What time is it?

Is it just me that has the problem with the words ‘backwards’ and ‘forwards’ in the context of clocks changing their times, as we prepare to revert to GMT? Are we going to gain an hour, or lose an hour? At least I have spotted that there will be a change before the event – there have certainly been occasions when I only found out I’d lost or gained an hour when arriving late – or was it early? – at some event the next day.

I don’t wear a watch, so I am a little dependent on others for time (I am very irritating in this respect). I don’t like the sensation of the strap on my wrist. I do have a watch, but it’s jammed in the bottom of a pocket, and, last time I looked, I noticed it was telling a strange tale about time. That’s because the battery had gone dead. I still find the idea of a battery in a watch unsettling. It looks as if it should have cogs, but no: inside it is the handiwork of a factory-worker in the Far East.

On the other hand, I do like clocks. I like them as objects, rather than as timepieces, and that of course would have offended my mother’s superstitious nature, since having a stopped clock is supposed to – what? – bring you out in warts? doom you to eternal damnation? (Milliners are notoriously superstitious, and an article in a 1960s journal notes that the hat-maker Jacques Desses not only feared a stopped clock, but also a Tuesday). My grandfather, whom I dimly remember (my mother’s father, who died when I was just six) had a house full of clocks, and he stood me at the bottom of his staircase at noon to hear them all go off, in perfect synchronisation. For my fifth birthday, he gave me a cuckoo-clock, which was given pride of place in the family home, although it always cuckooed at five to the hour after a few years.

There is much to write about time, which was a mobile concept in the medieval ages, with many different time-zones operating, sometimes in adjacent villages. And I think I’m right in saying that some of the Orthodox churches are still following the Julian calendar, which we abandoned in 1752 by knocking off eleven days from the year. This is why our tax year starts on April 6th. At the time we knocked off the eleven days, New Year’s day was March 25th. After some casual rioting by tax-payers about being charged a year’s whack for a day which was light of a week-and-a-half, they extended the tax year (and added a year for good measure). A little later, they moved the start of the year back to January 1st (irrational in itself, since January is the eleventh month, coming after October, November, December, which even my schoolboy Latin tells me are months eight, nine and ten).

One of the days they knocked out was September 3rd, my birthday. So, exactly 200 years before I was born, there was no day at all. I could go with this wittering, but I haven’t the time…

The blog is going to miss a day because I won’t have access to the internet for 48 hours. Or perhaps 47. Or there again, 49. Whichever, it’s a kind of relief.

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