If you are one of those people who like experiencing and entering in their diaries unusual events which they have lived through and can tell their grandchildren about - be prepared this evening at an hour or so after it gets dark. No, it's not an eclipse of the sun or the moon, nor is it the spectacular passage of a seldom-seen comet across the heavens. You can enjoy this almost unique happening in the comfort of your own home and it will only detain you for sixty seconds - so you needn't worry about missing too much of The Simpsons on Sky or A Question of Sport on BBC1, Olympic Grandstand on BBC 2 or, even, Emmerdale on ITV. The magic moment will come when the hour hand of the clock points at eight and the minute hand at two this evening on this day the 20th of February 2002. If that doesn't seem to suggest an earth-shaking event, let me put it down in figures: 20.02.20.02.2002. Now are we any nearer? It's one of the very rare numerical palindromes that occur with times and dates - that is to say, the numbers read the same either way. Words are more often used for palindromes than figures: madam is the most often quoted and is sometimes extended for Adam's introduction to Eve, Madam, I'm Adam, although the punctuation does rather get in the way. One of the better long palindromes is the medieval, Lewd I did live & evil did I dwel. It will not be until 12 minutes past nine on the evening of December 21, 2112 that another numerical palindrome of this kind comes along. So enjoy this evening's while you have the chance!
The last UK ford
Today at Dagenham, Essex, the last Ford Fiesta will roll off the production line and more than 70 years of car-making there will come to an end. The event will also mark the end of the 91-year history of Ford car production in Britain which began in Trafford Park near Manchester. Some of the best known cars in Britain have been made at Dagenham: the Popular, Zephyr, Anglia, Cortina, Granada, Sierra and Fiesta - eleven million of them over the years. The end of the car production line for Dagenham, with the loss of 1'100 jobs, was announced two years ago as part of the world-wide rationalisation of Ford's manufacturing. The trade unions alleged that the Dagenham plant had been picked on because it was easier and cheaper to sack workers in Britain than in other EU countries. Ford countered by saying that it took 25 per cent more time to build a Fiesta at Dagenham than at at its plant in Cologne. However, the company sweetened the pill by announcing a £600 million investment in the existing engine plant at Dagenham which means that by 2004 the numbers employed in the area will be the same as in the recent past. And, by 2004, one in four of all Ford cars world-wide will be powered by engines from Dagenham and Ford's other plant at Brigend.
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