The clocks turning back can be a time of mixed emotions. We grieve the summer season and evening walks in the daylight. But we also find ourselves looking forward to the calm of the cooler seasons.
Autumn often brings with it a quieter pace of life. If spring is about re-awakening and coming back out into the light, autumn is the time of rejuvenation.
It’s a season of candles, roaring fires, red wine and wrapping up warm for a walk as the trees put on one final, glorious display for us. And it’s when we enter British Winter Time. For many of us, it’s hard to imagine autumn without the clocks going back. It seems as much a part of the season as falling leaves or conkers.
But the practice of changing the clocks only actually started in WWI. The Germans decided to put their clocks forward in spring, to make the most of the extra light. More daylight meant less energy needed for artificial light. Most European countries followed suit. Clocks were then put back to the normal time in autumn.Life in Technicolour
The idea of putting clocks forward in spring had been proposed before. New Zealand almost adopted it back in 1895. It may have been this that prompted a British man, William Willett, to launch a campaign to put the clocks forward in spring. (Interesting fact: Willett was the great-great-grandfather of Coldplay’s Chris Martin, which brings a whole new perspective to the band’s song ‘Clocks’.)
Apparently, Willett wanted lighter evenings so that he could play golf for longer. However, he didn’t want to change the clocks by a whole hour in one go. His suggestion was for clocks to be put forward by 20 minutes at a time, each of the four Sundays in April, and then back in the same way throughout September.
Sadly, Willett died in 1915, just one year before daylight saving time was finally brought in. When WWI ended, the practice of changing the clocks continued. In summer, it gives farmers longer to work (without having to start at 3am). And in winter, it means school children can walk to and from school in daylight.
Of course, not everyone likes the practice. Many people feel that it interrupts our natural body clock (acting like mini jet lag if you will). Some people would rather we stick to GMT all year around, while others believe we should put the clocks forward an hour in spring and leave them there for good.
The EU has actually voted to stop the practice, with some countries choosing to keep ‘winter time’ all year around, and others to keep ‘summer time’. However, the change has yet to happen, partly due to the pandemic.