PETER HITCHENS: Let's turn back time - to when we didn't mess up our clocks 

The story is told (it may even be true) of the old woman who lived alone with her cat in a small wooden shack on the border between Russia and Belarus. 

One day, soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union made these two places into separate countries, an official banged on her door.

‘Sorry to bother you,’ said the bureaucrat, ‘but we need to fix the frontier properly now. At the moment, it runs right through your kitchen. We can’t have that. So you can decide where it goes. We really don’t mind which but would you rather be in Belarus, or in Russia?’

She thought for a moment and said: ‘Belarus, definitely.’

Anybody who goes to work, whose children go to school, who relies in any way on timetables or broadcasting schedules, has been compelled since March 29 to do everything an hour earlier than they needed to [File photo]

Anybody who goes to work, whose children go to school, who relies in any way on timetables or broadcasting schedules, has been compelled since March 29 to do everything an hour earlier than they needed to [File photo]

The inspector noted this down, but could not help asking: ‘Purely as a matter of interest, why is that?’

And the old lady replied: ‘I just can’t stand those long Russian winters.’

She was no more deluded than we are, as we madly twist our clocks forwards and backwards, supposedly in pursuit of more daylight. Just as the freezing blizzards blow equally in Belarus and Russia, the amount of daylight remains unchanged whatever your clock says.

This morning Britain returned to its natural time zone, after seven long months when every clock in the country had lied. I, for one, greeted this with joy.

Anybody who goes to work, whose children go to school, who relies in any way on timetables or broadcasting schedules, has been compelled since March 29 to do everything an hour earlier than they needed to. I rise quite early enough as it is without being hauled even earlier from my bed by this stupid edict.

Each year it certainly causes several avoidable heart attacks among time-lagged people in the weeks immediately afterwards, writes Peter Hitchens, who is pictured above

Each year it certainly causes several avoidable heart attacks among time-lagged people in the weeks immediately afterwards, writes Peter Hitchens, who is pictured above

I can find no hard evidence that it does or ever did the slightest good. Each year it certainly causes several avoidable heart attacks among time-lagged people in the weeks immediately afterwards. 

It makes it harder to get children up in the morning and harder to get them to go to bed in the middle of summer. It has forced long-distance commuters (such as me) to rise in the dark for the past few weeks.

Imagine what would have happened if it had been done more honestly. Imagine if your children’s school had written to you in March to say that you must get them to school an hour earlier. Imagine if your employer had emailed you to say that for the next seven months you would have to turn up at work an hour earlier. I think a lot of people would have said ‘Why?’ and quite possibly: ‘No.’

But the annual clock change has become a habit and so nobody really thinks about it. And everybody does what they are told.

A lot of people are so baffled that they are never sure whether the clocks should go forwards or backwards. But they do it anyway.

I only understand it because I once flew backwards across the International Date Line, from Siberia to Alaska, from Monday morning to the previous Sunday afternoon, living the same day twice. It was then that I grasped the difference between official time and real time.

There is an unalterable natural time, which remains the same however we mess around with it. Noon, sunrise and sunset are actual events, to do with the relation of the Sun to the exact part of our planet on which you stand. And governments who fiddle with the clocks, so that they lie grossly about this, are often trying to manipulate their people.

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