Twice a year I resolve not to comment on BST (British Silly Time), or DST, Daylight Saving Time in in international terms.
And it seems that I am fated to fail in this resolve twice a year, every year.
Last time, as we moved the clocks back an hour so that dark evening got even darker an hour earlier than they had been, I discovered that something had gone wrong with most of my radio-controlled timepieces, both clocks and watches. Until then, these little gems had faithfully looked after themselves, and set themselves overnight as the BST change arrived. But, as of October 2012, all but one has resolutely refused to look after itself, and no longer appears able to pick up the DCF77 time signal.
I had been waiting for the day we moved the clocks forward an hour, so that the light evening we were already enjoying stayed lighter for an hour longer, curious to see if the DCF77 signal was maybe boosted for a while, to ensure that anyone relying on it received the time code to make the change. I needn’t have bothered. While the one remaining clock that seems to receive this signal continuously dutifully changed it time as expected, none of the others (clocks or watches) changed, or even indicated that they were receiving a signal.
So far, I have only tried looking up the data for DCF77, but failed to find any technical reason or bulletin explaining why we no longer seem to be receiving a universally usable signal in Glasgow. According to data, we are well within range for reliable reception – and I have also taken some of the timepieces for a walk, to see if moving them a few miles into a different area, more open area, or higher reception point made any difference. It didn’t.
While there was a ‘Help’ file, I didn’t notice an enquiry address, and DCF77 originates in Germany – and I don’t speak or write German. But I will have another look, since this clock shift failed to see any improvement.
I added another clock since the last time shift, a completely analogue type with no signal strength meter, indicators, or even adjustments. It just starts working when you put the battery in, and sets itself within a few hours.
It also failed to make the hours shift for BST, but I know it is receiving because it checks and resets itself every three hours, with a major reset at 3 am when it syncs all the hands if it thinks this is needed. Since I am usually making the last cup of tea or coffee of the day at that time, I often see this happening, so that’s how I know it works.
I’ll have to dig out the manual, and find out if there is a button to press to force to shift and correct for the silly hour.
More in November, no doubt.
It’s funny how the twice-yearly insanity of shuffling clocks back and forth by an hour in response to a wartime plan intended to boost the hours of productive labour during daylight hours has managed to stick, and how irritating I have come to find it.
But it seems I can’t, as each year seems to bring about some daft claim or revelation about the practice, or result in some further nuisance following the change.
And I do change my own clocks etc, despite having various radio-controlled and GPS based timing devices, I am in no hurry to give up the hardware that has worked reliably for years – and only protests when I interfere with it every six months.
But this year’s problem came from an unexpected source – the lump of rather expensive titanium I wrap around my wrist to help prevent me staying out of doors too long.
In theory, having told it where I live (this toy was made just before the managed to create a GPS version that did not eat batteries), my watch should not need to be touched for at least 25 years (so will probably last longer than me). Thanks to radio-control from Germany, it should look after itself, including any changes to accommodate what is now referred to as DST or daylight saving time – better known here as BST or British silly time. It should need nothing else except a dash of sunshine to keep it powered, or a few minutes under a cloudy sky. In the worst case of being forgotten in a drawer somewhere, it will shut itself down (displays off and hands stopped) and keep time internally for at least five years, springing into life automatically when light falls on it.
But this year has seen something go wrong, and so far, thanks to an instruction manual as thick as a finger and in micro-type (I can’t be bothered loading the CD that came with it), I still haven’t been able to track down the source of the problem.
Although it shows perfect UTC, local time has suffered some sort of nervous breakdown, partly due to DST (which it did not reset itself for), and partly down to me pressing some button or function, which has added another hour to the apparent DST error.
So far, I have succeeded in getting it show local time that is two hours ahead of the actual time, and have also managed to convince the time signal receiver that it should be using the Japanese time reference – despite the programming showing the watch as being located in London, the representative city for the UK
So, once again, BST has given rise to yet another blog entry here… and it’s an ongoing one until I find out what button I pressed when I shouldn’t.
Assuming I do plough through the manual and find out where the anomaly is, I will come back and add an ‘Update’ below.
I did eventually haul out the watch manual and plough through the various ‘fault’ offerings, and even found out what was wrong.
