Playing with Time

On Sunday the clocks in the UK will go forward one hour. Well, that is to say we will all have to change each available clock by hand unless you’ve got digital ones which automatically adjust. These are quite weird to watch because all of a sudden the hands start moving as if some cosmic force has grabbed hold of them. If you don’t have all digital clocks then it is worse in the autumn when you have to wind the clocks forward eleven hours because you should never wind them back. I don’t know why, it could have something to do with waking a temporal demon that gets so angry it won’t stop singing. Seriously though why do we do it/? Having established a system of measuring time we mess about with it twice a year. 
A clock, yesterday. 8.22 yesterday in fact.

It is all the fault of someone called William Willett who in 1907 published a pamphlet called `The Waste of Daylight` in which he reckoned people were lying in bed in the summer months instead of doing stuff like washing steps and milking cows. The idea percolated around the political classes and in 1916 the Summer Time Act was passed meaning the clocks would go forward for an hour in the Spring and back again in the Autumn.
William Willet incidentally was a builder and quite why his pamphlet attracted so much attention is unknown though he was the great grandfather of Coldplay singer Chris Martin and they had a hit with a song called `Clocks`. Just thought I’d mention that uncanny fact. Anyway the advantages of the change are said to reduce traffic accidents and crime as well as make people feel better about more light in the evenings.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents even reckons we should move back two hours in the summer and one hour in the winter to reduce road deaths. Have they not seen how some people drive during the summer?  On the other hand you do lose an hour’s sleep on the night it happens and it’s darker when you get up which people are probably less happy about whereas in the autumn you gain an hour.
In the end it seems to contradict the idea of measuring time. If we can just alter it at will why stop at just twice a year? Why not adjust every season and catch up at the end of the year with hours of extra sleep? Really we should either measure time or not. By changing that measure we are trying to interfere with nature. The claims in favour seem unproven and based on an idea of happier, safer people in the daylight.  How many accidents does the process really stop? How much happier do we actually feel when most of our moods are dictated by our personal or work lives rather than the whimsical notion of an extra hour’s daylight?
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the introduction of British Summer Time and that could be an ideal moment to scrap it. We should leave our measure of time to click on unchanged by weather or seasons because that is what time is, one moment after another. It isn’t ours to change.

1 comment:

  1. Here's an interesting thing. It's not British Summer Time anymore, it's EUROPEAN summer time…governed by an EU directive. So even if we wanted to stop the annual tampering with the clocks, we couldn't…because the EU won't let us.