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Eddie Mair 13:27, Wednesday, 29 February 2012

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.

Leap for PM: Hear what listeners are planning

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?


  • Comment number 1.

    I've had a book idea for months now. I know, I know, everyone's got a novel in them. This isn't one.

    It's a factual book on a subject I know a lot about. I run a music website, and a feature on this particular subject gets masses of traffic each day and tops the Google results for the subject's keywords. I get college students from around the world asking if they can cite it in their essays. It's around 10,000 words long, but I've long thought it could be expanded into a book with some extra research.

    (No, I won't mention here what it's about as I don't want anyone else stealing the idea.)

    This morning I contacted an author I know. He's had a book published on a similar subject by the biggest music books publisher. I needed some advice: whether he had an agent first, if he pitched a synopsis or sample chapters, how much he wrote before getting an advance etc. I've had journalism published before but this new territory for me.

    I've been listening to PM's leap day stories and didn't think I had one of my own. I just so happened to get started on this project today, and it's nice that I'm joining others in taking a leap into the unknown. Fingers crossed!

    PS Despite dreams of publication, I know I'll never come close to this: "Today is a very special day. Like Oliver Reed in his heyday, it comes round only once every four years." Eddie Mair is a genius and his Radio Times column is far and away the best thing in the magazine.

  • Comment number 2.

    This was a fantastic and creative idea - congratulations to you all. A wonderful mixture of the moving, amusing, inspiring .. but best of all a sense of the nation coming together. The essence of Radio 4! And I'm really looking forward to hearing about it all tomorrow, especially the brave chap in Swansea - I do hope he manages to get on the bus (but doesn't beat up on himself if he just can't)

  • Comment number 3.

    My diabetic patients posted a heart-wrenching message: "I wish that it was a day without diabetes".

  • Comment number 4.

    I have loved this idead but my family do not listen to Radio 4 and I have not been able to sell the idead to them. - I really hope the guy made it to Swansea - I said a prayer for his courage.

  • Comment number 5.

    I had not planned on gaining a speeding ticket today. But I am glad the police officers were joking when they suggested it wouldn't disappear from my licence for 12 years as opposed to 3...

    Loved the programme tonight.

  • Comment number 6.

    29 rhyming Excuses For A Woman NOT to Pop The Question on Leap Year Day

    1. I always said you were a good catch, just not a perfect match.
    2. I was in two minds all day, so there was nothing more to say.
    3. I had a look in the shops, and that is where I stopped.
    4. You know I’ve got better things to do with my time, than ask you for the 100th time.

    For twenty five more #29RhymingExcuses

  • Comment number 7.

    I loved the idea of the leap challenge. Since my husband died several years ago I have not been on holiday alone and decided this was the day to do it. Got on the internet on the morning of the 29th and booked into a beautiful hotel, packed my bag and set off. Thought I would potter around the Hampshire coast on my way and found myself walking on Lepe beach. The sun shone, the hotel was brilliant and I have come home pleased to have broken out of a no go area of life, so thank you pm. Sorry I wasn't near a radio for pm until it was nearly over.

  • Comment number 8.

    Leap for PM was inspired. A whimsical idea that spawned more good than most government health initiatives.
    Most days, Eddie makes me smile (and sometimes laugh out loud), but I'm sure I wasn't the only person with moist eyes after hearing about the bus journey in Swansea today.


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