Post­cards from the Edge

Soon we’ll lose an hour and have de­press­ingly dark evenings. Can’t we just have eter­nal sum­mer­time?

The Oldie - - CONTENTS - Mary Kenny

Do we have to keep putting the clocks back at the end of Oc­to­ber, and then for­ward again in March (mnemonic: ‘Spring for­ward, fall back’)? Our friend Jean-claude Juncker, the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, says his of­fi­cials will put for­ward a bill abol­ish­ing these sea­sonal times changes.

Good idea. It’s hor­ri­ble when the evening light sud­denly drops an hour at around the Hallowe’en week­end (28th Oc­to­ber this year). This is one EU idea that, surely, the United King­dom should em­brace. And if Ire­land agrees with an EU di­rec­tive to main­tain per­ma­nent ‘sum­mer time’ – and Britain does not – then there could be a ‘time change’ when cross­ing the Ir­ish bor­der, as North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic could be in dif­fer­ent time zones.

Chang­ing the clocks is a sub­ject of con­tin­u­ous Ir­ish de­bate, where the light varies ap­pre­cia­bly be­tween the east and west coast. In County Gal­way, even in the depths of win­ter, it’s never dark be­fore 5pm. Morn­ings are a dif­fer­ent mat­ter: as in Scot­land, bright evenings mean darker morn­ings. Chil­dren walk­ing to school in the dark is an is­sue – although so many chil­dren now go to school by car.

Back in 1916, when the clocks in the Bri­tish Isles were be­ing aligned, there was a move­ment in Ire­land to es­tab­lish ‘Ir­ish time’ – sup­ported by the Catholic Church. The clergy liked the idea that clocks should fol­low na­ture and, as Dublin was about 20 min­utes be­hind Lon­don, ac­cord­ing to the arc of the sun, it should be 20 min­utes later by the clocks.

Per­haps time didn’t mat­ter quite so much then. There was an old coun­try say­ing that ‘When God made time, he made plenty of it.’

Our times are dif­fer­ent now, in ev­ery sense of the word, and clocks and other tim­ing de­vices have to be har­monised to within a par­ti­cle of a se­cond.

Still, keep­ing all-round sum­mer­time is

As I am an Ir­ish cit­i­zen res­i­dent in Kent, it has crossed my mind (and that of many other Gaels in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion) that I might be kicked out of the United King­dom on 29th March next year. I’d not only be sep­a­rated from my beloved English fam­ily, but from my beloved English NHS and my ex­cel­lent Deal GP, Dr Philip Raw­son. The NHS is so dear to us oldies.

But I needn’t have wor­ried: as­sur­ance has been for­mally given by HM Gov­ern­ment that ‘If you are an Ir­ish cit­i­zen, you would con­tinue to have the right to en­ter and re­main in the UK, as now.’ Phew!

If we are hon­est, the Ir­ish al­ways have had their cake and eaten it in this re­spect. When Eire, as it was, de­cided to quit the Com­mon­wealth and re­buffed King Ge­orge VI in 1948, there was some con­cern that Ir­ish work­ers would no longer have ac­cess to Britain. Some sterner in­flu­ences within Clem At­tlee’s ad­min­is­tra­tion wanted Ire­land pun­ished (and At­tlee him­self wasn’t best pleased). But wiser coun­sels pre­vailed: the free flow of labour suited both sides and a deal was made.

The King asked the Ir­ish High Com­mis­sioner if there was any chance of a change of mind. High Com­mis­sioner John Du­lanty diplo­mat­i­cally fudged the ques­tion: he then asked the King’s sec­re­tary if there was any chance of a cou­ple of de­cent tick­ets for As­cot. Horses be­fore pol­i­tics!

Dublin buses now of­fer wi-fi and en­cour­age pas­sen­gers to link into their sys­tem. The usual ques­tions are asked about your name and email and, un­der the ‘gen­der’ cat­e­gory, the pas­sen­ger has three op­tions: male, fe­male or ‘non­bi­nary’. Funny ques­tion. How­ever, I ex­pect Dublin Bus wants to show that it is ‘woke’ – a term which Google de­fines as be­ing ‘of African-amer­i­can ori­gin that refers to a per­ceived aware­ness of is­sues con­cern­ing so­cial jus­tice and ra­cial jus­tice’. And that now in­cludes non­bi­nary gen­der jus­tice.

How­ever many re­peat ref­er­en­dums are of­fered, Southend-on-sea, in Es­sex, will al­ways vote solidly Brexit. A coach ser­vice re­plac­ing Sun­day trains from Southend Air­port took us through the purlieus of the town, awash with St Ge­orge flags, bear­ing the name ‘Eng­land’ across the cen­tral bar of the sin­gle cross.

‘Is there a sport­ing event on?’ I asked the driver. ‘No – peo­ple here are just be­ing pa­tri­otic,’ he replied.

It’s sig­nif­i­cant how, in work­ing-class ar­eas, the ‘Eng­land’ flag has now re­placed the ‘Bri­tish’ flag of the Union Jack. They don’t want the ‘di­verse’ Bri­tish iden­tity: they want to be ‘English’.

This is now con­sid­ered in­su­lar, but ‘Eng­land’ does have more po­etic and his­toric res­o­nance, from Shake­speare to Brooke.

Any­way, if Is­ling­ton can fly the LGBT flag for iden­tity af­fir­ma­tion, let Southend take pride in St Ge­orge’s Cross.

an idea worth dis­cussing at an of­fi­cial level. M Juncker has a sen­si­ble point.

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