The Hands Of Time

Daylight Saving is an innovation I could do without. For as long as I can remember, I have been up and doing at first light. I don’t need extended daylight at the end of the day when I’ve spent every ounce of energy, and am ready to hit the sack.

Unlike my neighbour, Fred, I’m wise enough to admit defeat and accept the inevitable. Fred simply ignores it. He says no one has the right to change the hands of time and there’s no way he will go along with it.

There are a number of farmers like Fred who are anti-daylight saving to the point of bloody-mindedness, but there are a lot more who don’t care one way or the other. As Fred’s son points out, it really makes little difference to a farmer who makes use of the daylight hours to the fullest in any case.

The trouble with me is that I have a stubborn body clock which refuses to adjust quickly. It has been set for 5 am for a half a century plus a few more years, and cannot be adjusted with the flick of a switch. It is a slow process to get my clocks synchronised.

Being brought to consciousness artificially is not nearly so pleasant as awakening naturally at the body’s prompt. Having to overcome the temptation to turn over and sink back into sleep isn’t conducive to rising bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to tackle any problems that are sure to crop up as the day progresses.

Then there are the cows to contend with. The dairy cow is notorious for her opposition to change but, unlike me, she does adapt in a few days. Like humans, cows come in a variety of shapes, sizes, personalities and temperaments. They can be highly intelligent, stubborn, wilful, affectionate or just plain dumb.

They are creatures of habit, and in the absence of a timepiece one could, if need be, tell the time with reasonable accuracy by their movements around the farm.

Fetching the girls for milking on the first morning of daylight saving is an exercise in frustration. Instead of being up and waiting at the gate, they are all contentedly recumbent and ignore my calls and whistles.

I am forced to walk the entire length and breadth of the paddock calling, threatening and prodding the dark shapes that loom in the beam of my torch. Aided by the dog’s yapping I succeed in getting them to their feet and some begin to move down to the gate. Others stand and gaze sleepily into the darkness until they’re prodded, yelled at or yapped at by the dog as he runs back and forth.

I make one last sweep of the paddock with my torch and the light picks up a dark mound a few yards away.

“And, who are you?” I bellow as I approach. There is no movement; not even a flick of an ear and, thinking she is either dead or comatose, I lean across and take hold of the eartag.

It is hard to say which of us is the most surprised, but I would give it to Mother Weeks by a whisker. At my touch she awakes and rises upwards, her six hundred kilo body turning as her furiously paddling legs propel her across the paddock like a rocket.

While Mother Weeks streaks off towards the dairy, the rest of the girls embark on a ‘go slow’ strike. At the yards the leaders decide to obstruct the flow and, with my voice giving way under the strain, I resort to brandishing a piece of polythene pipe. By now my mood has turned sour, but the worst is yet to come.

The girls are skilled in the art of showing their displeasure. They know we are there to relieve them of their milk burden and to dole out serves of grain in payment thereof. They know it irritates if they refuse to stand still or if they kick the cups off. They know it irks if we need to push each one out of the holding yards and into the bails. They know our patience is stretched if we have to shovel manure away after every second cow.

They know all these things and they do them all just to get even.

For awhile this morning I revelled in the magic of the grey dawn light as I walked to fetch the girls from their paddock. The air was brisk. My arthritic bones creaked and protested unnoticed as I enjoyed the beauty unfolding before my eyes with the coming of the new day.

That is when I cursed the clock fiddlers. I remembered that tomorrow we are changing the clock to save daylight. Tomorrow I will need to find my way by torchlight, and I will miss this glorious part of the morning for a few weeks.

After the initial uproar, the girls will adjust to new milking times and, in time I too will become used to it. As the days lengthen I will no longer feel deprived at missing the break of dawn, though I will in all probability be too exhausted to appreciate the sunset. Then, as the days begin to shorten once again, I will actually come to see daylight saving in a favourable light.

By the time I have progressed through to full adjustment, the ends of the circle will be closing and it is the time we revert back to Eastern Standard Time. Once again I will curse the clock fiddlers as I go through the process of getting back into step with the clock.

When all is said and done, I come to the conclusion that I have nothing against daylight saving; it is just the chopping and changing that I dislike so much. If we must have this innovation then, for heaven’s sake and mine, let it be permanent.

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