GEOFF and I had our usual twice-yearly conversation this week about the clocks being changed. They go back on Saturday night, I said – and then I doubted myself: no, I think they go forward. Well, they change, anyway, and the days will turn darker and gloomier for months and months.
Well, you’re right, it is certainly one or the other, Geoff said, and we’d better find out which it is. Hang on, I interrupted, doesn’t that saying go ‘Spring forward, fall back’, so we must put them back this weekend?
We briefly debated whether it could be the other way round, ‘Spring back, fall forward’, but dismissed that as definitely sounding wrong. Sadly, we will have the exact same conversation next March, and next October, and so on and so on.
Finally, we agreed the clocks would be going back, and that we would be getting an extra hour’s sleep on Sunday morning, which is a joy to anticipate.
As always, I shall spare several thoughts for those whose lives are complicated by the changing of the clocks. No-one tells babies and toddlers, for instance, that they should adjust their inbuilt personal alarms. Their cries for attention at an unearthly hour will go on, whatever time they choose to start their day.
When my now-giant children were still in babygros I would have given anything for that luxury of that extra hour’s sleep everyone else was having. Taking away a precious hour each spring seemed particularly cruel, too, especially when coinciding, in a masterpiece of ironic timing, with Mother’s Day.
Friends of ours were once travelling in Europe over the period of the autumn clock-change, blissfully unaware that they were 60 minutes out of synch. The pleasure of being on holiday and away from the daily grind so governed by the clock divested them of much of their usual hyper-efficiency. They had, of course, changed their watches to Central European Summer time after crossing the Channel, but had overlooked the late-October transition.
That was how they found themselves stranded on a station platform with no sign of the scheduled train they were planning to take to their Sunday afternoon destination and, that evening, finding the restaurant where they were hoping to eat still firmly closed.
Being an hour adrift of the world around you can make a crucial difference – as we have never failed to remind them in a superior but wholly kind way. They tolerate our insistence on bringing up the episode every time we see them, but probably only because we have assured them that their plight could very easily have been ours.
Indeed, it might even be ours this very weekend, as we head to distant parts where the challenge of remembering to turn our watches back an hour will be compounded by everyone around us speaking incomprehensibly.
We’re heading to Scotland, the part of the UK that tried to shake us off last month. We thought we’d show the Scots what they’d have missed if they’d waved England away. They could wish for nothing more than a confused couple from Dorset, pitching up in Edinburgh, smiles fixed despite the cold and the wet and asking what time it is.