The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Spring 2014 Results

Saving Time

Copyright © Geoff Covey 2014

By the beginning of December, most of Australia (in terms of population) will have been on daylight saving for two months or so. On the basis that we save one hour of daylight per day this means that we will have saved two whole days. Therefore December 32nd and 33rd will be introduced to the calendar to allow for this.

Tasmania went into daylight saving one month earlier and has saved an extra day. Therefore they will observe Christmas Day on December 24th. Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory don’t use daylight Saving, so they will have to miss Christmas Day and New Years Day, to catch up with the rest of us. (Australian Antarctic Territory was disqualified for having one day that lasted six months.)

The concept of daylight saving was apparently first proposed by Benjamin Franklin. With all the time he spent inventing things and practicing being a lightning conductor, he never had time to become President – if daylight saving had been adopted, he might have had more time, but only the President could make such a decision…[help I am stuck in an infinite loop].

Notwithstanding Benjamin Franklin, the first actual use of daylight saving appears to have been in UK during World War I to improve production in munitions factories. Like income tax, daylight saving was a war time measure only (when someone gets around to telling the Tax Office that Napoleon has surrendered, we can all stop paying income tax). Unlike income tax, daylight saving did actually end with the end of World War I. So proponents of the scheme started World War II so that they could get daylight saving back.

When it was reintroduced in Britain, the country was facing a very bleak time. So as a morale booster the scheme was called “Summer Time”. Despite the bad military situation, rationing and dismal weather it was officially Summer, and this gave everyone a big lift.

Come winter the country was also facing a massive fuel shortage. A cunning civil servant (one suspects he was an economist by training) solved general problems at once by introducing permanent daylight saving. This meant that it was now Summer time in Wintertime. This boosted morale immensely, because people living on the cold wet island (where I was born and grew up) thought they were living in the tropics – the only other place that has Summertime All The Time. Not only were they cheered up, but they felt foolish if they went to light the fire when it was Summer time? This helped them not notice that there was no coal to light the fire with anyway.

By the time the next spring came around, the war prospects had not improved too much. So on the basis of “don’t let go of a good thing”, it was decided that summer there would be two hours of daylight saving each day and thus the country got Double Summertime. People are still trying to work out what that actually meant, but it certainly made them feel better.

With the end of that summer (double summer actually) and the coming of winter, many in the government wanted to keep the idea rolling, and have Double Summer time in Winter time. However the war was going better, but more importantly the supply of furnishing fabrics was almost exhausted. With all the extra day light peoples curtains were fading far too rapidly, and on balance it was felt that the loss of morale from looking at faded curtains would exceed the boost in morale from having Double Summer time in Winter time. So for the rest of the War the people of Britain had Double Summer time in Summer time and Single Summer time in Winter time and their curtains just lasted out the hostilities.

BUT WAIT – suppose the plan to have Double Summer time in Winter time had been adopted? Obviously the next Summer time they would have had Triple Summer time and that Winter time they would have had Triple Summer time as well and the next Summer time they would have had Quadruple Summer time …etc. etc.

With all the day light saved, Britain could have launched its attack on Germany sooner. And because the Germans did not have day light saving they would have had less time to organise their defences. The net result would have been that the War would have been over one year earlier – and peoples' curtains would not have had time to fade. So the War lasted longer just because some civil servants could not understand simple logic.

Sorry if this seems a little hurried – I needed to save some time.