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British Billy turns back the clocks

British Summer Time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. All the clocks, including London's Big Ben, will be moved back an hour.

British Summer Time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. All the clocks, including London's Big Ben, will be moved back an hour.

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- There's going to be an extra hour for you all to enjoy this Sunday, Oct. 29, and I am already trying to decide whether it would be best spent sleeping, eating or hunting.

Truth be told, it makes little difference to me. I live in the moment and refuse to be a slave to the ticking hands of time.

British Summer Time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. All the clocks, including London's Big Ben, will be moved back an hour, and the U.K. will glide silently to 1 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time. In our house, the clocks are usually turned back before going to bed Saturday night so that everyone can snooze seamlessly through the extra hour. I have staff who tend to these menial tasks.

The mornings will become a little lighter, but we will all start to see dusk falling by mid-afternoon. As most of you are not blessed with a fine pelt of fur as am I, it's also time to don an extra thermal layer, as well as hats, scarves and gloves. Do not be fooled by the recent mild temperatures. The British weather delights in surprising us all.

This whole rigmarole is in order to save the hours of daylight. It all seems to originate with a chap called William Willett, a London builder, who lived in Petts Wood in Kent, England.

Basically, he reckoned you could improve the population's health and happiness by putting forward the clocks by 20 minutes every Sunday in April, and doing the opposite in September.

His idea was not taken up, even though a Daylight Saving Bill was introduced some five years before the outbreak of World War I. But once the war started, it was considered prudent to economise, and promote greater efficiency in using daylight hours and artificial lighting. So in 1916, Daylight Saving Time was introduced.

Back in 1968, Britain tried a four-year experiment by advancing time one hour ahead of GMT throughout the year. Those living further north, particularly in Scotland, found it most unsatisfactory, with dark mornings for much of the year, and the experiment was dropped. However, the idea is once again gaining popularity. We shall see. With my amazing optical abilities, it matters little to me, but it is never a good idea to upset the Scots.

As we embrace Greenwich Mean Time once again, perhaps you might wish to visit The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London. It's the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian of the World, making it the official starting point for each new day, year and millennium, by international decree. Every place on the Earth is measured in terms of its distance east or west from this line. If I were to go there, I could actually stand with two paws in both Western and Eastern hemispheres, which I think is pretty amazing and worth a visit for that reason alone.

Since the late 19th century, the Prime Meridian at Greenwich has served as the base for the calculation of Greenwich Mean Time. Before this, almost every town in the world kept its own local time. There were no national or international conventions to set how time should be measured, when the day would begin and end, or what the length of an hour might be. However, with the vast expansion of the railway and communications networks during the 1850s and 1860s, the world was in desperate need of an international time standard.

Speaking of desperate needs, I think it's time for a cat nap. I hope you make the most of your extra hour, just as I intend to do. Sweet dreams!

For more articles by British Billy about British customs and culture, you can find them in his archive at the following link: