I suppose most people remember which way to change their clocks for Daylight Saving Time (DST) by recalling the phrase “Spring Forward, Fall Back”. Even though, here in England, it would be “…Autumn Back”, which doesn’t work quite so well. And, just to be awkward, we call it “British Summer Time” instead. But here’s the rub: why do we do have to keep fiddling about with it?
Years ago we were told that it was to help safeguard our children walking to school on dark mornings. Using GMT in winter means that the mornings are less dark; and going forward an hour in summer means that evenings stay lighter later. However, taking as evidence the fact that there is twice the volume of traffic on the road when the kids are at school than there is in the school holidays, kids don’t actually walk to school any more. They all go in huge 4x4s and 7-seat people carriers.
Of course, Governments like to fiddle about with DST just to show they are doing something (I reckon it’s a sign of how little meaningful and useful stuff they actually can achieve). So in the past we’ve experimented with double summer time and with no summer time. And, it seems, everyone complained so much that we always went back to the current system. Meanwhile some countries (such as Russia) are reported to be contemplating abandoning DST altogether, Israel can’t decide when it starts and finishes, and there are people here in the UK and Ireland suggesting we have multiple time zones to cope with the fact that there is a half-hour difference in sunrise and sunset times between Skegness on the east coast and Shannon on the west coast.
But what’s the real issue now is that here in the UK we are being threatened by a new outbreak of the wonderfully named “Single Double Summer Time” (SDST). No I’m not making it up, do a web search if you don’t believe me. Supposedly it will reduce accidents, save lives, increase tourism, bring us into line with Europe, reduce energy bills, increase leisure time, and (quoting from the official literature) benefit “those who attend an educational or training institution”. So it’s a wonder that the whole world doesn’t already do it.
Of course, there are those who aren’t happy about it. They say that people in the North of Scotland will be eating their lunch in the dark all though Summer and won’t see the sun at all in winter, though I’m not sure how that works. And that there will be hundreds of school children killed in road accidents in the dark, even though they are traveling in a three ton steel box. And farmers will have to plough their fields in the dark, so the furrows won’t be straight and people will laugh at them. Or just that it’s obviously a scheme dreamed up by the shadowy elite that run the People’s Republic of Europe, and so we should naturally complain about it.
However, there is a single far more important factor to consider in this debate. If we do change to SDST, I’ll have to stay at work even later in the evenings while I wait for my Redmond-based colleagues to finish their cornflakes and start our daily series of online meetings and conference calls…