the times they are a-changing

I’m intrigued by the headline on the BBC news website today which claims “Clock change may cause tiredness

My elderly mother complains that everytime there’s a power cut she has to go round the house altering all the clocks. She doesn’t understand – and nor do I – why we should have to have so many clocks on appliances that don’t need them: the cooker, the microwave, the video, the radio… We have perfectly good wall clocks which were there long before these modern appliances, and neither of us has ever thought digital clocks were a real neat idea. Mum finds it particularly annoying that she has to make a special trip upstairs to fix the radio alarm in the spare bedroom, but at least it is something whose primary function is to tell the time.

Mind you, despite all her moans, although she might describe the routine as “irritating”, or maybe even “boring”, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t rate as “tiring”.

Here in Spain the time is one hour ahead of the UK, and, like the rest of the Europe Union, we also make adjustments on the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October. But in Spanish we don’t talk of changing the clocks, we change “la hora”. I’m not sure if this indicates an attitude of self-importance: while the Brits run round altering man-made gadgets and appliances, over here we actually alter time itself.

The BBC website also asks the questions “How will you spend the extra sixty minutes today? and “Will you miss the lost hour of daylight?”

The first question makes some sense: today is effectively an hour longer. Most people, though – at least the ones I know – seem to take it as either an extra hour to party the night before, or an extra hour to sleep in. Few people – even those who complain they don’t ever have enough time to get things done – seem to think of getting up as usual and getting a head start on the day.

The second question doesn’t compute, however. The evenings may have an hour less light, but surely there’s still the same number of daylight hours spread across the day? In Madrid, if I wanted to miss that first hour, I’d have to stay in bed till around 8:30am. Most people I know who have office jobs are out of the house long before that, so I don’t see that they’ll be losing an hour of light at all: instead of watching the light fade as they wend their way home, they’ll be able to see it arrive as they travel to work.

The days will, of course, keep getting shorter until the winter solstice. But a glance at the calendar tells me that’s really just around the corner. In just eight weeks time, the days will be getting longer again.

There’s always a big fuss made in the UK newspapers about winter and the lack of daylight. Apparently one in five of the British population suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. What no one seems to realise is that for those of use who were brought up in the north, the excess of light and warmth in a southern winter can be just as disconcerting.

After nearly twenty years in Spain, I still can’t get used to the idea that it never gets dark on winter afternoons: Christmas just isn’t Christmas if it’s still sunny at 6pm. In fact, the only years I’ve felt the year has turned have been those when I’ve spent a week in the UK in December.

I’ll admit that having written this I’ll be going to snooze in the hammock in the sunshine for a while, but sometimes I’d really rather have an excuse to put the lights on at four o’clock, pull the curtains and settle down to watch TV.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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