Fall back – how many hours?

When we fall back an hour in winter time we’re supposed to gain an hour. In my recent experience I’m not sure if I gained an hour – or lost many!

So now we’re back to GMT – we’ve snapped back to the right time according to our celestial tilt. Personally, I think it feels good! Adding an hour in summer doesn’t make sense so now we’re back to a welcome normal. This clock change, the paradoxical subtracting of an hour to give us an hour extra in bed in the morning is the ‘good one’!

But here’s how I wasted it.

Most of us wake up on a Sunday mroning with nothing much to do and as our feet swing out of the bed and hit the floor, as the fog of the night’s sleep lifts and as the sense of time ahead of us solidifies we start to think about how we’d like to spend it.

Often those Sunday plans have already been made, and often they rotate around easy and non-urgent activites. Activites which for the most part wouldn’t suffer if we turned up at the wrong time – which is why we do this twice annual clock changing activity at 2 am on a Sunday morning. Late enough on a Saturday evening not to make any difference, and early enough on a Sunday to…likewise make no difference.

But Sundays are those days when time means little and the whole of it can be spent without looking – let alone adjusting – our clocks, and I’m sure it’s not unknown to many of us for having turned up at work an hour out.

To ensure this doesn’t happen I tend to change my clocks on a Saturday evening – early enough that I’m still awake enough to have my faculties working with me, and late enough that it doesn’t interfere with any time dependent events.

So last Saturday night this is what I did. Each year changing the clocks takes less time as an increasing number of my devices do this automatically, so actually when I say “this is what I did” I pretty much mean “I spent a few seconds changing the hour hand on the clock in the lounge.” And having completed the last of my chores for the day I settled behind the screen and binged on Netflix.

Before I knew it I’d reached my bedtime and the lounge clock confirmed it. I’d had my extra hour early and I hadn’t even noticed!

That night my daughters were having trouble. They were both ill and needed parental attention. And the parents needed sleep – but it wasn’t to come until the very early hours. I don’t know how it happened, but my wife was able to wake up the following morning a couple of ours later, happy as a bird and with a spring in her step.

I, on the other hand, was a sleep deprived miserable wretch. And being the shining angel that she is, my wife let me have a lie-in whilst she sorted out the girls who had somehow recovered and were equally cheerful (as their mother) and were springing around the house.

So I slept.

Long and deep, and let the neurons cease fire and recharge in my pounding head. And eventually I woke and made my way downstairs. And as three pairs of hands, feet arms and legs managed to draw me out of the land of nod and into crazy town, I glanced at the clock on the lounge wall. A quarter to eleven.

To be clear: this is the lounge clock which had already been set back an hour.

A quarter to eleven! For a father of 2 young daughters that’s an incredibly long lie-in!

My wife catches my eye on the clock. “Don’t worry”, she says, “It’s really quarter to twelve” …


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Summer time in Spring

Spring seems to be a forgotten season. It’s more of a stepping stone to summer; a time of change. Is that why we turn to summer time in Spring?

Summer time in Spring

So Spring officially started on Monday 20 March 2017 at 11:28. Last year Nature marked this event with a total solar eclipse. And Nature marked that event with full blown cloud cover. (*Growl*)

Naturally the onset of Spring means that 6 days later we enter the misnomer known as summer time (summer being another 3 months away).

I’ve commented before about the misuse of the extra hour we gain as we enter Winter time (in Autumn), so now that we’ve learned our lesson we get to give the hour back and get out of bed an hour earlier. On a Sunday, the day of rest.

I think we’ve messed up again…

Spring – what’s the point?

What's the point of Spring?
What’s the point of Spring? Image credit: Gilbert Tremblay.

But that’s summer time, and I want to get back to Spring. It seems to be a bit of a forgotten season and I think it’s because it’s a sort of stepping stone into the warmth and brightness of Summer.

I postulate that Spring isn’t really a season in itself. It’s fake and superficial. The sun shines, but it doesn’t really warm things up. It still hangs low in the sky and gets in our eyes. The wind is cold, and morning frost is always possible. It’s the worst possible combination of all kinds of weather.

Protecting against Summer
Protecting against Summer. Sitting in the shade with sunglasses. Image credit: Sanja Gjenero.

