GMT, BST, CET & The Changing of the Clocks.

Twice a year the clocks change. We’re robbed of an hour in bed in spring and get it back in Autumn to no end as far as I can see. And every year, we have to deal with the pointless debate that we should either have British Summer Time all year round (stupid) or worse, co-ordinate our clocks with Europe.

This probably matters little in Torquay. But Shetland, 700 miles & 10 degrees of latitude farther north, in the winter only gets 6 hours of daylight. BST would see first light on December 29th (the Latest sunrise – a few days after the winter solstice) until 10:10am and see last light at 15:56 on the 19th December (the earliest sunset is a few days before the solstice). GMT, UK winter time sees an earlier dawn around 9am in winter and an earlier sunset at around 3pm, which feels more natural.

The argument in favour of abandoning daylight saving usually suggest BST all year round – GMT+1 giving lighter evenings in the winter. Well even where I live, just north of London, in the winter first light is 8am (9am BST, 10am if we co-ordinated with Europe) and last light is 4pm (5pm BST, or 6pm European time). Both commutes would be in darkness under whichever clock. On balance, I think (as most people who get up early) I would prefer earlier mornings for longer. There is some evidence (most of it dated) that lighter evenings reduce accidents. But work patterns and social habits have changed since most of the research on the subject was done; and recent research suggests that the decrease in evening energy use barely exceeds the increase in morning use.

Either way, it’s irrelevant. The time is (or should be) based on the natural phenomenon of the solar cycle. Noon is the point at which the sun is highest in the sky. The idea that we are slaves to a machine, the clock, rather than the natural environment I find faintly disturbing. If workers want to get up long before dawn, to enjoy a lighter evening, people are free to set their day accordingly. Some people, for whom I have nothing but contempt, think it reasonable to start their working day at the slovenly and frankly disreputable time of 9am. I’ve heard some idle, slothful people start at 10am, though the only one I’ve actually met “worked” in advertising. Quite what such “people” want to do with the extra hours in bed, apart from extravagant masturbation, is beyond me.

Instead of a top-down imposition of a working day which suits some, allow people & businesses to set their working hours according to their individual needs. Leave the clock to be set by the natural phenomena, and let people, not Government decide their hours. We aren’t at war and the Government shouldn’t be telling me or anyone else what time to get up.

GMT all year round – the libertarian choice. BST (or worse CET): a monstrous instrument of tyranny.

8 replies
  1. Bill
    Bill says:

    I think the GMT idea all year round is not very practical, unless other countries (specially our neighbours across the water in mainland Europe) also abandon their equivalent of summertime.

    I remember, in the days before the clock changing was coordinated across Europe, that airline and train timetables always had to be about double the thickness they should have been, merely to accommodate the roughly one-week difference in change-over dates in Spring and in the Autumn.

    Although I live most of the year in the north of Scotland (when I'm not in Spain, which I am at present), I don't much care if we stay with GMT and GMT+1, or move to CET and CET+1; as you say, we can all get up when we want, although of course unless you are on flexi-time at work (assuming you work, which I don't any longer) you do need to abide by your employer's work-time rules so most people have to accept that either travelling to or from work, and perhaps both, will be in darkness for a few months.

  2. Seb
    Seb says:

    Here are some facts:

    Shetland is nearer Norway than it is Edinburgh.

    The sun is not always overhead at noon. It is Greenwich 'Mean' Time which means the sun is at its highest at different points in the day.

    Today, in London, it reached its zenith at 11.44am. If most people were awake an equal amount of time before noon as they were afterwards, then your idea would make sense.

    The fact is most people are awake significantly less time before noon than before. Therefore having the sun at its zenith closer to 1pm, or even 2pm, makes more sense for more people. As the time on the clock is a political choice, it seems perfectly reasonable to decide on the outcome which benefits the most people.

    France and Spain have made that choice. They are happy with it. Russia has also made that choice. Perhaps there is a majority in the UK in favour? I suspect there is: either way it is not "tyrannical".

    You say that winter sunrise in London would be "10am (European Time)" – no it wouldn't. The EU also adjusts its clocks across all three of its time zones so it would be CET not CEST – i.e. GMT+1. No-one is suggesting GMT+2 in the winter.

    Your argument to see GMT all year round would see sunlight appear in the summer time at around 3am in London and disappear at around 8.30pm. In Glasgow it would be 2am to 9.30pm. This was a nonsense first identified in the early 19th century, where curtains would be drawn for over four hours after dawn. Such a distribution of daylight would be beyond bonkers.

    The sensible choice is to align our markets as closely as possible to our main trading partners. I'm afraid this favours an alignment with Zurich, Paris, Frankfurt, Barcelona, Turin, Stockholm, Amsterdam rather than the current arrangements – Reykjavik and Marrakesh.

  3. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Boiled Frog: EUROPE WAAAAA! I doubt they'd kick a net contributing nation of 70m people out for refusing to obey that "law".

    Bill, what's true for us, is true of Europe. THEY shouldn't use "Daylight saving" either.

    Seb. Yes of course the difference is between GMT and the solar noon is greatest at land's end. Shetland is pretty close to the meridian. Pedantry may feel good, but stops one getting laid. You'd be happier if you weren't a bore. On your salient point, I would rather that noon be 12(ish), and if I need or desire daylight change my hours. As for "aligning ourselves to europe" means it doesn't get light in the winter till 9am. Fuck that.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    You are right.

    Just suppose that aligning us with CET would give us 'extra' daylight (a stupid idea but go with it for a moment) then exactly the same argument could be used in Berlin to move Berlin's time zone eastward too. And so on.

    Our time zone is the basis of world timekeeping and we should be proud of that fact.

    If there is an argument for doing things at an earlier or later hour then change the time that those activities are done but leave the clocks alone.

  5. Seb
    Seb says:

    Erm, leaving aside your needless insults….

    My point was that I think it probably benefits most people's patterns to move the middle of the day to after noon. If you could opt out of this arrangement to whatever suits you then all the better.

    Unfortunately the norms of working hours, business hours, timetables and all the other time-based vestiges of modern life make that impracticable.

    If everyone can choose their waking/ working hours as you claim then why would you give a flying f*** about it getting light at 9am? Just get up later.

    I can only presume by your response that you don't enjoy the luxury of choosing your time, in which case it makes sense to choose the option that benefits the most.

  6. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Seb. Meant as friendly advice from one pedant to another.

    I am a slave to Financial market hours – we've already "harmonised" with Europe, buy getting up earlier. Another reason for London's dominance. We didn't need a clock change to effect it.

  7. startledcod
    startledcod says:

    You say "Quite what such "people" want to do with the extra hours in bed, apart from extravagant masturbation, is beyond me." like its a bad thing. How much better than crawling out of bed to a dark morning.


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