It’s my favourite day of the year. I go to bed with a feeling of hopeful anticipation, after setting all the clocks in the flat back by an hour. As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to wake up to a new year, bursting with new possibilities.
I hate it when the clocks go forward in the spring. That one hour when I need to wake up earlier makes makes me jet-lagged – something that flights to and from the US and China have never done – for a couple of weeks. My body feels robbed of something.
In Italian, British Summer Time is called ora legale. The legal time, by the laws you had nothing to do with setting up. Human laws. When the clocks go back, however, they revert to the ora solare – the sun time, as decreed by the Sun god.
In England, we revert to Greenwich Meantime, the meridian from which all other meridians take their lead. Again, it feels like the last Sunday in October is when the more truthful and correct way of marking time resumes. Just like autumn feels like the touchstone come to test the seriousness of our intent for the cold months to come. The rest of the year, it’s just fluff. An illusion.
The last Sunday of October, ahead of Hallowe’en, magic takes place. A gift. A small miracle. We receive the gift of an extra hour’s sleep – and yet still wake up early enough. A gift of an extra hour to do at least one thing we have not had the time to do over the past few months. There is something redemptive about this magical extra hour. It’s like a second chance, a chance for a new start.
Yesterday, I spent most of the day working. Then, in the afternoon, I remembered I had that extra hour stashed away. I used it on repotting a basil plant I bought from the supermarket a few weeks ago, and which has unexpectedly grown beyond all expectations. As I pushed the fresh soil around the roots of the plant, I sipped hot water with lemon juice, ginger and honey. When I’d finished, I took another pot and filled it with soil. Then I collected five pips from the lemon I’d just squeezed, arranged them in a star shape on the surface, and pushed them deeper into the dark soil. I sprinkled water, and placed the pot on the sun-flooded kitchen windowsill. “Grow,” I whispered.
A new year, a new chance. God willing, a new lemon tree.