Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Happy Leap Day

February 29, 2012

In the Gregorian calendar, all the years divisible by 4 are leap years. In a leap year, February has 29 days. This compensates for the fact that a solar year is about 6 hours longer than 365 days.
The leap year was introduced in the Julian calendar in 46 BC. In 10 BC, it was discovered that priests in charge of computing the calendar had been adding leap years every three years instead of four as decreed.
Thus to correct this, no further leap years were added until 8 AD.
To compensate for errors, the Gregorian calendar adjusts the leap year rule by omitting 3 leap days every 400 years.
The 29th February is a leap day. It is considered an auspicious day for single women to step forth and ask an unsuspecting man to marry them. Usually this entails a known partner, and not a regular good looking man who takes their fancy on the day.
According to Irish legend, St Bridget struck a deal with St Patrick that allowed women to propose during the leap period and traditionally on the 29th February. I do have to wonder what St Bridget used as leverage to convince St Patrick to agree! 
I have been married for 26 years so I won't be needing to to grab this opportunity.

However, for all those lovely ladies wanting the white wedding and seemingly stuck in a "going –nowhere-near-a-church" type relationship-  then today is the day to step forward and ask your beloved to marry you.
But what if he says "NO" ?
In many European countries, especially in the upper classes of society, tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman's proposal on February 29 has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. During the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition.
Times have changed, men are not held accountable for not wanting to get married. All the same, although I do admire a fine pair of gloves like any women- a refusal to wed is serious business. Perhaps some new laws could make many a man see marriage as a worthy option if refusal meant that he would be dipped in boiling tar and feathered.  Then paraded naked through the streets as a token reflection of a shattered heart. Once that was settled,  the poor woman should hot-foot it out on the town with a supportive bunch of girlfriends for dinner and dancing. 
Here's a little bit of Leap Day trivia-
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the Keogh family is the only verified example of a family producing three consecutive generations born on February 29th.
Peter Anthony was born in Ireland on February 29, 1940, while his son Peter Eric was born on the Leap Day in the United Kingdom (UK) in 1964. His daughter, Bethany Wealth, was, born in the UK on February 29, 1996. 
I can only imagine birthday celebrations in this family are huge events every four years.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

National Year of Reading Community Launch

On Thursday, 16th Feb, I attended the National Year of Reading community launch at Dickson Library, ACT. Settled in with Mum's, bubs, toddlers and even a surprising number of Dad's, I enjoyed a book reading by local author Tania McCartney.
Tania kept the audience enthralled with her latest in the Riley series, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat. Although surrounded by wriggly, crying, laughing and on-the-move mini dudes, Tania never batted an eye. Like a true author- she enganged her audience, read her beautiful book and sang beautifully above the din.

After the reading, Senator Kate Lundy performed official duties and cut the fabulous book shaped cake.

I took some time out to chat with Tania and the Library's guest speaker the wonderful, Jackie French.
We were very lucky to get a sneak preview of Jackie's soon to be released picture book, A Day to Remember, illustrated by Mark Wilson and due out- March 1st.

Tracey Hawkins, Jackie French, Tania McCartney

After coffee and cake, it was time to sit back and enjoy Jackie's talk.

As always Jackie is fascinating and above all, well informed on her topic. Jackie covered a wide spectrum within the topic, fascinating facts and snippets, and peppered with her good sense of humour.  Covering the early beginnings of reading with oral story, to ancient hieroglyphics, travelling to modern day technology and Ipads. Jackie had us laughing at her new and innovative methods of getting kids to read by suggesting edible words made into sandwiches.

It was a fabulous day, filled with lots of kids and library patrons, lovers of books, and a lovely, local event for the community.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

At last I enter the new age!

Jacqui Grantford, Allan Jones (Nancy's grandson) and Tracey displaying the book at the launch- Nov 26th, 2012

Hello and welcome to my first blog post.

To begin, I would like to introduce my newest picture book.
'Nancy Bentley, The First Australian Female Sailor' illustrated by Jacqui Grantford, and published by New Frontier Publishing Nov 2011. 

This is the beautiful and true story of six year old Nancy Bentley, who was bitten by a whip snake in the penal colony of Port Arthur in 1920. Desperately ill and far from medical help, Nancy's father rowed her out to the H.M.A.S Sydney which fortunately happened to be docked in the harbour. Nancy was
taken on board the ship and treated by the Ship's surgeon. In 1920, the King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions didn't allow for women to be on board a naval ship. In order for Nancy to remain on the ship and seek medical assistance, she had to be enlisted into the Royal Australian Navy. One month after her 6th birthday, Nancy Bentley became Australia's first female sailor.

On the 25th November, 2011, alongside Jacqui Grantford, and Sophia Whitfield (NF Publishing) we celebrated the launch of this wonderful book. Surrounded by a large gathering of Nancy's family,  it made for a remarkable launch filled with many stories and memories passed down to the family of Nancy's exceptional 8 days in the Navy.

The opening page from the book

Jacqui showing the audience some illustrative technique and tips.

Jacqui's teddy bear

Jacqui and Tracey showing illustrations and photographs that are in the book.

Tasmanian author Norma Spaulding, joined Jacqui , SophiaWhitfield (New Frontier Publishing) and myself to celebrate the launch.

Jacqui, Sophia, and Tracey at lunch after the launch enjoying a wine.