Fall Back in the South of France

gold against blue skyThis weekend, the U.S. and Canada switch back to standard time. Europe did it last weekend, “falling back” to gain an hour. The education ministry wisely times school vacations around the fall and spring time changes so kids have a chance to adjust. It’s harder in spring–getting up an hour earlier is misery.

The fact that North America and Europe don’t change time on the same dates further complicates things. In the fall, the difference between Central European Time and Eastern Time shrinks to five hours, instead of six, for one week. But in spring, that difference grows to seven hours instead of six for a week, which, at my former employer, we called “Hell Week.”winding pathNobody likes the early darkness of winter. In fact, a survey in the EU found 84% of people wanted to quit changing between daylight saving and standard time. The EU is considering staying on daylight saving time permanently with the next switch, in spring. That could be tricky for the U.K., which is supposed to leave the EU in March 2019.

In any case, all 28 EU members and the EU parliament would have to approve the change, which has yet to be formally proposed.

crazy striped plant
What is this crazy Dr. Seuss plant with a striped stem and feathery greens?

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin came up with Daylight Saving Time, in order to shift schedules so people would have more active time with natural light. What good is all that sunshine at 4 a.m. when it could be better enjoyed at 8 p.m.? Daylight Saving Time is supposed to save energy by taking advantage of natural light, but I also read that the savings is exaggerated.

On the other hand, I think of places like Belgium, where a dim dawn breaks around 8:30 or 9 in December and is extinguished around 4:30 p.m., with penumbra in between. Keeping Daylight Saving Time year-round would mean sunrise close to 10 a.m. and sunset around 5:30 p.m. I would not want to be a kid in school in the dark for two hours. Or a teacher trying to get the attention of a room full of kids when outside the windows it looks like bedtime.

yellow leaf road
The yellow-leaf road

When I lived in Africa, I was close enough to the Equator that sometimes water went down the drain in my sink clockwise and sometimes counter-clockwise. (It goes down clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.) I had no running water–well, I had to run with a bucket from either an outdoor spigot shared by a bunch of houses or from the stream at the bottom of the hill I lived on. But it was nice to have a sink anyway.

The sun rose almost precisely at 7 a.m. and set almost precisely at 7 p.m. In fact, 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. also were referred to as one o’clock, because it was the first hour of either daytime or nighttime. Very logical. However, when arranging a time to meet somebody, you always had to be sure you were talking about the same system or you would be six hours off.leaning treeOn the equinox, I excused myself from the class I was teaching to step outside and, indeed, in the blazing sunshine, my shadow was directly under me, almost like no shadow at all. On the solstices, the most the days’ length would change was about 15 minutes.

Sunrise and sunset were abrupt, too. At 6:45 p.m. you could be walking home in blazing sunshine and at 7:10 p.m. you would be in darkness so black you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. I remember a trip back to my old home with a colleague. We had gone to see a mission that helped kids with polio. At least that’s what they did in the 1980s. The Polish nuns informed us, oh, my, polio is gone and that now they helped kids born crippled by birth defects (the kids were educated, taught trades and, every year, some Italian doctors would fly in to operate on those who would benefit from it). I tell you, the news made me cry. There IS progress in the world and vaccines DO work.line of treesAnyway, we had to walk 30-45 minutes back to the town, and then another 15 minutes to the hotel, which was at the edge of a private wildlife reserve WITH LIONS. I kept telling my friend to hurry up. She was sweating in the heat and telling me not to worry, that we had plenty of time. Eventually a pickup rumbled by on the dirt track. I wildly waved for it to stop, and they gave us a lift–we were in the back, which was full of sheep. They dropped us off in the town and we set off for the hotel, my friend clucking at me that it was still plenty light and I was panicking about nothing. We were about five minutes from the hotel when the sun set as starkly as a light switching off. We weren’t eaten, and that was the last of her questioning my warnings.

The nice part about early evenings is the excuse to get out candles. We had a few days of cold last week, and the air smelled of wood fires from fireplaces. The leaves are starting to change, though the tomato plants are still producing and we’re supposed to get balmy temperatures in the upper teens Celsius (upper 60s Fahrenheit) this weekend. T-shirt weather clashes with the first Christmas decorations being hung in Carcassonne and Christmas stuff in stores.

river
The same stream that flooded a couple of weeks ago.

Do you like the switch from Daylight Saving Time? Are you eager for Christmas?