Summer time blues

05-11-2006

Last Saturday, October 28th, was a special day in a number of ways. For some it was an election day. Although only for some; just 21 percent of eligible voters took part in the second round of the Senate elections. For others it was a day of remembrance - though not everyone was aware that last Saturday marked the 88th anniversary of an independent Czechoslovakia. But most people couldn't ignore the fact that the clocks went back again on Saturday night.

Daylight saving time, known as letni cas (summer time) in Czech, switched back to standard time and the night suddenly falls so much earlier - as if the sun did not set early enough owing to the tilt of the earth's axis.

Summer time in this country was first put in effect in the later years of the First World War and then again as an energy-saving measure during WWII. At one point then it was in place non-stop for more than two years. The measure was adopted again in the late 1940s. In 1996 summer time was extended by a month, in line with EU regulations, so now it is actually in place for the bigger part of the year.

The original reason for implementing summer time was energy savings but they are said to be negligible these days. But people seem to be enjoying summer time and it looks like it is not going to be abolished any time soon. But summer time has its vocal opponents, too. Perhaps the best-known in the Czech Republic is a middle-aged baker from the town of Chrudim. I can imagine it makes a difference for someone like him - having to get up at 3 or 2 am to go to work. A few years ago he ran for president promising he would get rid of the measure. This year again, he ran for a seat in the Senate, but did not find enough support for his cause.

A psychologist cited by the CTK news agency said that our bodies are greatly relieved when the clocks go back once again in the autumn, because they had been functioning in an unnatural rhythm all summer. She said the return to standard time is a return to our natural biorhythms, our relations to the earth and the sun. Well, the only advantage I myself can see there is that one extra hour of sleep I get from it.

On the other hand, in the spring, I do not mind losing that one hour because the later sunsets and longer evenings more than make up for it. Actually, I would be in favour of summer time being in place all year round AND the clocks moving one hour forward in the summer on top of it. Who needs daylight at 4 am? As that is highly unlikely to happen, I am quite happy with the way it is now. The only downside to summer time I can think of is having to dig out the manuals to my VCR and microwave twice a year to be able to set the clocks back one hour.

05-11-2006