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Turning Back the Clock

We ritually (and most of us reluctantly) wound the
clocks back last weekend, and already the air seems chillier, the sky heavier.  I too suddenly felt leaden, experiencing a lethargic
reaction similar to that induced by jetlag.

I don’t usually succumb to melancholia, and I’m sure
I’ll be back to my normal ebullient self in a day or two, but not before
asking, as I do each year, why we still bother to tinker with the natural order
in this way.  We all seem to hate the
early dusk, which curtails many al fresco activities – golf, for example.  It’s not as if there’s compensation at the
beginning of the day, and even if there were, we wouldn’t enjoy it because we’d
be trudging off to work rather than to the golf course.

The English blame Scottish farmers for the practice –
something to do with their having to get up at some ungodly hour to milk the
cows.  As much as I’m usually prepared to
moan about farmers, or Scots, for just about anything, from killing badgers to
destroying hedgerows, from demands for independence to the poor performance lately
of the English cricket team, both farmers and Scots must in this instance be

The man who promoted British Summer Time was an
Englishman, one William Willett, a wealthy builder, and resident of Chislehurst, Kent around the turn of the
century.  A keen golfer himself, and a
devoted horseman, on mornings when he set out for the clubhouse, or the
stables, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the early-morning sunshine, he
noticed that most houses still had their shutters closed, suggesting that a
great many of his lazy good-for-nothing fellow citizens, were still abed,
missing all the fun of the Great Outdoors.  (He seems to have been oblivious to the possibility
that many may have been having as much fun in the saddle as he was.)

Willett lobbied tirelessly for daylight saving for
years, and by 1916, midway through the First World War, his efforts were
finally rewarded when a member of parliament agreed to sponsor legislation as an
amendment to the Defence of the Realm Act. 
(This is the Act, incidentally, that restricted the opening hours of
public houses, a measure designed to keep workers in fit condition to work in
the munitions factories.) 

The Bill duly passed, the British government welcoming
the daylight saving measure, not because it got the masses out of bed in the
morning but because it saved fuel at the back end of the day, thereby aiding
the war effort.  (The Germans beat
Britain to it, the Bundestag having passed similar legislation weeks earlier,
and for the same reason.)   

Turning back the clocks in winter may be regarded as a
sensible and patriotic measure in wartime, but is there a point to it in
peacetime?   Why can’t we stay on summer-time all year

Many politicians today, and most of the populace, I
warrant, say aye to that, and so do I.

Let’s turn the clock back for once by not
turning the clocks back.     


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