Changing Time

Time pieces
Time pieces

Summertime and the living is easy, (as Janis Joplin so beautifully sang). However, there is nothing easy with summer time in the clock sense. This is the weekend where (or when) we change time.

Now, not being the technical type, I am never too sure if we are all supposed to be putting our timepieces backwards or forwards. I just know that somewhere in deep slumber from Saturday March 30th thru Sunday March 31st, I will be getting an hour’s less sleep. When the clock strikes two, on the old time, it will in fact be three on the new time, meaning that when I arise at 9am (as is my wont of a Sunday morning), it will in fact be ten o’clock thus an hour of my life will have disappeared (or will it).

There will be the same time differential with the UK. All my favourite radio programmes will still be an hour ahead, meaning that in my perturbed psychological state that everything on the BBC (mentally at least) will be two hours ahead.

Now, I am never sure why we actually bother to change time. For the past few months I have been very happy with things the that they have been, but for some outdated reason, in the months of March and October, we activate the great time switch and are forced to live through several difficult days when we don’t know the time.

In real terms. When we put the clocks backwards or forwards in October, we all get an extra hour added to our lives. When the switch happens, you wake up at nine and it is actually eight. Hooray, the good Lord has extended my daily light time and lifetime existence by an hour.

In the good old days – i.e.; before 1998, the year in which the Eurocrats decided that everyone in Europe would switch time on the same day – there was a moment in October when France and Britain were on the same time. The French would switch their clocks to the winter time regime in late September, whereas the Brits wouldn’t switch until the last weekend in October. It must have played havoc for those concerned with travel timetables, for British ex-pats though, it as a four-week  godsend. We could phone the folks back home at the same time as we would phone friends in France, and in the pre-internet world, you could get radio programmes at the same time as they were going out in the UK.

Reading reports in this weekend’s press, it makes you wonder why we bother changing time at all. The switch to summer time can have serious consequences on health. For starters we all get an average of 40 minutes less sleep (though I thought we got an hour’s less sleep). The result is though, we are all just a little more tired and bleary-eyed than before.  The time change is also stressful – in France, it is reckoned that the consumption of tranquilisers and anti-depressants rises by almost 20% in the days following the time change. Heart attacks are reckoned to rise by 5%. On average, the French take around ten days top adapt to the change.

In a recent poll, 45% of the French wanted to stay on summer time all year. I personally would be one of the 23.6% who wants to stay on winter time all year. I’m not so fussed about having an hour’s extra daylight time on a summer evening, but I would rather have an extra hour in bed in the winter. (Purely psychological).

Since mid-winter’s day – February 2nd, we have been heading « towards the light » (nothing religious here). For the past couple of weeks, I have been getting up and going to work in the daylight. Now that we are all going to put the clocks forward (yes I have finally worked out that we are putting the clocks forwards and not backwards), I will be heading off to work in the dark again, for the net three weeks at least. I suppose though, if we stayed in winter time all year, it would be daylight even earlier in summer, and I’d be writing a post complaining about the fact.

Now (here’s a thing) The Brits introduced the winter time and summer time thing during World War Two – all something to do with saving energy. In Occupied France, the French worked on German time that was an hour ahead. Come the Liberation and the end of the War in 1945, General de Gaulle abandoned what he called « Berlin time » and went back to French time, which was the same time all year round. It was French president, Valery Giscard d’Estaing who reintroduced the summer time / winter time thing back in 1975 – a, energy-saving measure during the oil crisis. The thing is, that the time switch isn’t particularly energy efficient. Recent statistics reveal that in France, the total national energy save resulting from the time change is 0.5% – we are all consuming just half a percent less energy in summer than we do in winter. I guess that’s because we all have more energy-guzzling gadgets nowadays. Back in 1975, your average French family would only have one TV (with two channels) –everyone would live more or less in the same room. Now we have screens in every room and of an evening we all seem to lead separate lives in different rooms – more screens, more light, more heat AND WHY do shops have to keep their lights on all night – there’s no one out shopping.

Losing time, gaining time. We never have enough time, and when we do have time, we never seem to know how to fill it. Messrs Waters and Gilmour of Pink Floyd, sand the following in their song « Time »

Ticking away the moments

That make up a dull day

Fritter and waste the hours

In an off-hand way

But as you grow older, time is of the essence. You have less and less of the stuff.

And you run and you run

To catch up with the sun

But it’s sinking

Racing around

To come up behind you again

The sun is the same

In a relative way

But you’re older

Shorter of breath

And one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter

Never seem to find the time

Plans that either come to naught

Or half a page of scribbled lines

For David Bowie (who at 66 has less time than before) time  was …

Time – He’s waiting in the wings

He speaks of senseless things

His script is you and me boys

Time – He flexes like a whore

Falls wanking to the floor

His trick is you and me, boy

I guess with advancing years I am in the latter Pink Floyd phase.

Of course, time is often not our own. Just how much we get is decided by others. Trawling through the net, I came up with this little gem from wikipedia. The greatest time robbery of all time.

« Britain and the British Empire (including the eastern part of what is now the United States) adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, by which time it was necessary to correct by 11 days. Wednesday, 2 September 1752 was followed by Thursday, 14 September 1752. »

Robbed of eleven days. What I didn’t know though was that we work on the Gregorian calendar – and I thought we were still on the Julian calendar.

These rambling time thoughts also bring me to current French education reform concerning the length of the school day. The powers-that-be want to shorten the school day (hooray less time in the class room) – to compensate the differential though, they also want to shave two weeks off the summer vacation – this is a complex issue that is currently a bit of a temporal hot potato.

And now my blog time is up.

PS ever noticed that in all those adverts for posh watches, the hands are always fixed at ten past ten. Why????