The changing of the clocks has always seemed to me to be particularly harsh in Scotland compared to down south: here in midwinter I finish my lunch and look out to see the street lights on and a sense of ending settling on the day, people hunched against the impending night, wearing their big coats tightly buttoned to ward off the gloom. And that’s only at 1.30pm.
I’ve never quite twigged the need for the change of hours. I am told the clocks go back in October so that kids don’t go to school in the dark on busy roads in the mornings, but that means instead they come home in the dark in the afternoons, when they’re tired and even more accident-prone.
And if it’s to do with farmers getting up for milking, that makes no sense. I haven’t seen many Friesians that can tell the time and will make a decision to have a wee lie in so Farmer Joe can get up a bit later…
Whatever the rationale, I suspect I won’t be able to change the time the clocks go back. But what we can change, must change, is the date they go forward…
Let me explain. The clocks went back on October 25 last year, as it does all years near the end of October, as the available daylight got shorter. Between that and the winter solstice on December 21 – the shortest day – is just 57 days. So that tells us that there are 57 days before the solstice where daylight hours are short enough to warrant this special measure for schoolkids, Daisy the cow, Farmer Joe and all their pals.
I’m no expert, but as I understand it the days get longer after the solstice at roughly the same rate as they get shorter before it. In fact a quick Google reveals to me that today, February 16, 57 days AFTER the solstice, there are actually three minutes more daylight than on October 25 here in Stirlingshire.
So the days are already longer than at the point when we have to put the clocks back because of a lack of daylight to prevent a terrifying array of consequences for children and agriculture.
And that means, of course that we could put the clocks forward today, 40 days earlier than planned. without any of those consequences – doesn’t it?
Think of it: instead of finishing work at 5.30 tonight in darkness, you could have a pleasant slice of the golden hour and a bit of dusk when the light is at its best. During the current Coronavirus crisis, it’d cheer us all up to have more daylight at the end of the day, a hint of impending summer.
Why not make a slight tweak to the old Celtic spring festival of Imbolc, which currently falls on February 1, and celebrate it at the same time? A wee Imbolc party in the back garden, chat over the fence to neighbours. They’re sacrificing a goat or burning down the shed, you’re ceremonially dancing naked around the trampoline or drinking mead from a badger-skull as dusk falls at 6.30pm – what could be nicer?
The ancient Celts won’t mind the adjustment. First, they’re dead, and second, when they were alive they liked nothing more than a good knees-up. That’s why they put up with Halloween taking over from Samhain…
Anyway, Imbolc aside, all we need to do now is convince the politicians. And of course, they’ll understand – they’re sensible people, aren’t they…?