Tonight the clocks go back. I know this because I heard it announced at morning Mass, from my father, and from the radio.
I've always loved this daylight saving business. I like how it brings people together, as only a few other things do; things like general elections and big sporting occasions and extreme weather (or "snow", as we call it in Ireland).
I've always felt that there is something unnatural about urban and suburban life, where we are all fragmented and busy about utterly different things. I think that we all feel a deep yearning to be a part of a more organic community, where happenings happen to us all. (I see some tourist board is promoting Dublin as a "a city of villages". I wonder will anyone be taken in by that?)
Moving the clocks, of course, is a minor thing compared to an election, or Ireland playing in the World Cup. But why should it be? I've never understood why more isn't made of it. People could stay awake for a simple ritual, like the drinking cocoa at the time-change. A particular film or sketch or could be played on television (like the Dinner for One New Year's tradition in Germany). The mayor could turn the clock back in the town square, after a brass band played a tune. Something.
I've always been a sucker for tradition, and I've always felt dissatisfied when potential traditions (or celebrations)are passed up. I remember being most disappointed when Ireland joined the Euro, one day in 2002, and there was no hoop-la whatsoever. (I wasn't in favour of the change, but that's immaterial.)
I remember a book of stories I had in my childhood, which included a few ghost stories. (Any parents reading? Public service announcement: BUY YOUR KIDS BOOKS. And not just "improving books", but books that they'll actually read.)
In one particular ghost story, there was one passage where a boy looks at a new house and feels a chill, then reflects that it will look less spooky with curtains up, since-- as his mother always says-- "curtains make a house a home". The phrase, hardly profound in itself (but new to me, back then) had a powerful effect on my mind, and still does.
If anyone were to ask me to summarize my social philosophy in one phrase (which seems, unfortunately, highly unlikely to happen), I might answer: "Curtains make a house a home". The curtains in question being ceremony, tradition, ritual, convention, chivalry, custom, politeness, taboo, community and all those other intangibles that (to adapt Burke) economists, sophisters, calculators, radicals, revolutionaries,and one-track minds of every sort will never understand.