Am I really that special?

I had a birthday this year. Didn’t we all? The difference is I’m special. Only a few can have membership to this one, one in 1,461 to be exact. The Honour Club of Leap Year Babies has welcomed me with open arms. I’m not a baby and not sure there is much benefit in being special in this way. But I am a leapling, can do nothing to change this fact and am not sure I want to.

I am special so I get to choose my celebratory anniversary day at least three years out of four. Do I plump for the 28th February because it has the word February in its date and this, of course, is the month I was born? Or, do I take the 1st March as my alternative because it is the day after February 28th and thus the day I flew, mewing, from my mother’s womb? This choice does not make me particularly happy. In fact I find it quite discombobulating but not as disturbing as the number of ceramic frogs, fluffy frogs, froggy key rings and leaping frogs my friends buy me because “ I saw this and thought of you.” No, please do not define me by my birthday. Oh and btw I hate frogs. They scare me. They do not make me happy.

What does make me happy is the Savoy Hotel’s leap year cocktail-Leapling cocktail please.

2 oz gin; ½ oz grand marnier; ¼ oz fresh lemon juice

stir then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and serve with a twist of lemon-

which I was introduced to one February 29th by a friend who believed there was more mileage in a trip to the American Bar than a gift of a frog.  The prescience of that man.

Now, just like everyone else I share my birthday with some famous people. Some are famous because they and all their siblings were born on February 29th. To my mind this isn’t real fame, not in the truest sense, or shouldn’t be. But I think we can agree that Lord George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron deserves the epithet. I share leapling status with Lord Byron. This makes me feel both special and happy.

We don’t share much else however. The poor man’s life was cut short before he was ten. In leap years that is but thirty-six is still tragic and thankfully I am beyond that milestone. His love of travel I share, his love of women in the conjugal sense, no, and pets, well my love stops at dogs and an occasional cat whereas the Lord’s love was considerably broader. The list that follows is an indication only of his pet, dare I say, obsession: a fox; monkeys; horses; a parrot; quite a number of other exotic birds both large and small; a rabid dog; a badger; a crocodile and a goat with a broken leg.

The serendipitous nature of shared leapling status fascinates me but “where is this going?” you cry. Well, Lord Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace is credited, alongside Charles Babbage, with designing the world’s first computer and I know that as well as being terribly proud of his child the poet would now, together with all February 29th babies, curse the invention, the bane of our special lives, the computerised forms that do not work for us as they do for you. Please check, day, month and year of your birth. It’s NOT there. My passport doesn’t agree, my driving licence doesn’t agree and the Ryan Air check -in desk is not in the mood to be helpful. I do not need to feel this special.

Why should I wait to get my drivers’ licence, have a leap year cocktail in a bar or receive my pension a day longer than non-leaplings? But, with a serious second thought, I guess I’m lucky to be in a position to grumble about such things. On applying for her first passport my mother discovered that her father had never registered her birth. Now that is grounds for complaint.

I’m special, not in a very important way, but special none the less. At least it makes for conversation on blind dates.


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