Cack-handed Kate

left-handed views on the world

At last, we have daylight in the mornings!

Why oh why do we wait so long to put the clocks back?  I get S.A.D. and need daylight as early as possible in the day to be able to get started quickly.  I have been increasingly aware that the time is out of sync for at least a fortnight.

Old Indian

Thanks to Harry for finding this

I found myself in a waiting room yesterday, reading a disembowelled copy of The Times.  There was the kind of article one always finds in the papers at this time of year, rehashing the tired old polemic from writers in the southeast of the UK, about keeping the clocks forward.  I object really very strongly indeed to attempts to draw me into their corner, as someone with S.A.D.  Go away, don’t make claims on my behalf without asking me.  And I’m not a SAD sufferer either, thank you very much.  I have it, that’s not the same as being a sufferer, which is a secondary condition one chooses only as an adjunct to having a condition.

But this particular writer introduced a new argument, which I found both lame-brained and mean-spirited.  This was that if Scotland didn’t want British Stupid Time they could pass legislation to keep real time!  Yeah, great, different parts of the UK in different time zones for half the year, just what we need.

Several things to note about these articles.  Firstly, they always appear at this time of year.  They don’t come out on December 20th or thereabouts.  Oh no, by then the journalists are on another hobby horse.  But that’s when it bites.  That’s when you have to think to yourself: “If we were on BST it would still be pitchblack not murky grey.  The roads would be icier and the air temperature lower.  Would I really want to have been doing this an hour ago?”

There’s the obvious point that these writers are predominantly – not always, but usually – from the south-east and urban areas at that.  They seem to recognise that the day length is shorter in winter the further north one goes, but they rarely acknowledge that the British Isles are not aligned north-south, no matter what it looks like on the map.  As one goes north one also goes west, so Edinburgh is half a degree further west than Bristol (good one to remember for pub quizzes, that).  That means it gets lighter a lot later in Scotland than in southeast England.

Less obvious, but a lot more significant, is the apologists for the BST cause inevitably have some degree of control over their own working hours.  Nevertheless, they seek to impose their indulgence on those who do not have that luxury.  There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why a city boss or a newspaper editor or senior civil servants should not decide their normal hours will be 8 am to 4.30 pm in the winter.  That would be good for everyone because it would spread peak travel better, too.  But ooh, that would mean getting to work at 8 am, and the English middle classes don’t go to work at 8 am, that’s for the plebs.  Doesn’t matter that with British Stupid Time they would be getting to work at 8 am British Real Time, the clock would say 9 am.  And even if the bosses themselves choose to start early, well that’s still alright, they are so important they have to be in early, all is still well in their world.  Tough on the poor cleaner who now has to be in at 5 am GMT.

These writers inevitably make claims about the benefits of BST in winter without drilling down to explain exactly how they think these benefits would be achieved.  Saving energy – er, how exactly?  You mean saving energy in your offices!  BST would just push the energy demand into the domestic market, but it is much easier, nationally, to achieve energy savings in commercial and industrial premises than in homes.  The darkest hour might or might not be just before dawn, but the coldest hour certainly is.  Domestic central heating would be coming on an hour earlier across the country and many people would probably be running it for longer and their lights would need to be on.  Domestic lighting is usually less efficient than in commercial premises, especially given that many have been stockpiling the old lightbulbs – not out of spite but because of their light fittings.  Then there’s the extra fuel needed to start cars when it’s colder.

Some of these writers claim there would be fewer road accidents – hard to see why.  Instead of daylight in the morning (at least in the southeast) and dark in the evening, it would be twilight at both ends of the day: so more dangerous for driving.  Yeah, I could look up the figures to show this, but the writers of such articles didn’t bother and they got paid.

Another claim is that France is an hour ahead of GMT throughout the year.  Leaving aside any residual French grudge against Greenwich rather than Paris being taken as the prime meridian, they actually have more daylight to play with in the winter than we do.  The argument for having the same time zone across Europe would only hold if we all also shared the same culture with regard to working hours.  But we don’t.  I have spend short periods working in various European countries.  Germany is only an hour ahead on the clock, but the Hochschule started lectures at 8 am, by which time industry was in full swing.  But they all went home at 2 pm!  Greece, on the other hand, is 2 hours ahead but there was no need to think about what would be happening at home before making a call because things were happening at the same time.  Dinner at 10 pm or later was normal, so was starting work after 10 am.

Why do we need to worry about our clocks being in sync with the rest of Europe anyway?  That’s inward-looking, but we are part of a global economy.  We have to have regard to the time in New York, Tokyo and Beijing, not just Berlin.  Our history means we are always slightly out of sync with much of the rest of Europe anyway – negatively at the moment, but usually it’s a plus (which is why we should have gone into the Euro when the pound was strong, Gordon!).

On another page of the same paper there was a picture of the lovely 24-hour analogue clock at Greenwich, with information that when the clock faces due South the hour hand follows the sun exactly.  So do our body clocks, at least when there isn’t much daylight to go round.

So please stop the lazy assertions and give evidence for why we should wrench ourselves out of bed in the middle of the night in December so you don’t have to start work before what the clock says is 9 am.  Otherwise I shall continue to regard you as smug, priggish, self-satisfied and condescending snobs.  And yes, I know that’s tautologous – just like the same old arguments you wheel out year after year.

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25/10/2009 - Posted by | opinion and politics (small p) | , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Hey Kate, try Vitamin D drops. They really do make a difference. You can probably find them in your local drug store (not the pediatric ones – you want 1000 IU per drop) and take two drops every morning.

    By the way, I found this beautiful article on SAD today. I think you`ll like it. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/lifestyle-design/200911/its-time-be-sad

    Good luck from your fellow SAD sufferer, Kyley

    Comment by Kyley | 09/11/2009 | Reply

  2. Thanks Kyley. I have a daylight lamp and that helps, too. I’ll buy the Vitamin D tomorrow.

    Comment by cackhandedkate | 09/11/2009 | Reply

  3. The family had a conversation about this the other day. My mother remembers that during the war the clocks went forward by an hour in winter and two in summer. She said it was simply dreadful, awful. We all agreed that the best thing to do would be to simply leave the clocks alone. It’s Greenwich Mean Time after all!

    Comment by cackhandedkate | 03/12/2010 | Reply


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