Maybe we should be pleased; in summer the sun comes out and we do everything we can to avoid its benefits. We sit in the shade under trees, wear shorts and T-shirts to cool down, smear sun-cream on our skin to avoid its contact and wear sunglasses so we don’t see its lighting effect.

Spring does all that work for us, so we should be happy – and I suppose most of us are. But I think our cause for happiness is false. I think we like Spring for another reason.

A time of change

Spring marks a change from the dreary whiteness of winter. Daffodils and crocuses are sprouting, injecting welcome colour and scent into a new temporal landscape. Birds are returning from the south to build their homes in trees from which green leaves are budding. Cheerful tweeting fills the air.

It’s not just different – it’s change. Is this what spring is then – not a season in itself but a change?

Now this makes more sense. In Spring (and Autumn) we’re at the vernal (autumnal) equinox – when the sun is over the equator. In other words, the sun is passing from the southern hemisphere to the northern. From negative to positive latitudes. A change.

In terms of the sine wave which models these kinds of latitudinal changes, we’re now at the point of maximum gradient.

Maximum change in Spring
The day numbers, along the x-axis, commence with 1 on 21st March (the vernal equinox) and continue to 365 when the next vernal equinox is reached. Image credit: Astronavigationdemystified.com.

We notice this by how much lighter it gets in the evening by larger increments of time at the equinoxes; take a look at the sunset times – they get later with each successive day by greatest amounts around now.

Spring – the journey

I’ve often noted in my reviews of time travel novels that they may take on either a journey or a destination approach. I think it’s fairly clear that if Spring were a time travel novel, it would be more about the journey – how we progress from the cold and bleakness of Winter to the warmth and life of Summer – than about the jumping lambs and daffodils made out of egg cartons by kids.

Clock change – Spring forward

For now, it’s nearly time to change the clocks. It’s the ‘easy one’ – putting the hour forward. Most digital clocks don’t allow going an hour back, so we end up putting the hour forward by 23. It sums up time travel – easier to go forwards in time than back. Still. In human terms it’s the difficult one as we get up an hour earlier.

I read a facebook post earlier today. (OK, obviously it was earlier…) It mentioned that it’s ironic that parents lying in for half an hour tomorrow are still getting up half an hour early!

I’m going to ease myself in slowly, and start changing my clocks now on Saturday night. I’ve already done the clock setting on my thermostat so that the heating will come on at the right time in Summer…

Ah yes. It’s still Spring so maybe that’s not as daft as it sounds! 😉


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The Paradox of the Winter Solstice and Daylight Saving Time

As we approach the winter solstice on 21 December 2016) a paradox looms ahead of us. And it’s in cahoots with the daylight saving time.

A few months ago we switched off Daylight Saving Time (“DST”) and re-entered the normal time pertaining to our timezone on planet Earth. In this article I commented how the adjustment of an hour actually exacerbates the (perceived) problem of darkness and uses up daylight hours in the summer.

As we approach the winter solstice (21 December 2016) I see the same thing happening again, but now on a natural footing.

Days get longer after the winter solstice.
Days get longer after the winter solstice.

After the winter solstice the days begin to get longer because the angle of the Earth’s axis of rotation with respect to the sun decreases (i.e. increasingly points towards it). The trouble is that Winter begins on the winter solstice, and as a meteorologist will tell you…this is when it gets cold.

(Note that I’m ignoring here the meteorological definition of Winter which is defined as starting from 1 December. I have no problem here; we ignore the weather forecast due to inaccuracies so I’m happy to do the same here with their unastronomical definition of the seasons! 😉 )

The bottom line is that this means we have increasingly longer days in which to be miserable about the cold weather.

At this point I should note that our friends the meteorologists will tell us that the reduced temperatures continue reducing after the winter solstice because of a thermal lag (“lag” here as in “behind”, not thermal lagging as in “padding around a hot water cylinder”). Lag doesn’t explain a reduction of temperature prior to the winter solstice!

So what is it with daylight saving time then? Should we use the model as a basis to implement a temperature saving time? Or do we use DST in an effort to emulate nature’s natural clock which appears to be playing a joke on us?