The watch has a ‘check’ function, which sets all the hands to a known reference point at which they should all correspond to 00:00:00 for time, or their default indication if they show a setting.
When I set this off… when the hands stopped moving, they were pointing in all sorts of directions, suggesting that the last BST/DST signal had been scrambled, and screwed the whole thing up.
I reset all the hands to their correct reference points, and then waited for a few nights to see if the DCF77 signal set the watch correctly… it didn’t.
Although disappointed by this, I also was not surprised.
Over the past year or so, seven of the ten clocks I have which use DCF77 to maintain their timekeeping have gradually failed to pick up this signal, and this has now fallen to only two successfully maintaining themselves.
I recently took the watch out for a long walk, out into the open and several miles from home, but repeated attempts to sniff the signal from Frankfurt failed completely, with the signal meter not even registering at the lowest level.
Even in Central Scotland, the range is only some 600 km from the Frankfurt transmitter, which should be well within the reliable operating range for a 77 kHz LF signal, especially when it is reported to work reasonably well all the way out to 2,000 km from the source.
Sure, I could set it using the manual option… but that’s not the idea, and it still leaves me with the mystery of the disappearing DCF77 signal, which might be seasonal (but has not been a problem over past winters), or down to maintenance, but I can find no service notices, and doubt if this would last for months anyway.
I had deliberately decided not to mention BST, but the arrival of evenings that mean I can walk to and from the shops in daylight – to be followed a few days later by the crazy shifting of the clocks to “make things lighter” is just too much to resist.
That said, apart from noting that we have been subject to this insanity again – and that the even more insane idea of applying ‘Double Summer Time” means that the possibility of something better being adopted – I really will say little more.
I didn’t even know it was that day again, and only found out when I looked at some of my older clocks this morning. I never saw or heard any mention of the shift on the TV or similar. Don’t they bother making the effort any longer? Has digital TV, cell phones, and GPS (I’ll exclude SatNav, since users of this are generally too thick to know what the time is anyway) led to the end of anyone caring about ‘moving’ the clock?
Everything else, including my laptop and watch, had updated itself without me having to touch them.
The watch is the spookiest – it doesn’t need anything at all done to it for the next 25 years, doesn’t need any adjustment, and doesn’t need any batteries either. All I have to is strap it on whenever I want to have it with me, and it is always working and always right.
Do vote below, thanks.
A few weeks after this upsetting event for clocks around the land, it seems someone noticed that it also had an adverse effect on teenagers.
Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather after reading that shocking surprise and revelation (aye, right).
These researchers must think we are mugs, and give them their research money just for turning up and having an idea.
Almost anyone who ever was a teenager, and can remember that far back, already knew this, and how the last thing you had in those days was a stable sleep cycle – EVEN if you tried!
Always wish I could have landed a job where I got paid for stating the blindingly obvious (but never got that lucky) 🙂
As expected, the bill to allow a three-year trial into the actual – as opposed to imagined – effect of changing DST (daylight saving time) in the UK was scuppered, as the now well-used ploy of time-wasting was used to ensure it was not even formally considered.
The cynical might ask why, since the present form of this proposal has been drafted in such as way as to make it virtually unsupportable anyway – and the recent revival of calls for a referendum on Scottish independence provided an opportunity for that to be thrown into the mix, together with the various lies that some Scottish politicians propagated some years ago (sorry, I thought the links to the news stories about these were in here, but they’re buried in the Forum), when there was a concerted bid to torpedo the same idea when the first trial was conducted some years ago.
You really don’t have to do anything to make this idea sink now – I doubt there would ever be enough support to pass the idea of moving the clocks forward an hour BOTH in summer AND winter, meaning that they will be TWO hours ahead of where they are today during winter.
I actually remember the original trial, and I have even worked in a job where we had to be at our desks for 6 am (no, you won’t find me shovelling stuff around a farm). Getting up at 5 am is not really difficult – the so-called ‘problem’ has more to do with breaking out of the conventional 9-to-5 mindset we are brainwashed into accepting as ‘normality’.
If they did actually want this bill to pass one day – which they clearly never do – then all they would propose is ending the current practice of putting the clocks back an hour in autumn.
