As the European power struggle which is Brexit staggers on, life goes on, and sometimes what seems, by comparison, trivial has hidden importance and bears consideration. Little is more important than time.
British clocks go forward this weekend to mark the coming of summer, and a similar twice-yearly changing of clocks in anticipation of summer or winter occurs throughout Europe and in many other parts of the world. This is all about to change after the European Parliament voted recently to end the traditional adjustment of time a decision that may create unwanted but not insuperable complications.
Every member state, for example, including the UK will be required to determine whether to be on permanent summer time or winter time from 2021, which could mean a more confused pattern of time zones in Europe than exists currently. Furthermore, if the UK is a member of the EU after 2021 she will be required to comply with the decision: if she is not a member as a result of the enactment of Brexit and there continues to be no enthusiasm here for the idea, then it could mean that Northern Ireland will be on a different time zone from the Republic of Ireland, which also could cause problems logistically and socially in a relatively small island.
Daylight Savings Time was introduced into the UK in 1916 as a means of saving energy by prolonging evening daylight in the summer, and has lingered in existence since then despite a few attempts to change it. Having to change our clocks twice a year is an unpopular tradition that disrupts sleep patterns and, even with automation, requires us to alter watches and reset heating timers, and must impact business. It is a man-made and defunct reminder that our seasons are changing – but we have natural markers of the cycles of nature through the Solstices and Equinoxes and through our own sensory awareness of our changing environment. We do not need to control time, or to be controlled by time.
The European Parliament’s decision to end Daylight Savings Time is seen by many as an unnecessary interference in the affairs of its member states, and to move towards a system whereby we return to the ways of our ancestors, living according to the rhythms of the Sun and the Moon and our bodies, would be like taking a breath of pure air after years of living underground. Whatever the position of the UK in the EU in time to come, this is an opportunity for us to look again at why we change time twice a year, and, perhaps, to consider a better, older, well-tested way.
Perhaps we can learn, at last, to accept time, and life, for what it is. Are we slow learners, I wonder?