April 1st. What a relief yesterday to move the clocks forward an hour. No kidding. Did I hear a rumour that Brussels has issued a directive – no, an advisory – that EU states settle on a time and stop monkeying around with their clocks? I imagine Westminster will pay scant regard to that, even supposing the UK ends up contesting the EU elections on May 23rd. So come October 27th, we will be back on GMT, or, as the RAF chaps put it, Zulu. Or, as the aviation world puts it generally, UTC. UTC stands for Universal Co-ordinated Time. Why not, then, UCT? The received wisdom is that the acronym UTC is a sop to the French, who have a penchant for placing the adjective after the noun. But then, why not TUC? Did the Trades Union Congress get in first? How about TCU? Temps coordonné universel. Whatever. The aviation world is full of three letter acronyms. The atmospheric pressure at sea level in millibars (or hectopascals in the System Internationale) is the QNH, while the atmospheric pressure at airport surface level is the QFE. But QNH and QFE stand for nothing at all. They’re just gobbledegook, designed to confuse the enemy.
But to return to Zulu, or Zulu + 1, I’ve adjusted all the clocks in my house. I note the computer on which I scribble away has done it automatically, as has my mobile phone. The clock in the car is on permanent summer time. I like to think that is because I too choose always to remain on summer time, but actually it’s because I can’t figure out how to adjust the clock. I ought to get the manual out of the glove box and look it up but I can’t be bothered. Similarly, I should find out how to jam the car radio’s annoying habit of constantly interrupting Radio 3 with a travel report. The surprise lurking in the slow movement of Haydn 94 is obliterated by an update on the snow blocking the road twixt Cockbridge and Tomintoul. The Cockbridge-Tomintoul road has been blocked for as long as I can remember. When Freddie Grisewood chaired Any Questions, and the newscaster told us what the Queen was wearing, the Cockbridge-Tomintoul road was blocked.
There is I believe universal relief (or relief universal) when the clocks spring forward, just as there is consternation when they fall back. The end of October signals the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder. The nights are fair drawing in. Each year there is a debate as to whether we stay on GMT, or on British Summer Time, or we keep swapping, or indeed revive British Double Summer Time. There may be a town/country split on this; there is a farmers’ lobby, and a lobby vociferous on behalf of children creeping reluctantly to school. The kids themselves couldn’t care less. In their feral world, they have far better things with which to concern themselves. But I have a modest proposal to put forward. Rather than change the clocks, we should change our habits. If it’s too dark in the morning to send the kids to school, wait until it gets light. In other words, shorten the working day during winter. The children will be delighted. So will the adults, who should all go into the office an hour later and come back an hour earlier. Hunker down and mend the fishing nets. The only reason for going out in the dark is to undertake “works of necessity and mercy.” If I were a sitting MP I would put it forward as a Private Members Bill. But Mr Speaker, that man in the green chair so cavernous that it makes the incumbent look like Richard Matheson’s Incredible Shrinking Man, would never allow it. Lead balloon territory. We cannot allow ourselves to fall behind these incredibly driven and industrious Chinese.
But is this not a most beautiful time of year? I wandered lonely as a cloud, floating, in this instance up and down the vales and hills of the Switchback Road heading north out of Glasgow, and the banks of daffodils were truly stunning. I’m sure Mr Wordsworth really was stunned too. I’m less convinced about his emotional state while walking over Westminster Bridge on September 3rd, 1802. Granted the Palace of Westminster is a very beautiful building, but then again it wasn’t there in 1802. Call me dull of soul, but surely the sun can more beautifully steep something other than ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples, eh? I mean, what is so “Dear God” about sleeping houses?
Westminster has put me in a mood.