I don’t actually care about the morning, going to work or whatever… it’s always dark in winter (even the NFU has realised this, and apparently no longer vehemently opposed the idea of a change). But the evening is a different matter (you can finish early, and have things like half-days to enjoy), and come the end of October, as an ‘inside’ worker, this means that one day I can be happy going home with at least a little daylight to be seen around 5 pm, but overnight, find that I have weeks when I will probably not see any daylight at all, unless I get a pass to go out during the day.
Anyway, with the daft version of the bill now all but dead, I’m just mentioning it now, since it may be some time before the opportunity presents itself again.
For what it’s worth, I’ve stuck a little poll at the foot of this post.
A bid to move the clocks forward by an hour all year round failed in the House of Commons after the legislation ran out of time.
The Daylight Saving Bill would have commissioned a detailed study into the costs and benefits of moving the clocks forward to Greenwich Mean Time plus one hour in the winter and two in the summer, followed by a possible three-year trial.
Despite UK Government support for the study, the proposal faced opposition from a determined group of MPs who believed the extra hour of darkness in the morning would cause problems, particularly in the north of the country.
Daylight savings bid fails to pass House of Commons
The focused opposition saw the Daylight Saving Bill fail to make progress after a series of votes on Friday. Delays in the voting lobbies saw some divisions take longer than normal.
At the Bill’s report stage, Tory Christopher Chope MP said “the Achilles heel” of the legislation was that “it enables the United Kingdom Government to change the time zone in Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament”.
The Bill required the Government to “consult” Scottish and Welsh ministers and obtain the agreement of the Northern Irish first and deputy first ministers, but Mr Chope said that did not go far enough.
“We know that the Scottish Parliament and that MPs representing Scottish constituencies in this House do not support a change that would make winter mornings in Scotland even colder and darker than they are already,” he said.
I have to give at least a passing mention to work of an ‘old friend’ which seems to be paying off in the long term, as the NPL (National Physical Laboratory), Teddington, has been found to hold the atomic clock with the best long-term accuracy of any such device in the world.
Determining this is anything but quick or simple, requiring years of inter-comparison with similar devices around the world, and much analysis of the results.
I had to add the (today) part to the title of this post, since these comparisons never end, nor does the research involved in improving these atomic clocks, so the title of ‘most accurate’ could easily change hands each time this test is carried out.
On the other hand, these things also depend on established stability, so unless something significant happens to upset this, it’s also likely that the change will not happen suddenly, so they can enjoy the fame – for a while at least.
An atomic clock at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has the best long-term accuracy of any in the world, research has found.
Studies of the clock’s performance, to be published in the journal Metrologia, show it is nearly twice as accurate as previously thought.
The clock would lose or gain less than a second in some 138 million years.
The UK is among the handful of nations providing a “standard second” that keeps the world on time.
However, the international race for higher accuracy is always on, meaning the record may not stand for long.
I find myself in agreement with those opposing the current plans to adopt recommendations that British Summer Time (BST) be maintained during the winter months, and that double summertime be applied to the current BST period, putting the UK one hour ahead of GMT during winter, and two hours ahead during summer. This proposal is referred to as Single/Double Summer Time (SDST), and would effectively mean the UK adopting the same time zone as central European countries, Central European Time and Central European Summer Time.
When I wrote about the silliness of clock-shifting before, Crazy time comes but twice a year it was not with SDST in mind.
While I have never been a fan of the current system, whereby we are on GMT during winter, and then put the clocks forward by one hour for summer to have BST, I can see why there are many who are not keen on the SDST proposal, which would follow that with the addition of a second hour during winter.
Adding that further hour on to the hour already added on for the present BST arrangement does indeed seem excessive at out latitude, even if it does bring us into line with European time.
Currently, my problem comes at the end of summer, when we have to put our clocks back by one hour for the winter. When we do this, I find that one day I am happily working away outside until early evening, and it is light. The next day, I have to give up an hour earlier because it is too dark.
I don’t find any advantage in the shift from BST, and find I am still travelling to and from an 8 am to 5 pm job in the dark, morning or evening, so neither gain nor lose in the supposed safety stakes, and 8 to 5 must cover a lot of common working hours.
