Monday, 31 March 2008

The reality of British Summer Time

Yesterday evening, to mark the start of British Summer Time, Lois and I cycled down to the very top of Morecombe Bay: the estuary of the River Kent at Arnside. We set off late enough just to be able to get there, drink a pint and return before it got dark. And thus we had the very first hint of the summer’s evening rides to come. (Not summer yet, of course. There’s still snow on the hills here.)

Of course, whilst the days are now genuinely longer than winter, nothing has really changed by the start of Summer Time. To have a three hour expedition, we could simply have set off three hours before the gloaming on the previous day. But that would have been more of a late afternoon’s ride rather than an evening expedition. Even though the status of the ride has changed from one to the other simply by recent (since either yesterday or 1916) collective fiat, it has a much greater experiential solidity than that might imply.

In this it seems to be a good example of Wittgenstein’s discussion of seeing when he describes seeing a schematic triangle as either standing on its base or hanging from its apex. Whilst it might be that subjects used such descriptions interchangeably, realising that both may be applied to the same figures, as a matter of fact people do find one more compelling than another in particular contexts. So, once the time change has properly ‘taken’ it becomes impossible to think that, eg., it is either 6pm BST or 5pm GMT. No, it really is just 6pm in the only real time, now. Odd how real what is merely a convention can seem.