Belfast Telegraph

What did the Romans ever do for us? The calendar for a start

By Claire Harrison

Well, how's your head today? Were you quaffing champagne until all hours, ushering in a New Year in spectacular style? Maybe you were snogging the bake off someone at the stroke of midnight to the light of a thousand firecrackers?

Or were you like me last night - in bed with a cup of decaf tea at 9.30pm, dead to the world by midnight and up early with the attitude that today is just another day.

When you live a cocoa-fuelled, low-octane life like mine, you find yourself doing very boring things on New Year's Eve, like wondering why the rest of you get so excited about it and how it all started anyway.

So I now know, via the magic of Google, that we largely have Julius Caesar to blame for January 1 being the debut date of each new year. Being quite clever, he decided that the month named after the ancient Roman god Janus (he of two faces, one looking forward and one looking back) was a good place to strike a line between two years. And I have to agree. There is something quite reassuring about drawing one year to a close, and opening a new one.

It can't be a bad thing to start a year armed with a fascinating new fact and so I was intrigued to discover that there used to be just 10 months in the calendar.

Did you know that the year used to run from just March to December? January and February were the newbies in Rome, leading me to my second fascinating new fact which I can't believe I've never noticed before. The addition of two new months explains why the names of the last four months of the year correspond to the numbers seven, eight, nine and ten in Latin, rather than nine to 12. (Please tell me you're still awake?)

Things have moved on since the calendar tinkering of 46 BC when those naughty Romans celebrated a new year with drunken orgies. In modern times, well, that would be just rude so we've toned it down a bit. Even so, here we are centuries later, standing on the brink of 2015, and still honouring Janus' spirit of new beginnings. We have him to blame for that unavoidable urge to draw up a list of ways to make life better in the next 12 months.

It's with his encouragement that we harbour the eternal hope of a more exciting 2015. We will all lose weight, get healthier, give up smoking, drink less, win the lottery, get a new, higher-salaried job and travel the world doing charitable deeds. But the harsh fact is that, according to a university study, 88% of people who make a New Year's resolution see it end in failure (or perhaps more surprising is that 12% actually keep it.)

For a change, my hopes for 2015 are small but important, because today really is just another day. I would like to lose weight, if only as a just penance for eating seven boxes of chocolates on Christmas Day. I would like to finally fix a chair in my living room which lost a leg three years ago - or maybe even get a new one. I would like my 12-year-old car to scrape through the MOT once more, just for the craic.

As a writer, I would like to be inspired by better subject matter than how many months there are in the year. But overall, all I ask is that 2015 is kind to me, and I promise to do the same in return.

Closing chapter in Mel's spicy stories

Mel B has finally come out in defence of her tabloid embattled husband by saying he would never lay a finger on her, quelling speculation she had been a victim of domestic abuse.

It's over two weeks since the X Factor judge missed its grand finale, prompting speculation of a bust-up with Stephen Belafonte. Two weeks is a long time, not helped by Mel's reappearance without her wedding ring and his increasingly strenuous denials.

Now that all is well in the Belafonte household and the front pages have been fed, you can't help wonder - what on earth was that all about?

Obama's fair way of saying sorry

There's a lot to think about when playing golf - like keeping the ball straight down the middle and apologising to some newlyweds. Barack Obama was mortified when he realised a wedding had been relocated so he could play a round while holidaying in Hawaii.

Army captains Natalie Heimel and Edward Mallue didn't hesitate to accommodate their commander-in-chief when asked to move - much to Obama's embarrassment when he was told.

So what does a US president do but give them a story to tell the grandchildren by ringing up to apologise in person.

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