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Misuse of an hour

The daylight saving hour – do we use it wisely? I don’t think so, and in which case can we really be trusted with time travel?

I’m late with this post, but in a way it doesn’t matter because it’s not that I benefited from setting the cocks back one hour at the end of last month. 7 am became 6 am, so that meant a lie-in – right?

Not with 2 small daughters who haven’t yet synced their body clocks to our artificial clocks. And certainly not with 2 small daughters who are excited about going to the zoo!

I suppose I can hardly blame them – it’s now light again outside in the mornings, and it is this fact which made me question why we bother with this “daylight saving time” – surely it’s a case of daylight enhancement?

daylight saving clock

As we move through Autumn and towards the Winter solstice, the change in inclination of the Earth with respect to the sun means that darkness descends earlier each evening. Setting the clock an hour back speeds up this process; by putting the clock back an hour it’s now even darker at the same (clock) time. We exaggerate – not combat – the darkness.

The converse is true in Spring when putting the clock forward an hour adds to the lightening effect. It stays light for longer, and even more so once the clocks have advanced an hour. We’re not saving daylight, we’re actually using it up quicker.

Isn’t this misuse of that hour?

It seems to me that if we can’t properly deal with a single hour then it’s a good deal that we’re not yet able to time travel!

Misuse of an hour
Can we be trusted with time travel?


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Dealing with Earth Time

It’s seems to me that children and animals have it right when it comes to dealing with Earth time. They pretty much ignore it. But for the rest of us we’re pretty useless with dealing with our own manual manipulation of time.

Earth is out of sync with itself. Seasons are defined with respect to the (maximum / minimum / midpoint) tilt of Earth’s rotational axis towards or away from the sun, but in reality they tend to run a day or two either side of this. (Or maybe more?)

Earth time split

We already know about the addition of leap seconds and days at various times to keep time in sync, and we manually adjust our clocks around the Earth, roughly into time zones so that we ourselves can be in sync with the Earth’s rotation. (Perhaps we could argue that there’s not enough time for all of us so we need to divide it into 24 time zones to spread things out, just as the Dutch spread it’s population out over the summer holiday and define it in 3 sections of overlapping 3 week periods).

And then there’s the further manual adjustment of time, sometimes controversial, often discussed, but necessarily adhered to – the advancement or retreat of our clocks by an hour to maximise sunlight hours (assuming that we live in a country with a local climate allowing sunlight…).

This year I noticed it for the first time – the Earth’s hemispheres are not in sync with each other. Whilst Europe does away with ‘summer time’ tonight (24th October), the southern hemisphere has already entered into it’s summer 3 weeks ago.

What? Is the differential hemispheric rotation going to cause a shear across the Equator and split our world apart?

Oh wait. Southern summer starts on “World animal day”. Animals are more in tune with nature than we are. They wake up when the sun goes up and sleep when it goes down (apart from the inverse solar (nocturnal) creatures.

It happens every year, twice a year. The clocks change by an hour and people wake up and go to sleep at the wrong time. Some are too tired, others too energetic. (This is sounding like my kids…).

More seriously, you get those cretins who think they still don’t need their car headlights on in winter and plough into pedestrians they didn’t see, or into wildlife who have become confused with the advance or retreat of rush hour by an hour.

It’s seems to me that children and animals have got it right when it comes to dealing with time. They pretty much ignore it. But for the rest of us we’re pretty useless with dealing with our own manual manipulation of time. Actually, we’re even pretty useless when it comes to dealing with time when we leave it well alone. We run out of it, we lose it, we chase it, we don’t spend it wisely.

So how on Earth can we think of time travel when we can hardly deal with daylight saving time?


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Temporal shifters

Nature is driven out to make way for these temporally displaced humans until it is safe, peaceful and clean again. And I think I count myself amongst those persecuted creatures. My natural aversion to time shifters makes me wonder. Would I be welcoming to a true time traveler if ever I should meet one? I hope so, but maybe evidence is pointing otherwise 🙁

This weekend we realign ourselves with astronomical time when we set the clocks back to a longitudinal basis and not one of human desire for lighter evenings.

This is good…

under rock

Summer time is like lifting up a stone or a rotten log when the insects, now exposed to the light, come out and play…pretty much like how people go out on their summer holidays, or venture out into their garden for the first time (in the boreal year) and bring with them their loud music, picnic hampers and state of panicked chaos.

