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Friday, June 14, 2024

Time Shift

It’s happened once again. It happens every year at this time and we all know it’s coming, but the shock of the event is still deeply depressing. Nobody asked me about it or if I wanted it to happen. Nobody asked you or anyone else either. It just happens by itself every year on the last Sunday morning in October. Yes, I’m talking about putting the clocks back an hour—the most discouraging and gloomy signpost of oncoming winter and the ultimate full stop of what has been a glorious English summer.
So, welcome to a further six months of unremitting gloom (literally) with night falling at tea time, schools and offices closing down in the dark and dusk descending all too soon shortly after lunch. The only good thing? You just had it! It was that extra one hour in bed we got on Sunday October 28th. Big deal.
I realise that daylight saving and moving back one hour to GMT can be useful for farmers, fishermen and other folks who work out of doors in the very early morning, but there is a much larger majority of the rest of us who hate it. After work, I can’t come home to walk my doggie anymore as it’s too dark to see him. You can’t mend the wonky garage door or dig the onions or do anything outside because you can’t see what you’re doing. After school, children can no longer run around outside because it doesn’t make sense to play footie at night time and it’s unsafe to bicycle home. Also, according to at least one major insurance company, there are over 30 percent more home burglaries after the clocks go back. There really is no need of an extra hour of morning sunlight for a 21st century workforce. The UK is no longer an agriculturally based economy and we depend significantly less on heavy industry than we did a hundred years ago when the factory hooter would blast us awake in the dark so we could get to work on time and build lots more steel widgets and ships and stuff.
Furthermore, the act of changing the clocks itself is highly disruptive to our health and general well-being. Statistics even show a greater chance of car accidents and sickness when our body clocks are unsettled. And I (for one) become permanently gloomy and bad-tempered when forced to live in a state of winter obscurity. Books and newspaper columns have been written about the appalling effects of S.A.D. (also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or perhaps better as ‘Seriously Awful Darkness’). Laboratory mice forced to live in total darkness apparently develop blue teeth. Rats become suicidal and depressed without any daylight. I know exactly how they feel…
And the worst part of it is that we’re responsible. The whole standard time thing is a British invention. We imposed Greenwich Mean Time on the world way back in the times when much of the world atlas was coloured pink and Britannia ruled the waves. The trouble is that—in retrospect—we made a hash of it and got it so completely wrong. We should have set the world’s time to one hour later—i.e. our current British Summer Time—which would have made life so much nicer.
I suppose it matters a bit as to where you are. If you live on the equator, days and nights are of equal length. Sunset is at 6pm all the year round regardless of whether it’s Christmas or high summer. Of course, if you’re in the far north of the country, summer evenings can stay light until 11pm, so it makes some sense to have daylight saving in say Nairn or Newcastle. But we live in the south of Britain in the Marshwood Vale, so we could simply keep our clocks one hour ahead all the year round. This means that the current time in Devon and Dorset would be different from Birmingham or Liverpool, but would this be a huge problem? No, not really. North and South are already poles apart mentally, so an extra hour apart wouldn’t probably make much difference.
Why stop there? We can all surely agree that we live in a very special and unique part of the UK. The whole of the South West has a distinctive identity that requires special treatment nationally. What better way to preserve our unique regional character than to live in a different time and mood from the rest of the country. If our fab new Doctor Who can organise Time to her advantage, then so can we. I propose we move our clocks forward one complete day to the new South West Time (SWT). For example, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset will be living their Tuesday when the rest of the country and the whole of Europe will still be creeping through a dreary dark Monday. That way, we’ll always be one step ahead. Yes, welcome to the vibrant new exciting South West! Leading the way, ahead of the pack—we’re already in the Future before the rest of them even get out of bed in the morning!

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