Saturday 24 March 2018

Kevin Myers: Deep-fried mink hoof, for example, is quite delicious

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.

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