13 ways to squeeze every last drop of fun from Leap Day
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Food, films, friends, walks – loads of ideas for a memorable super-Saturday
When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, a leap year was always about girls proposing to guys. (They really did in Ireland in the fifth century, apparently.) But for most of us that sounds quite a high-stakes (if not impractical) way of marking this theoretical bonus day. And traditions change. In the modern world, surely anyone can propose, any time?
So how else can we make these rare February 29s special? They're a great excuse to vary life's routine. Let's start with something close to the hearts of many...
Food for thought: Round up a handful of family and friends and head out for a meal - with a twist. Get everyone to write down the name of a local eatery, put them in a dish and nominate someone to draw one out, sight-unseen. For some of your party, it's bound to be their first visit - and new experiences are the spice of life.
Move with the groove: Physical activity makes most of us feel happier - and it's even better when combined with a good laugh. Have a quick look at the schedule on offer at local sports centres and pick something you can do today on a casual basis.
You may also want to watch:
Roller-skating... badminton... table-tennis... belly-dancing for beginners... It could be the start of a great new hobby. (Do take it gently early on, though. I've wrecked Achilles tendons through naïve - and short-lived - enthusiasm.)
Sole man (and woman): The best things in life are free. Walking costs nothing, and the fresh air and views are complimentary.
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If we stroll near home, we don't have to pay for transport. Even a walk in town puts us in touch with the natural world, and presents us with interesting things to look at and think about.
Feed your imagination: If working up a sweat isn't your thing, support your local bookshop with a purchase. Ask for a recommendation. Or pop to the library, choose a genre, shut your eyes and pull a book from the shelf at random. You might find a new author to love.
A good turn: Two great advantages - good turns are free to give, and make someone else's day brighter. Help your brother hang out the washing; do your neighbour's vacuuming; ask your friend with a twisted ankle if you can take his dog for a walk... The opportunities are endless, and the glow we feel priceless.
Keep Britain Tidy: Go litter-picking and clean up your neighbourhood by collecting discarded energy-drink cans and crisp packets. OK, it's a variation on "a good turn", but it benefits all.
Word of warning: Be careful. There could be the odd dangerous hazard (glass, or other "sharps") nestling in grass or under innocuous-looking detritus... (Thick gardening gloves are useful.)
And relax: All this do-gooding deserves a little reward. Check out your local beauty salon, spa, nail-bar and suchlike for last-minute slots - or treat yourself to a hair-trim. We all deserve a bit of pampering and chillout time; it gives us fresh energy to tackle the daily routine.
Doilies not required: With busy modern lives, we can go months without proper communication with our neighbours. Invite them round for no-pressure tea and chatter. (And then, maybe, make it a regular thing.)
Leave your comfort zone: More random picks with pals. See what's on at the cinema, theatre, comedy club or exhibition gallery and go to see it - especially if it's not the kind of thing you'd usually choose.
Break out the boardgames: Electronic games don't have as much soul as good old Monopoly, Scrabble, Cluedo or even Mouse Trap, do they?
The great thing about playing a game is that it oils conversation and the laughs flow. The result of the game is immaterial.
Seaside special: If the weather is kind, or if you have brilliant rainwear, head for the coast. The bracing air and soothing sound of breaking waves refreshes our psyche in ways I could never hope to understand.
If the forecast is poor, spend time planning where you'll go on a day when the sun shines and the wind drops. (July?)
Join the chain gang: This might be hard to pull off at short notice, but you might be able to hire or borrow a bike (safely!) and reacquaint yourself with the magic of pedalling. Born-again riders are often thrilled when they remember how exhilarating it is.
Meal deal: For those of us who are not Nadiya Hussain, cooking can be a chore. Spice up the experience by making food with a friend or relative.
As with boardgames and quilt-making, communal cookery is often the catalyst for a great experience. As the olive oil flows, so does the laughter. And food prepared with someone else always tastes better than something you make by yourself, doesn't it?