Miles Kington Remembered: It's when the clocks go forward that the problems begin

What we see during the summer months, though we are never told this, is actually a film of Big Ben projected on to the great landmark
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The Independent Online

(29 march 1988) As you put your clocks forward at the weekend, did you reflect at all on the philosophical paradox involved, on the scientific reasoning behind it, or even on the curious way in which the arrival of British Summer Time makes the weather worse? No, of course you didn't. You just changed your clocks and got on with life. Fortunately, some of our readers are a little more thoughtful than you and have written me some stimulating letters to prove it.

From Mr C Faring

Sir, apart from the five clocks in my house, I also have to change two watches, a tea-maker, a central heating timer, a cooker clock, a clock in my car, two pocket calculators, a computer, a video recorder and the timer on my telephone. This takes me about an hour. All the devices are made in Japan. The Japanese are perfectly capable of incorporating a device which would change the timers to British Summer Time automatically, but they don't. Why not? To make us waste our time changing all these devices. No wonder we are always behind the Japanese. Yours etc.

From Sir Dudley Nightshade

Sir, I rang up British Telecom's recorded time signal just before 2am on Sunday so that I could put my clock forward accurately. I rang off about 20 seconds later. I have since learnt that BT intends to charge me for a phone call of one hour plus 20 seconds, because the time I rang off had now become just after 3am! Can this be right? Yours etc.

From Ken and Sal Green

Sir, we wonder how many of your readers realise that mechanically it is far too difficult to change the time on all faces of Big Ben. What we see during the summer months, though we are never told this, is actually a film of Big Ben projected on to the great landmark. During the allotted night in March, a giant round screen is carefully lowered over each clock-face and invisible projectors are switched on. If you look carefully, you can see the slight trembling of the projection.

Once, passing through Westminster Square very late at night, we looked up at Big Ben and were amazed to see the huge face of Laurence Olivier, deep in embrace with Vivien Leigh, flash fleetingly from the old tower. They must have put on the wrong reel for a moment. Yours etc.

From Major General Streich

Sir, I vividly remember at school a problem put to us by our maths master: if a timepiece has stuck at the same time, does it become more inaccurate when the clocks are put forward? His answer was no, because a clock can only tell the time when it is moving.

Our English master disputed this. He said that Brooke's line about the church clock standing still at 10 to three surely became inaccurate during the summer months, when it should become 10 to four. He even rewrote the couplet for us: "Stands the church clock at 10 to four, and is there honey still in store?"

The maths master was pretty scathing about this, and said that if you put the clocks forward, the old time was really 10 to two, so the English master duly came up with: "Stands the church clock at 10 to two, and is there honey for me and you?"

We always thought that the maths master ended up on top with his own improved couplet: "Stands the church clock at 14.50, and will there be honey if we're nifty?" Yours etc.

From Rhoda Treece

Sir, one of the most curious results of British Summer Time is to be found in the tiny Mills and Boon Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Here, in 1798, the Rev Francis Kittigrew came as a missionary, and here he taught the natives all about God, putting the clocks forward, etc. Unfortunately he perished in a massacre soon afterwards, before he had taught them anything about putting the clocks back again.

Ever since then, the Mills and Boon Islanders have been putting the clock forward and never been putting it back. For long periods in their history they have actually got up at night and gone to bed by day. (This may explain why many Mills and Boon Islanders make natural jazz musicians.) At the moment I believe they are just coming up to Christmas 1989. Yours etc.

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