Sunday, October 28, 2007


It’s that one day of the year. The bright sparks in Westminster, 91 years ago, decreed that they would introduce the concept of British Summer Time.

The clocks go forward, or they go back. I’m getting to the age where I have to work out which is which, with the obvious result that one year, I got it wrong, and turned up to meet someone two hours before we had actually agreed to see each other. Instead of a perfectly reasonable 9.30am, his house was awoken by my push on the doorbell at 7.30am on a Sunday morning.

I don't think they were terribly impressed.

Each year, about now, we see a flurry of articles in the Press pointing out that, if we were really serious about minimising injury and loss of life among the population, we would change the way we do it, and keep British Summer Time going all year round. But, because a few shouty people in Scotland, who, if I’m not mistaken, now have their own Parliament, whinge on, as only Scots and Scousers can manage, we English withdraw from the argument, and keep the status quo. And a few more of our children, on the way home from school, are apparently sent for a terminal early bath, or at least suffer some unnecessary body modifications because we can’t be bothered.

If you look at the history of it all, it’s not quite as boring as you might imagine. Until the arrival of the railways in the early Nineteenth Century, each area of the country kept their own local time. It didn’t really matter that Nuneaton time was a few minutes different from Scunthorpe time. It took a day or so to get from one to the other, so what did a couple of minutes matter. The Railway timetables, over a period of 20 or so years put paid to that, although the more cynical among us might suspect that Virgin Rail has re-introduced it recently without telling us.

It wasn’t until 1880 though, that Parliament actually legislated to make UK time consistent with GMT throughout the country. Even at this date, Irish time, known as Dublin Mean Time (25 minutes behind GMT – Don’t even ask!) remained different. It took until 1916 for the Irish to come in line with the rest of the UK.

At the same time British Summer Time was introduced, and you’d have thought that that would have been it, until such things as Atomic Time was introduced. But No. The Government has fiddled about with this like a fiddly about thing. We even had double BST during the years of the Second World War. Intriguingly, the Government insisted that the reasons that it was removed after the war, were so sensitive that the papers were not to be released for 100 years. Intriguing.

Since 1916, in excess of 70 separate pieces of legislation tampering with our clocks have been passed, repealed, changed and reinstated since that time.
I had completely forgotten this, but we had a period from 1968 to 1972, when BST was kept on as an experiment all year. Apparently the forecast overall reduction of accidents did occur, but something (unknown) happened to make us revert to the previous BST/GMT arrangement at the end of that period.

And so it goes on. Scotland and Northern Ireland claim that a change to GMT+1 hour all year round would result in Sunrise in the most northerly parts of their countries not occurring until 10am or so. And this seem to have been the reason why successive attempts to change the system have failed.

Now I may be wrong, but I thought there were only about 25 people who lived north of Glasgow, so the whole of the UK is being disadvantaged by these guys. And now Scotland has its own Legislative Assembly, why not let them decide for themselves? What’s so difficult about a different timezone for Scotland if that’s what they want?

The whole thing seems to be very simple to me. Keep GMT in place all year round. It means the accident issue in England would be improved, it means I don’t face the possibility of arriving on a friend’s doorstep while his wife’s hair is still in curlers, and she’s only got the undercoat of her make-up on. It also has the passing benefit of getting up the noses of those north of the Border, who are getting a bit big for their boots. Remember Culloden, I say.

And most of all, this evening, when I was looking at the clock on this one particular day of the year, waiting at 5.45pm for the Sun to pass over the 6pm Yard-Arm, to break out the Gin, I wouldn’t have had to wait for a further miserable 15 minutes to demonstrate to myself, as a point of personal pride, that I am in control of my Alcohol Intake.


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