Keeping BST seems so simple, and brings the best of both worlds – no step change in morning or evening light, and no need to go and play with all the clocks and watches. Even many radio-controlled clocks fail to have sophisticated code or ship-sets that takes account of this change automatically, and I find I still have to run around and change a number of these manually, despite their supposed control.
There just seem so little point in SDST – other than to create ill-feeling and opposition to the plan – let’s just make things simple, keep the current BST year round, and forget about the current twice yearly clock-shifting fiasco (and SDST).
It’s funny how one can be completely unaware of something that should be reasonably obvious, or a fact that should have come to light a long time ago.
Although I have been visiting Edinburgh for many years, I can’t recall ever having been there when the famous One O’Clock Gun has been fired. There would seem to be a number of reasons for this, mainly that I usually get there too late in the day, or in the evening, which seems to be when most of the performances I like to catch at the Edinburgh Festival (or Fringe to be more accurate) take place. However, I have just learned – while reading about the 150th anniversary of the gun – that it doesn’t fire on Sundays, and that’s the only day I’m likely to land there early enough to have heard it.
Well, I least I know now, and have even learned something new.
The reason for the gun’s signal lies in the presence of the docks at Leith. Accurate timekeeping at sea is an essential prerequisite for the determination of longitude, and ships could use this carefully timed signal to set the clocks, or chronometers.
Prior to this, the signal had been sent by a ‘Time Ball’ set on a tower on Calton Hill, adjacent to the observatory on the same hill. The ball would be raised before one o’clock, and then dropped on the hour. The problem with this method was that the boats had to arrange for an observer to watch for the signal – and be able to see it – and then convey the event to their clock. All these operations could lead to an error in the setting, which would lead to an error when they tried to fix their positions at sea.
You can read more on the event, and of its connection with Greyfriar’s Bobby, a little Skye Terrier which was cared for by the elderly John Gray for the last two years of his life. After Gray died, the little dog was said to have guarded his grave for fourteen years, capturing the heart of the Lord Provost, William Chambers (whose statue stands nearby on Chambers Street). Chambers organised for the Town Council to pay for Bobby’s dog licence, and saved him from being rounded up and destroyed. Bobby was buried just outside the graveyard, near where his stone now stands. One of the most famous images of Edinburgh is the statue of Bobby on the George IV Bridge, near the entrance to the graveyard, where it was erected the year after Bobby died on January 14,1872.
More reports of events related to the One O’Clock Gun arrived in June, when a re-enactment of the first firing in 1861 took place to mark its first ever firing…
It was first fired from the historic setting in the capital on 7 June 1861, and has continued ever since, except during the two world wars.
The gun was originally a 64-pounder cannon mounted on the Half-Moon Battery.
It is now a L118 Light Gun, fired manually by the district gunner, Sgt Jamie Shannon, from the Mills Mount Battery.
There are those little things that never cease to amaze one, and seem to survive regardless of how they may appear to defy logic.
One appeared on the news this week, as some crazy woman was interviewed on breakfast TV, complaining about a rumour that smoking in cars was to be banned. Apparently unable to present any form of reasoned case in favour of smoking in cars, all she could do was repeatedly ask where the evidence was for the danger of passive smoking, and that it actually presented any danger to children. Well, that one could go on for ever, but it could be argued she made a pretty good case for brain damage being one of the consequence of smoking.
However, this week’s cause is that of DST, or daylight saving time, British summer time, or whatever.
It happens this weekend, and on Sunday, March 28, 2010, at 01:00:00 (or 1:00 am), you have to get up and move all your clocks and watches forward one hour, so that they show 02:00:00 (or 2:00 am).
This nonsense is all supposedly for the benefit of safety and to help with dark nights (or it morning, who knows, it makes no real difference in today’s 24-hour world/society) – as it the corresponding shift backward by one hour at the end of October.
I’m sure it had its uses in the dark ages, and even during the war, when we got double summer time, and in more recent times, even the issue of energy has been used as an excuse to mess around with the time. It all seems rather pointless now. As I walk home in the evening, it is now usefully light until almost 7 pm – many hours after the schools have emptied their contents onto the roads to face the dangers of traffic, so it wasn’t dark then. Nor is the October time shift any better, as it’s already dark in the evenings, and the shift back of an hour merely plunges us into darkness an hour earlier.
