clutches. The United States leads our curious cousins with 4,773 a fall since last year’s 12,851 hits. The total number of countries who checked into CabbieBlog appears to have dropped this year, but as I’m collecting data across two sites, I might have missed the occasional visitor from a foreign land.

2018 – 137

2019 – 117

Number of comments

The yardstick of a blog must be, how many of its readers decided to metaphysically put pen to paper and comment. To all of you, again a huge thank you for your encouragement or discouragement. Your comments keep me submitting posts for your perusal. Social media is increasingly reactive these days, and a much smaller proportion of people now write long-form posts providing the original material that everyone else comments upon. But at least what comments CabbieBlog receives are intelligent, relevant and insightful. I’m delighted, obviously.

2018 – 124

2019 – 94

Number of ‘likes’

It would appear that some of you have taken to the cyberverse to mark your approval of CabbieBlog in the form of a ‘like’, again a huge thank you for increasing that number by over six-fold.

2018 – 12

2019 – 79

Followers of CabbieBlog

My e-mail updates only include a brief description so many of your will have had to peruse the site to read the full post. I can’t calculate how many times you have taken the trouble to follow these notifications and read my incitful posts, but thanks for following CabbieBlog.

2018 – 1,252

2019 – 1,248

Posts written

Much of this year’s output is re-publishing old posts. Many are now being read for the first time and I have received many compliments. So the total posts and number of words do not reflect new writing. Having said that, included are 52 new trivia posts, published on Sundays. For years my Journal has lain undiscovered as a page. As an experiment, starting January 2020, every Wednesday I’m publishing the The Weekly Whinge partly from my Journal along with new material; in addition, taken from my old site, will be London in Quotations, published every Monday.

2018– 156

2019 – 157

Most viewed and least viewed posts and pages

It has to be said that some subjects take on a life of their own while others just sit in cyberspace minding their own business. At the bottom of the table lie many posts with only one view a year, and some I suspect just sit there patiently waiting to be noticed.

Highest post
London’s top secret tower – 1,440
Lowest Post
London Trivia: Bear fight– 1
Highest page
Green cab shelters – 2,328
Lowest page
Time Out – 34

Highest post
London myths debunked – 2,295
Lowest Post
Queen of Hell – 1
Highest page
The Knowledge – 4,536
Lowest page
Time Out – 12

Pages written

Last year due to having to comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) a number of new pages had to be written, this year no new pages have appeared on CabbieBlog.

2018 – 3

2019 – 0

Number of words written

As I mentioned before I have written substantially less this year so the word count includes new material and re-published work, I have also recalculated the words written on Sunday’s trivia.

Words – 71,329
Characters – 415,241

Words – 80,757
Characters (with spaces) – 468,385
Characters (without spaces) – 386,545
Paragraphs – 2,335


If you ignore the search engines (with Google clocking up an impressive 19,103 hits). The next highest referrers are Twitter at 443 and behind them is Facebook at 255.

The Hackney Hack – 48
The Telephone Box – 46

Spitalfields Life – 46

The Hackney Hack – 12

In conclusion

This post is, of course, my highlight of the year. Unfortunately my readers don’t share my enthuiasm. Last year only 47 of you bothered to click on to read Statistics 2018.

London in Quotations: Herman Melville

There are two places in the world where men can most effectively disappear — the city of London and the South Seas.

Herman Melville (1819-1891), The South Seas

London Trivia: Caught in Cato Street

On 23 February 1820 at 7.30 pm in Cato Street the Bow Street Runners apprehended the Cato Street Conspirators who had planned to murder all the British cabinet and the Prime Minister. The police had an informer and the plotters fell into a police trap, 13 were arrested, while one policeman was killed. Five conspirators were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, later the sentence was commuted to being hanged and decapitated.

On 23 February 1633 Diarist and Chief Secretary to the Admiralty Samuel Pepys was born in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street

Legendary Miss Marple actress Dame Margaret Rutherford lived at 4 Berkeley Place, Wimbledon from 1895 to 1920

Big Ben (ie the Clock Tower) tilted by over an inch when Westminster Tube station was excavated for extension of Jubilee Line in 1990s

Britain’s first fatal car crash took place on Grove Hill, Harrow.Today a plaque on the spot warns drivers to take heed!

10 Downing Street’s famous black door was, in the first decade of the 20th century, painted green, now there is more than enabling regular painting

The statue of Eros was meant to be ‘burying’ the ‘shaft’ of his arrow in Shaftesbury Avenue – but they put him up facing the wrong way

During the 1749 premiere of Handel’s Fireworks Music in Green Park, a pavilion erected for the event burned down

Fred Perry’s racket bearing the personalised monogram ‘F.J.P, from the 1934 Wimbledon Championships sold at Christie’s in June 1997 for £23,000

London’s oldest underground line was opened in 1863 between Farringdon and Paddington and is still in use today

From 1787 to 1852 Hackney was home to Loddiges’ Nursery, famous for tropical orchids, hothouses and an arboretum

The legally required turning circle of a London taxi is 25 feet. Cab owners include Prince Philip, Stephen Fry and Bez of the Happy Mondays

CabbieBlog-cab.gifTrivial Matter: London in 140 characters is taken from the daily Twitter feed @cabbieblog.
A guide to the symbols used here and source material can be found on the Trivial Matter page.