Tuesday, 26 December 2017

I Alter My Time Zones

It has been noted by one or two devoted readers (thank you) that I have often posted this blog in the middle of the night. I have long realised that, rather than being an unaware insomniac, my settings have been wrong. I've been unable to work out how to fix them. Today, with the help of an expert, I have been able to alter my time zone from GMT minus 8 hours (Pacific Time Zone: useful if I was writing from the Pitcairn Islands, which I'm not) to GMT plus / minus no time at all: useful if I was writing from Shrewsbury, which I am.

Last week, I switched time zones by crossing the Channel, entering GMT plus 1 hour: a time zone with darker mornings and later dusks. The shift of an hour reinforced a sense of separation from my usual routine, though it got me up at 7am with the bonus of a feeling of having had a holiday lie-in.

Geographically, Britain has been determinedly distant from the  main landmass of Europe for 10,000 years or more - since the end of the last ice age. It's also currently separated by currency, language, well-surfaced roads, and expressions of Christmas which include, in most shops, proficient and very welcome gift-wrapping.

On this visit to Belgium, I felt these differences as I always do: as something to be welcomed, something fascinating to do with the wonderful, intricate, subtle diversity of human cultures. I envied Antwerp its central square on a cold and damp December evening with its publicly provided chimineas, its cathedral bells chiming out Wham's 'Last Christmas ...' - a church with a giant outdoor nativity scene, and a tongue in its cheek, surely.

Britain is soon to be separated from Europe by more than these existing differences, though no one seems to know by quite what, except, we have learnt recently, different coloured passports, and, as many have experienced for a while now, a deeper and troubling sense of anxiety.

I'm back in GMT, although in that special part of GMT that's called the Fourteen or so Days of Christmas, when time stretches out and contracts in equal measure. This is the zone in which there's not enough time to get every chore done before Christmas Day, but where there's time (once the moment of giving up on ideas of Christmas perfection has passed and we've settled instead for incarnation) to listen to Bach's Christmas Oratorio in its calming entirety: to listen to it sung in German, as I'm doing now.


  1. Thanks Liz for this mid-seasonal blog and here's to a happy post-christmas.
    Bach: do youtube the Leipzig Thomanerchor. Those kids belting out the opening chorus is very special. P x