Many groups have called for the United Kingdom’s summer time schedule to be extended for the entire year, particularly in recent times. Some people believe that a “Single Double Summer Time” (SDST), synonymous with UTC+1 in the winter and UTC+2 in the summer, would mean less road accidents, more leisure time, and a boost to tourism and energy efficiency. UTC: coordinated universal time – Greenwich Mean Time updated with leap seconds.
British MP Tim Yeo has campaigned for the UK to observe longer hours of sunlight in the afternoons throughout the year. He unveiled his Private Members Bill in October 2008 to tackle fuel poverty and energy consumption with the UK Energy Efficiency (Daylight) Act 2009. Mr Yeo invited other UK parliamentary members to support the bill as he believed that it would provide a practical solution to set up a panel to monitor climate change’s effects.
I’m beginning to think it’s all just a conspiracy, to keep the clock industry in business, as the chances of breaking one are greatest when it is being adjusts, and the mechanical type can object as something is turned or screwed the wrong way, or with a little too much enthusiasm, or dropped, with obvious results. Electronic versions seem to fare little better on occasion, and seem to choose such times of adjustment as the the time to mad, and fail in some obscure way the moment a button is pressed.
I thought I had largely moved away from this pantomime, as most of my general use timepieces are radio-controlled (or even web-controlled now), but have variously gone mad as much of the world moved its clocks in the middle of March, so I now have a selection of displays, some already one hour ahead, some not – and no reason why evident from their manuals. I’ve just had to live with the odd ones over the past few weeks, as manual adjustment of their indicated time is pointless, because they merely readjust themselves the first time they get a sniff of the radio timekeeping signal transmission. It all looked so promising when they changed themselves at the October shift.
Fingers crossed… until October.
Around about this time of year I usually draw attention to the fairly silly procedure we’re all about to be obliged to follow as we set our clocks back by one hour this week, thereby plunging us into evening darkness for the next few months.
Apparently this is supposed to be safer for schoolchildren by giving them more light to get to school by in the morning, but it seems that nobody cares about their safety in the dark evenings, when it would appear that the accident statistics show that more of them are run over and injured on the roads when everyone is tired at the end of the day. I can’t vouch for that claim, as I have no idea who might hold the records that would show it, but it does appear in BBC news stories, so in this case I’ll assume it may not be untrue. It certainly makes sense. More sense perhaps than saying the clocks are shifted to let Scottish farmers milk their cows. I would have thought cows were creatures of habit, and set in the their regular milking way, and to shift their milking time by an hour would not be a “good thing”.
The mad historian of the title is an apparently prominent historian Sir Alistair Horne, who claims to be “99% Scottish”, although I fail to see the relevance to this subject. It would be more useful to know where he lives and works.
He has suggested that it is “absolutely crazy” for the UK to have a different time zone to that of the rest of Europe, and that the UK adopts the same time zone as central Europe, and that Scotland be left with what he refers to as “tundra time”.
He told the BBC’s Today programme: “The Scots do have a problem because, being that much nearer the North Pole, they do have a very short day. But when you look at the map of time zones it is absolutely crazy.”
He also cited the example of the eurostar link between London and Paris (a very important thing for Scots – not!).
“You can be in France in 21 minutes but you have to change your clocks and work out when all your appointments are,” he said. (It’s clearly tough to be a prominent historian AND be able to do complex arithmetic that involves adding or subtracting 1 from the current hour).
Although he goes into this detail fo eurostar travel, he seems to have forgotten to tell us what happens at the Scottish/English border if this small island has a top part (Scotland) one hour adrift from the bottom part (England) and how those responsible for bus, train, and aircraft timetables will cope with arrival and departure time, and the clocks on those vehicles as the pass to and fro across the border on a daily basis. Not to mention the poor car driver and other passengers and travellers.
And what of the poor folk living on each side of the border, where it could be six o’clock on one side, but only five o’clock a few steps away, on the other side.
I don’t usually resort to simply saying someone is talking utter rubbish, but I think an exception may be called for in the case of Sir Alistair Horne’s and his call for “tundra time” for Scotland.
