Clock Wise

Great Britain – emphasis, as always, on Great – is an island floating around about half way across the Atlantic. Indeed, if you look realy close, it’s probably not too far from Martha’s Vineyard. At least if you believe some Britons, the kind who seriously believe that Britain should leave the European Union and join the NAFTA.

I was reminded about this wackiness when reading some of the comments to this interesting column by Anatole Kaletsky in today’s The Times:

Why should Britain be one hour after the European continent, he asks, when this only leads to unnecessary problems? Companies can’t communicate with each other because they work different hours, especially when it comes to the question of when to have lunch.

At first, it seemed as if he had made a point. After all, a truthful map will reveal the horrible truth that my dear home country is not only that great in size after all, but that it is in fact – oh, perish the thought – more north than west of much of Europe. It is in fact east of Spain, which is one hour ahead.

Bah! sneer the commentators. Why should we adapt to that stupid European Union? Our ties with America are far more important; let’s not make the time difference with the US larger than it is already, they howl, instantly forgetting that the overwhelming majority of Britain’s business is done with other EU countries.

But then, as it dawned on me as I continued to read the comments, why do we mess with this shifting of clocks back and forth at all?

Twice a year, we all engage in this quite ridiculous event of all pretending that it’s A o’clock instead of B o’clock. In order to save daylight time, we are old, only to find ourselves quitting Daylight Saving Time during the part of the year when daylight is at its scarcest.

The question is simple: Why don’t we just change our active hours instead?

It’s such a sign of the arrogance of mankind that our immediate response is to decide to force reality to follow our lifestyles instead of the other way round.

Let the time follow the time zones that the Earth’s rotation dictates, even if it does mean that we have to accept the painful truth that we live across a globe, not a flat map where you could shine daylight on everyone a the same time. If you do need to do business with Seattle or Tokyo, adjust your working hours accordingly. And if you cherish daylight, make the effort of actually rolling out of bed a little earlier in the morning.

And as for the lunch thing, well, like I’ve said before, the real time difference across the EU is not between East and West but between North and South, and no clock-shifting could ever change that.