TODAY is the shortest day of the year. And just a month ago, on November 21, we passed the last calendric palindrome, as in, 21.11.12, for quite a while. In the 19,000 days or so since 1960, there have been only seven such numerical palindromes. But now they are becoming even rarer, as the inverse of the final number of the year exceeds the number of days in the month of November, which in the DD-MM-YY format serves as the palindromic hinge. So, 2013 cannot have a palindrome because November doesn't have 31 days. 2014 and 2015, similarly come a cropper, with the next palindrome only occurring on 13.11.31; followed by 14.11.41. Et cetera.
If we include the date's full numeric, DD-MM-YYYY, we abolish the pivotal importance of November, and hail the centrality of February, the identifying digits of which, 02, reflect – for this century anyway – the opening digits of the full year. Hence, nearly 12 years ago, we got the century's first palindrome, 10.02.2001, and the following year we got 20.02.2002. But then we ran into other problems, for even a leap year falls a day short of achieving the required 30.02.2003. Thereafter, the final numbers of the year, inverted, exceed any possible day of the month: eg, 40.20.2004. Thus, the only remaining palindromes of the 21st Century will be 15.02.2051, 16.02.2061, 17.02.2071, 18.02.2081 and 19.02.2091.
In the 22nd Century, the hinge month becomes December, as in 01.12.2110. And so – finally, to the point of these mind-numbing reflections – in precisely one hundred years from today, and obviously, for the only time in human history, the mid-winter solstice will be a palindrome: 21.12.2112. And I have the merest suspicion – I break this to you very gently: I beseech you to be brave – that you might possibly not be around to celebrate it with me.
All the more reason for the nation to exult at the recent decision by the Minister for Agriculture NOT to close down mink-farms. Why the joy? Well, you know those 200-item €5 frozen party-packs of Yuletide finger-food in every supermarket, the contents of which seem to be composed entirely of gristle and grease? Well, the good news is that they're actually recycled mink-carcase: which is why the Green Party has now come out strongly in favour of fur-farming.
This weekend, as you are about to bite into a canape at your Christmas get-together, examine it carefully. If it's glaring back at you, with what appear to be tiny fangs bared in posthumous rage, it's almost certainly a mink-skull, tenderised by immersion in a pig-tallow marinade.
And the cheesy white stuff at the heart of so many Yuletide party-snacks? Why, that's actually brain-matter: yes, minks-thinkers. A word of warning: if during your party, you find yourself snarling at someone twice your size, or diving into a river after fish, you've probably overdosed on the mink-thinkers. So try serving other parts of the mink. Deep-fried mink hoof, for example, is quite delicious, though some connoisseurs prefer the little ribcage in batter. And for your vegan friends, serve hamster instead, not least for the delightful little surprises in the cheek-pouches, eg, their recently-eaten young.
This is also the season of the party-time vol-au-vent, which in French means, "flight to the wind". If you're in any doubt about the reason for this, your bottom will tell you why, about an hour after you've eaten three of them. The Christmas vol-au-vent, composed in equal measure of glue, elderly shellfish, salmonella and distemper, is a sure guarantee to get your party going – initially to the loo, but soon thereafter, in a panic-driven scramble homeward.
This time of year it's also traditional to have a mulled wine, using a Paraguayan claret (retailing at €1 a litre, as a leather-dye). To get the authentic Christmas flavour, mix this with creosote, turpentine, and – for that subtle continental touch – Belgian benzene. Then stir in a pound of cloves, which go with wine as harmoniously as tarmacadam blends with custard. Warm the mixture gently, and when it smells like a wombat's cloaca, you've made the classic, virtually undrinkable Yuletide mulled wine. Served with mink-thinkers, it'll probably paralyse the entire HSE through to the next palindromic day. . .
Additionally, you might want a sparkling wine at your Christmas party. So try a cheap Prosecco, the Blue Nun of bubbly. Prosecco is to champagne what the Lurgan Billy Boys Bash the Pope Pipe Band is to is to The Yehudi Menuhin Baroque Chamber Orchestra. It tastes like the oily secretions from giant greenfly, double-fermented in vats in the Fiat body-shop in Turin. If you manage to drink more than two glasses of it, which only raging alcoholics can do, the resulting hangover – about three minutes later – will resemble being hit by a wheelbarrow full of bricks, dropped from the 14th floor.
All the above assertions are not comment, but are scientifically proven facts. However, if you feel otherwise, I urge you to complain immediately, preferably in very large numbers, to the Press Ombudsman, to whom I wish, as I do to you all, a very Happy Christmas.