I think I’ve been quite kind to this escapee from you-know-where, after he suggested Scotland be plunged back into the days before the 1840s, when train travellers had to adjust their watches to the local time in every village their train passed through, until 1847, when all trains and stations adopted Greenwich Mean Time, or London time, and time became consistent across the land.
I also think I’ve been kind to him after his remark about “tundra time” for Scotland, tundra being derived from the Finnish word for a barren or treeless land – definitely not a fair description of Scotland, a place people travel to from around the world to enjoy its spectacular scenery.
Read the full article, and then decide if the Scots are due an apology from “99% Scottish”:
One of the things that makes me really glum at this time of year, and which I can never understand, is the moving back of the clocks by one hour at this time of year (you did remember, didn’t you?).
In most respects, it makes no difference to me, but I can’t see the logic of those who claim the clocks are moved on grounds of safety. The change makes no difference to the morning, and anyone that has to travel still travels in darkness unless they start work rather late. I always hate the change from walking home in light one evening, to walking home in the dark virtually the next.
However, school travel is often quoted as the reason, and in the Central belt, the move shift the hours of darkness closer to the time that schools empty, and most workers travel in darkness.
I’d have thought that if the simple motivation was safety for travellers, then it would be better to have the longest period of dark and dusk travel in the morning, when people were alert, and not at the end of the working day, when they’re tired and hungry, and just want to get home as fast as possible.
British Summer Time was introduced in the UK in 1916.
British Summer Time was permanently in force during the Second World War from February 1940 until October 1945 and again from February 1968 until October 1971.
Double summer time was in force from 1941-1947 except for 1946.
The rule for 1981-1994 defined the start of Summer Time as the last Sunday in March and the end as the day following the fourth Saturday in October. The time of change was altered to 1 am (GMT).
In 1996 all clocks in Europe were changed the same date for the first time.
From 1998 BST was kept from the last Sunday in March until the last Sunday in October. This has been adopted as a directive from the European Parliament and was effective from 1998-2001 inclusive.
In 2002 an order was made to link UK summer time (BST) to Europe permanently. This means that the clocks will change over the Easter weekend which historically has not been the case.
Still, we can just enjoy that extra, guilt-free hour in bed – and look forward to the one we’ll lose in Easter.
Just for fun, we’re trying out the new poll option below…
Your scribe admits a peculiar Sunday morning, having been out all day Saturday, then arriving home late and heading to bed without seeing papers, computers, or even television. Still, when you then get up so late that most of the day’s gone, missing one of the year’s two ‘Crazy Clock’ days has little actual impact.
It was interesting to see that Dr Mike Cantlay, convenor of Scotland’s first national park, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, has made a call for clocks to go forward one hour in February, rather than March.
The move is said to be one that would make the streets safer for children in the evening, and is backed by local police, tourism workers, and farmers. It is also suggested that it would be a simple way to gain energy savings, noting that at sunrise, most people are still tucked up in bed.
He specifically notes the daylight hours in the park, with sunrise before 06:00, daylight is already present before that. By the evening, darkness falls by 19:00. Moving the clocks in February would make little difference to the morning, but would yield and extra hour in the evening, benefiting outdoor activities.
Another local activity owner noted that at this time of year, families arrive in the afternoon, but are forced to leave early as darkness falls.
A local farmer observed that the move would allow more time to work with stock in the evenings.
Central Scotland police commented than they believed that more daylight in the evening would cut crime and help reduce anti-social behaviour.
One might wonder why the suggestion stops at February, if the idea of additional daylight at the end of the day, rather than the start, has so many clear advantages. January might be better still, and it may be that shifting the clocks back in October is also too early, and November might be better.
Perhaps it’s time to forget clock-shifting altogether, which was actually introduced as a productivity measure during World War II (and there was even double summer time once). Is there a smattering of smugness on the part of those who hold some sort of pious virtue in boasting about how early they are up and at their work in the morning, and pour scorn on those who don’t do likewise?
Regardless of the reasons, serious or otherwise, it is interesting to see traditional practices, possibly with little reason other than years of adherence, being questioned, and it will also be interesting to see if there is any future result.