Crowds hit open spaces, throwing or kicking balls and frisbees, screaming in excitement; exhibitionist boys vying for the role of alpha male in their prime, so too the girls, feigning disinterest in the testosterone driven spectacle despite layers of make-up plastered on and layers of clothing pulled off.


Nature is driven out to make way for these temporally displaced humans until it is safe, peaceful and clean again. And I think I count myself among those persecuted creatures.

So the return to natural time will be a blessing. I’ll have my dark evenings back again when I can look upwards at the stars at night, and I can do things in peace during the day. The rotten log has been returned; non compliant temporally displaced humans put back into place.

There is another bright side…the lie in. What used to be 6:15 am (and a severe difficulty to negotiate in getting out of bed) will now be 5.15 am…giving me an extra hour in bed. It makes my 7:00 am train less of a burden to catch.

I choose the lie in, but others who are tied or handcuffed more firmly to their rigid daily routine will rise out of their slumber an hour earlier and begin their day an hour early.


I have no problem with this…unless they usually catch the train at 8:00 am but now sit on my already over-crowded 7:00 am commuter train. Now there are less seats, less standing space, and more germs.

It will take a week or so before these time shifters revert back to their home time and their home train. I look forward to that time, as I also look forward to my arrival at my destination train station in one healthy piece.

Meanwhile, I sit at the front of the train. Upon arrival at most stations, the front carriage ends up furthest from the pedestrian exit, ergo, most people sit at the back of the train to give themselves a shorter walk. It suits me – I have a quieter spot, but I can’t call them lazy, after all, it’s me choosing the lie-in!

This aversion to these time shifters…it makes me wonder. Would I be welcoming to a true time traveler if ever I should meet one? I hope so, but maybe evidence is pointing otherwise 🙁

Still, there is another solution…

The final solution - sleeping on the early train
The final solution – sleeping on the early train!


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Image courtesy for cartoon: annthelogostnt.wordpress.com

Spring forward

So tonight’s the night. (Or is it tomorrow morning’s the morning). At 2 am we put our clocks forward to 3 am, and await the semi annual discussion of whether it’s a good idea or not, and whether we should just keep summer time in place in winter, and in summer put the clock forward an additional hour.

Spotted it?

Actually there are two things to spot…firstly that it would be summer time in winter, and secondly, we “spring forward” an hour in spring…and call it “summer time”.

Ah well. Us humans can be a little bit crazy like that, but I suppose we have to live with it.

Anyway. I’ve got into the habit of changing the clocks in my house the evening before. I’m not at my best in the morning, and looking at the clock on the bedside cabinet and then trying to remember that I need to add an hour and then remember I should have woken up an hour earlier is just never going to happen. (Who is awake at 2 am to change clocks??)

So I started downstairs at 18:50, and moved the clocks to 19:50. At 19:00 (i.e. 20:00 according to the downstairs clocks) it’s time for my girls to hit the sack. Cue the tooth brushing, bed time stories etc. and 45 minute later they’re both down. But before I head back downstairs, it’s time to set the upstairs clocks.

From 19:50 to 20:50.

Now I know it’s an hour since I was downstairs doing the same thing, but there’s a certain part of me which thinks I’ve just put the clocks forward 2 hours.

Yeah, I know. That would be crazy!


Time for a time change

The clocks go back an hour tonight. The addition or subtraction of an hour twice a year in an effort to optimise daylight hours has been going on for years, and yet still causes countless people to get confused, turning up too late or too early to various appointments.

It might seem like some sort of pseudo time travel when people turn up at different places at times they thought were different, but it’s just time (or it’s representation) moving onwards (or backwards as is the case now) and not taking us along with it on it’s hourly journey.

Spring forward, fall back.

Now it’s Autumn. We ‘gain’ an hour, but lose the sunlight. I for one am happy as I can stay in bed longer tomorrow morning. In theory anyway – I have two young children that haven’t mastered the concept and will still wake 3 hours before I’m ready to get up.

For the rest of you…enjoy the pseudo time travel! Your time is precious – use your hour wisely! 🙂