Wednesday 29 February 2012, 13:27
Today is a very special day. Like Oliver Reed in his heyday, it comes round only once every four years.
Sandwiched precariously between 28 February and 1 March, it creates children of adults and newlyweds of couples who've been together for years. People who are born or get married on 29 February can only legitimately celebrate a quarter of their anniversaries.
I wondered whether we could use this special day as an opportunity.
All this month on PM, we've been asking listeners whether they'd be prepared to take advantage of this extra day - use it as an excuse to do something different. We spend so much of our lives putting things off. Sometimes it's things we'd rather not do. Sometimes it's stuff we'd love to do but will only get round to "someday".
But because this is an "extra" day, we could perhaps use it as cover for such activities. We could give something a whirl and if it fails, well, it doesn't matter because it's not a proper day.
We floated the idea with our listeners on 1 February, not sure what response we'd get. It transpires there are a lot of people who are ready to use today to take a leap.
There's the apparently mundane... "I resolve to speak Mandarin all day long"...."My partner and I are going to visit some elderly people in the village and take them some home-made produce"..."Often meant to take a roof tour of Lincoln Cathedral but never got round to it. Spurred on by your campaign my husband and I have booked a visit on 29 February".
Then there are the people who are getting some medical attention. We broadcast the plan of one woman to have a cervical smear today and got emails from other listeners inspired by her. After six years, another listener will finally decide the wording for her late husband's headstone. And as you read this, any number of PM listeners are at last scattering the ashes of loved ones having put it off for years.
We've come to the aid of some listeners. A woman who plans to take up the hula-hoop after more than 50 years, will get some training thanks to our intervention. And a woman with sight problems who wanted to raise money by cycling will have Radio 4's Paddy O'Connell on the front of her tandem.
Someone else plans to join the army. Another listener who's been tuning in to us from Camp Bastion in Afghanistan will fly home to the UK today after nine months continuous duty.
Our listeners have been most struck by the struggles of others. In our montage clip, you can catch up with the woman who intends to have some chocolate today - her anorexia has been a problem for years. A man who suffers panic attacks will try to make a bus journey. And don't miss the woman in her 60s who will get a tattoo today.
When you start an unusual project like this, it's impossible to know what response there will be. But we never expected something on this scale. Not just the sheer number of people who plan to take a leap but the rich variety of responses and the fact that listeners have inspired other listeners.
For example, we broadcast details of one listener's plan to write a letter to his estranged brother and others weighed in with similar intentions. A nightclub bouncer will spend today trying to heal a rift with a relative. There was this too: "I am going to write a conciliatory letter to my sister whom I have been on bad terms with for many years".
And in turn, I too was inspired. For a long time I have had a bitter and angry feud with the BBC's Business Editor, Robert Peston. Who knows what it was originally about (I do) and who can remember whose fault it was (Robert's). The point is that I am going to use this special day to try to heal that rift. Mend fences. That's why I've invited Robert to join me in presenting PM tonight in the spirt of the day. Side by side. Shoulder to shoulder. Dust to Dust.
And if Robert and I can do it - what about you?
Join the discussion...
Friday 24 February 2012, 18:03
Wednesday 29 February 2012, 17:29