Sorry I’ve been off the radar for a while, peeps! But I’m still here – and feeling all the groggier for it seeing as some pesky little thing called Daylight Saving Time (DST) kicked in the other evening and robbed me of an hour’s kip – all because some tit-head back in the olden days decided that his lasting legacy would be the annual irritation of a crap night’s sleep.
To rub a little extra salt into the wound, it then takes about two weeks for my body clock to recalibrate. Because as far it’s concerned, it’s not lunchtime, it’s not bedtime, and it’s certainly not time to get up yet. It’s a bit like adjusting to a different time zone when you go on holiday. Minus the holiday.
Every year at 1am on the last Sunday of March (ie, yesterday, the 26th), we all have to push our clocks forward by 60 minutes, heralding the start of Spring. This is all done to generate just one measly extra hour of daylight in the evenings – which I’d always assumed was down to some miserable old farmers insisting that they be able to shear their sheep by sunlight rather than candlelight. However, this year’s time-meddling antics coincided with a day when I really could have done with those extra 40 winks, which wound me up enough to actually Google whose bright idea this was – just so I’d know who to personally address as I cussed to the high heavens. Turns out it had nothing to do with the farmers at all.
The seeds of the idea can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin. In 1784, during the nine years the US inventor and politician spent as American ambassador to France, he wrote an essay called ‘An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light’. It suggested that Parisians could reduce their candle usage by getting out of bed a little earlier in the mornings, making more use of natural sunlight instead.
Fast forward to William Willett – the Surrey-based builder and great-great-grandfather of Coldplay singer Chris Martin who introduced the idea of Daylight Saving Time to Britain in 1907.
He had a real bee in his bonnet about squandering valuable hours of sunshine during the summer months and published a pamphlet on it called ‘The Waste of Daylight’. It proposed moving the clocks forward by 20 minutes on each of the four Sundays in April, and then back again by the same amount on each of the four Sundays in September (what a ball-ache that would have been).
He spent the rest of his life trying to convince everyone else that it was a good idea, but sadly died of flu a year before it was implemented by the Germans on April 30 1916. Britain quickly followed suit the following month on May 21, with the Summer Time Act of 1916 hurriedly passed by Parliament, and the first day of British Summer Time widely reported in the press. At this point in time, the two countries were in the midst of the First World War (1914-18).
Supporters claimed that Daylight Saving Time would conserve energy and boost working hours, cutting costs by reducing the consumption of coal, and increasing the amount of supplies available for manufacturing during the war effort.
Fast forward to 2017, and I’m still being forced to sacrifice my shut-eye – even though the last time I checked World War One had ended, and my central heating is now powered by British Gas.
But wait, folks – it gets worse! There are now calls to move to something called Single/Double Summer Time (SDST), which would entail pushing the clocks forward by two hours in the Spring to gain a further measly hour of sunlight! : 0
Now anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a HUGE fan of my bed, and any proposal that tears us asunder is never going to have my vote. However, even I have to concede that there are some seriously compelling arguments for switching to SDST, with supporters claiming it would make us all happier, healthier and even wealthier. Here are five of the best:
- It would cut energy bills by almost £500m a year and reduce carbon emissions by 450,000 tonnes, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.
- It could be invaluable to the nation’s health, providing more daylight for outdoor activities and sports, tackling the obesity epidemic.
- It would improve the mental wellbeing of those most vulnerable to Seasonal Affective Disorder – a seasonal depression that affects one in 15 people, according to the NHS.
- It could boost Britain’s tourism industry by £3.5bn a year, creating up to 80,000 new jobs, according to the Tourism Alliance.
- It could save lives and NHS money by preventing road traffic accidents – a 2009 government report estimated a switch would save about 80 lives a year, and save the NHS around £138m.
All persuasive points, I’m sure you’ll agree. However, I have an even better idea than SDST: it’s called LTFCAT – or Leave the Flaming Clocks Alone Time. It’s a very simple system: pick a time – night time, drive time, any time; set the clocks – and that’s it. No springing forwards or fannying backwards. Anyone desperate enough to catch a few more minutes of the sun’s magical rays can set their own flipping alarm clocks a few hours earlier, and leave the rest of us sleepyheads to snooze. But hey – that’s probably far too straightforward to ever catch on, right?