The last couple of weeks have made me think about time and the ways in which we relate to it. It started with a trip to New York, the city that famously never sleeps (quite a contrast to rural Somerset). The day after I arrived, Daylight Saving Time began and the clocks went forward; having gained five hours by crossing the Atlantic, I now had to hand one of them straight back… so where did it go?
I arrived back in Britain a week later to unseasonal heavy snowfall, the emerging spring shrouded in grey and white. Having flown 3,465 miles in just over 6 hours, it took us another 4 hours to drive the remaining 120 miles home. The word ‘journey’ has its origins in the Old French journée, relating to the distance travelled in one day, and it struck me how the relationship between time and distance is far less predictable in our twenty-first century than it once used to be.
Then, a week after my return, the clocks went forward here too. By now everybody has just about adapted to the effect this has had on our internal body rhythms. In his fascinating book Why We Sleep, neuroscientist Matthew Walker explains the workings of the human body’s 24-hour clock or circadian rhythm (and, incidentally, provides a great defence of the lie-a-bed ways of owls like me who happen to live with chirpy larks). Regardless of where the hands might be pointing on a clock face, our bodies are naturally tuned to the wider environment and the rising and setting of the sun.
As well as possessing inner body clocks, it seems to me that we are each of us flesh-and-blood calendars or diaries, shaped by our individual relationship to time, how it feels to us and how we use it (and are used by it). The longer days are summer’s invitation to us to stay awake, get out and engage with the world.