This morning I woke up with the light at six am. I’m not a morning person, but I am sensitive to the changing rhythms of the seasons: in October I just want to crawl under a duvet and hibernate for six months, then in March I’m up with the larks (almost) and pining to be outside: I’m convinced I can feel the sap rising and falling in my veins in tune with the procession of the seasons.
Tonight I will have to adjust my timepieces and ‘lose an hour’. In the past I used to feel cheated by this loss of time. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that the reason I hate it so much is that it gets me out of sync with the diurnal cycle: tomorrow I will wake up naturally not at six am, but seven am. I’ll be happy that the evenings will be even lighter, but to be honest, there’s already enough evening light that I can get a good walk in after work and be home before dark.
I’m sure it’s not just me who will feel all out of sync (and very grumpy) tomorrow?
I was brought up to believe the reason for the clocks changing is to give farmers more light to work the fields. Just a little bit of farming knowledge will show the lie to this: farmers get up when they need to, they work when they need to, and if they haven’t finished by dusk they put the lights on. Even here, where it’s light at ten for most of the summer, farmers will harvest the fields all day and through the night. The powerful lights make their machinery look like the UFOs have landed.
I think this is indeed a myth. I couldn’t find much on the web today (I had better things to do, like going for a nice walk) but I believe the main motivation for changing the clocks was to increase the time for outdoor leisure in the summer evenings. I read a story once that claimed the lead campaigner wanted lighter evenings to play golf, but I haven’t managed to find a source for this (sloppy).
But do we actually need the lighter evenings in Summer?
For most of the summer there’s more than enough light to go around for us ordinary folk. We go to bed when it’s still light (well, I do) and wake up long after sunrise. I grew up in the South, where in midsummer it’s light by four and still light at ten. Now I live in the North East. I haven’t noticed the extra light in the morning as I sleep through dawn, but it’s still light at eleven on the Summer solstice.
As we have so much light in the Summer, we only really notice the benefit close to the equinoxes when total day length is still low. So our evenings are usefully lighter in April and October. Of course, this means our mornings are darker. You cannot cheat time and have both lighter mornings and evenings.
If the clocks didn’t go forward tonight, I can safely say that, living in the northern half of Britain, I wouldn’t really notice the difference. At midsummer it will start getting dark after ten instead of after eleven, so I’ll sleep better. If I was still living in the South, I think I would notice, and I’d probably miss the lighter evenings. But this is nothing compared to the stress and unpleasantness I have to endure every March and October when the clocks change.
And some morning-haters are already trying to double my misery by campaigning for Double British Summer Time. If you think this post was a rant, just wait until that lot get taken seriously (long may it may it never happen).