Saturday, 21 March 2009

Straw mattresses, sooty chimneys & it's Spring officially ...

  • Dear Mr Postman .. what's the news today .. ah! Hah! .. I see the letter gives me some interesting facts about the start of Spring .. that's fun and reminds me of my grandparents' positive stories ..

    Do you remember the days of coal fires to heat the house (if you were lucky!) to cook the food on, heat the water? ... those were hard times ... and the sooty dust that went everywhere making all the surfaces and the fabrics a slightly darker shade of pale? Spring cleaning could start when the days were getting warmer and longer .. more time to complete the job and the extra light meant crevices could be looked into!!

    Our pioneering ancestors could only refill their straw mattresses once the hay was dry enough and the chimney sweeps could only do their sweeping once the winter fires were out. Did you know that the occupation of chimney sweep is considered to be one of the oldest as chimneys have been around since ancient times?

    Is it today March 21st or yesterday March the 20th - the start of Spring? Well a little bit more information here .. more detail is available from Wikipedia on the Equinox

    * the equinox occurs twice a year: Spring & Autumn
    * on the day of an equinox - yesterday 20th March - everywhere the sun rises at 6.00a.m. and sets at 6.00p.m. (except at the poles) (NB: remember to adjust in time zones!)
    * equinox is derived from two Latin words 'aequus' (equal) and 'nox' (night): hence equal daylight
    * high in the Artic Circle - there's 15 minutes extra daylight each day until the Summer Solstice, whereas in Singapore the variation is a few seconds, as Singapore is practically on the equator
    * because the Sun is a spherical source of light (rather than a point) .. it takes 33 hours to cross the equator
    * the equinox gets later by 6 hours each year .. amounting to one full day every 4 years, which is offset by the leap year!!
    * Resulting in an absolute shift of about one day every 70 years. This explains why in the last century the dates for the equinoxes and solstices were entrenched in our minds as 21 March, 22 June, 23 September and 22 December .... where as now in the 21st Century .. they are 20 March, 21 June, 22 September and 21 December.

    So the start of Spring was officially yesterday for us northern hemisphereans .. March 20th - per the Gregorian calendar and its compensatory century leap year rule.

    Enjoy your Spring .. the extra light .. about 15 minutes each day and the higher sun.

    I enjoyed the chimney sweep titbits, Mr Postman, and it reminds me of the faerie stories I loved reading when I was growing up and the wondeful pictures .. while the 'facts', as you know, I've always liked .. great letter - and I'll enjoy re-reading it .. til tomorrow ..

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