This weekend in France we perform what for me is the most detested of rituals: setting the clocks forward. Spring forward, fall back. That hour will haunt me for weeks, even months. When I wake at my usual 5:30 a.m. it will be darker than usual, although at this time of year that will change soon enough – with spring springing, soon the birds will be up almost before they go to sleep. As for me, like the farm animals, I will be hungry at all the wrong times. Awake too late, tired too early.
“It’s only an hour. Get over it,” my husband says. Humph. It’s all right for some, especially those able to sleep ten hours at a stretch. That hour matters to me. It is lost, if not forever, at least misplaced until the fall when it will land like manna back in my day, making that last Sunday in October feel deliciously long before sending me into a tailspin for several more weeks.
For some mysterious reason, the springing or falling always occurs a week or two before or after the switch is made in North America, temporarily adding to or diminishing the usual 6-hour time difference between Paris and Toronto. I’m no good with numbers but that “décalage horaire” (time difference) is indelibly inked in my brain, as if my biological clock has a dual time zone.
There is no easy parlance for the time change in French. It’s just “changer l’heure” or “le passage à l’heure d’été / à l’heure d’hiver.” The time change from winter time to summer time is a simple fact of French life that, like most things, people seem to accept as well and good.
The expression, “remettre les pendules à l’heure,” describes the act of setting an old-fashioned pendulum clock but in common usage actually has another meaning altogether: to set things straight. This comes in rather handy in France. Things just have a way of needing to be straightened out.
How do you feel about the time change? Love, hate or indifferent?