The Calendar Bill
Ladies, Gentlemen, Honourable Members,
I would like to thank the House for giving me the opportunity to present this; a Private Member’s Bill on Daylight Saving Time and the Rationalisation of the Calendar.
Moving the clocks forward every spring – and backwards every autumn – has long been a bone of contention. It was an idea first mooted at the end of the 19th century and initially adopted by Germany during the First World War. Within two years it had spread throughout the northern hemisphere because – and this is important – it suited those nations at that time. Since then, of course, Daylight Saving Time has been repealed in many countries, including several of the States of America, but not yet in the British Isles.
It is my contention that Daylight Saving Time has outgrown its purpose but this Bill is about more than clocks being changed twice a year. It is about the very measurement of time itself.
I do not intend to give a history lesson but it may be helpful to put this Bill in some sort of a historical context.
As we all know, the measurement of time is an artificial construct. For the vast majority of mankind’s existence, time was measured according to the position of the sun in the sky, by the phases of the moon and by the changing of the seasons.
The length of the solar year has been known for thousands of years and various cultures have attempted to break it down in many and various ways. The Mayans used an 18 month calendar of twenty days – with an extra five days of festivities tagged on to the end. The Egyptians divided their year into 12 lunar months – separated into 3 seasons. The ancient Greek system was closer to our own with 12 months of 29 days or 30 days – and an extra month inserted every second year, in order to get the whole thing to add up.
Interestingly, the ancient Romans used variable length hours to mark off time during the day. A Roman day always included 12 hours of daylight. For this to work it meant that, in the summer, each hour was made longer and, in the winter, every hour was made shorter. This may seem strange to us now but I assure you this worked in ancient Rome.
It was, however, the Romans who invented the calendar as we recognise it today. And the Julian calendar carried on working – in mainland Europe – until the 16th century. In Britain it took another 200 years to catch up on the new fangled Gregorian calendar. When the British Calendar Act of 1751 was finally passed it eradicated 12 days of September overnight. Before then, when it had been the 17th of December in England it was already the 29th of December in France so anyone travelling to Paris for the holidays would have missed Christmas before they’d even set off.
I apologise; this is not a history lesson although I will quickly point out the unusual case of February 30th – which was last seen in Sweden in 1712.
The point I am endeavouring to make is that the marking of time is indeed a human construct and an arbitrary thing. Ladies & Gentlemen, Honourable Members, I say the time is ripe to make time itself work to our own advantage.
Let us start by looking at the seven day week. Most of us work hard; too hard. For generations we have been faced with the standardised week where we go to work for five days and have two days to recover. In terms of the work-life balance this cannot be healthy. The obvious answer is to change this to a four day / three day split. But already I hear objections from employers and businesses. Indeed they make a valid point. I know with my own work that I need at least five days to complete all of my allotted tasks, and sometimes more. So my first proposal is to leave the working week at five days but to increase the length of weekends with an additional two days. This would give us five days at work and four days to enjoy the many splendoured things that make life worthwhile.
Ladies, Gentlemen, Honourable Members, I would like to commend this Bill by first proposing the nine day week.
But that is not all. In every year the typical British worker is afforded four, five or at best six weeks holiday a year. Again I say this cannot be right: that a man or woman should spend over 90% of their weeks at work.
Let me quickly say that there is no need to spell out the objections for I know them all too well. For British business to be competitive we need to put in as many working weeks as our European neighbours – and even more than the rapidly developing industrial nations of South East Asia. For this reason I propose adding 3 extra working weeks to each and every year. But! (And there is a ‘but’.) In order to compensate for these extra working weeks I would also like to append a further 5 weeks holiday into every year. These extra eight weeks would be accommodated with the inclusion of two additional calendar months, one of which will be named the month of Stan-uary – and the other Pen-tember. I trust this meets with the House’s approval.
I can see some of you trying to do the maths – and struggling badly. Please bear with me for all will become clear soon enough.
Before we try to square the circle, I would like us to take a closer look at the length of our days.
It is true that the Earth spins on its axis approximately once every twenty four hours. I say ‘approximately’ because it is approximate at best and this is the reason why we have to make a small adjustment to the astronomical clock every 20 years or so. But just because the Earth spins once every twenty four hours it is not necessarily true that, as a species, our biological rhythms work to the same schedule.
I know this may appear incongruous but let me make myself plain. Many people will recognise the phenomenon that we go to bed when we are not tired and force ourselves up every morning through the use of alarm clocks. Left to our own devices the vast majority of us would prefer another hour in bed.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to propose the addition of one extra hour in twenty four. I would give you the 25 hour day.
And so I will address myself to the mathematicians amongst you. By now you will have surmised that this Bill contains proposals for longer days, additional days in the week, and extra weeks in the year. If we add all of these changes together, by today’s reckoning this would give us a year of some 463 days.
I can hear you now. The year has 365 days, you say – or sometimes 366. And this is the point. How many days there are in an Earth year are completely arbitrary. So why not have a year of 463 days?
There will be traditionalists who will put forward an argument based on the importance of anniversaries. That Christmas must always be on the 25th December – and that Easter must always be on…. And there you have it. Many of our traditions are already moveable feasts. Easter, Lent, the Chinese New Year, Eid, Ramadan, each one varies year after year. And there is no reason why this should not continue under the new calendar.
But I do agree, Christmas should remain as the 25th December. One of the great joys of the 463 day year is that although anniversaries will remain fixed points in the calendar they will move steadily through the seasons. One year Christmas will be in the winter months, the next it will be in late spring. The following it may be in autumn.
And with that I bring you the final benefit of the new Davidian Calendar. I propose that the Rationalisation of Calendars Bill be enacted retrospectively. I say this for the very practical reason that by implementing such a measure then Mrs Llewellyn immediately becomes a young woman in her thirties and I myself will celebrate my 29th birthday next Stanuary.
Ladies, Gentlemen, Honourable Members, I commend this Bill to the House.