Time and tide

It’s sad to see certain parts of the world abolishing regular time in favour of permanent Daylight Savings Time.

Natural time (hereinafter referred simply to as time for brevity’s sake) is the rising and setting of the sun, and the changing of the seasons, which are caused by the Earth’s axial tilt. In a system that reflects natural time, noon is when the sun is overhead.

Time isn’t a modern invention — people have always measured time.

One likely reason why people built stone circles was to measure time and the seasons. The sun rises over a particular stone at a particular time of year. That’s how you know that a particular festival has arrived, and/or that it’s time to plant or harvest (essential for survival).


People also carved stones with calendars, as early as 10,000 years ago:

“Archeologists have discovered a lunar calendar in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, that is nearly ten thousand years old. Their findings show that the calendar makers (1) thought about time and (2) figured out a means to follow it at a period in history that was still in the Stone Age.”

Marking time is essential for survival. When to bring the herds down from the high pastures; when to reap the crops to prevent them getting destroyed by damp or frost; when to plant seeds.

Prior to the invention of modern clocks, people had other ways of marking time. The Norse, Anglo-Saxons etc had eight tides of the day, dividing the day into eight equal parts. They used daymarks on the horizon to measure the time.


Further south, Christian monks used monastic time, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours, which divided the daylight into equal parts (this system doesn’t work further north where daylight hours vary massively in length due to seasonal variation & axial tilt).

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Once clocks were invented and more widely available, they were set to reflect local sunrise, local noon, local sunset times. 12 noon actually meant the time when the sun was directly overhead. Hence local time varies by a few minutes depending on your longitude.


It was only after the invention of railways, and the need to agree on a standard time when the train would leave and depart, that the time of day was standardized across large areas. That’s why it was called railway time.


Daylight Savings Time “is the practice of advancing clocks during summer months so that evening daylight lasts longer, while sacrificing normal sunrise times”.

The rationale for Daylight Savings Time is that people can have more leisure time by daylight after their working day. But Daylight Savings Time is not the real /natural time. So during the winter, at least, we should experience natural time, with the sun overhead at noon.


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