It’s officially Summer Time

For those of us in the UK who lost an hour’s sleep yesterday.

Since the equinox earlier in the month the mornings have been getting lighter. Not that I noticed particularly until Saturday, when for the first time this year I went to work in the light.

When I got up on Sunday it was dark again. Who’s idea was messing with the clocks twice a year? What is the purpose? How long has it been happening and is the original reason still relevant? If not, why do we continue with the practice of moving the clocks an hour forward in summer and an hour backwards in winter? How would keeping to GMT all year make a difference?

These are the questions I ask myself every year. That I haven’t got round to finding out yet suggests I either don’t care enough about the whole thing to invest time and energy in doing the research or that the information is too difficult to find. It’s probably both.

Today’s aim is to answer these questions. I may be back later with the answers.

I have answers! Thanks to the Royal Museums Greenwich website.

The idea of ‘summer time’ was first suggested in the UK in 1907 by William Willett, a keen horse rider who was appalled by people still being in bed while he was out riding. It wasn’t until 1916 that the government agreed to the plan – a year after William Willett’s death but only a few weeks after Germany also implemented ‘summer time’. There was a war on, anything to increase productivity and reduce fuel consumption was tried.

It’s been messed around with a bit over the last 98 years but the practice of setting the clock forward an hour in summer and back to GMT in winter is now ingrained in society although BST is not without it’s critics.

If the original purpose of BST was to save fuel and make full use of daylight hours, is it still relevant? Few of us work in sectors where the number of daylight hours available affect the amount of work we can get done. It doesn’t matter what it’s like outside if you’re spending all day in an office or factory.

It is pleasant to get home from work and still have several hours of sunlight to enjoy in June, July and August.

On the other hand, when you have to be up at 5am and it’s still light at 10 pm, getting to sleep is hard. That the sun will probably rise not long after 4am isn’t much fun either.

It’s a practical, pragmatic approach to making full use of the light in summer. So for all it’s inconveniences – speaking as one who lost an hour’s sleep yesterday and had to go to work, I was exhausted by 10 am – changing the clocks is fairly advantageous. The original reason – fuel, agricultural and industrial efficiency – may not apply any more but the root – making full use of the extra daylight in summer – is still a perfectly sensible reason.

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