ZULU TIME

The Met office always operates on GMT – their clocks never move forwards nor backwards: in the summer their lunches are slightly late and they always miss rush-hours.

In the Forces, time is alphabetical – GMT is Zulu time, continental Europe (+1) is Alpha time and so on. It helps to be both a numbers and words man there. It also helps to carry a bottle of Tobasco on exercise.

In the Islamic mindset of the Middle East, the year is 1430. A little behind spiritually, perhaps, but with such futuristic vision (architecturally, or perhaps just acquisitionally) that things balance out nicely. They are, like the rest of the world, firmly gripped by the recession of 2009.

In England, we shift time so that farmers can plough and little children can get to school safely. Big nights merge into bigger days in the summer and ‘days’ in winter are best endured, fuzzy and warm, in the dark belly of a pub.

In India, once upon a time, many stamp wielding men with thick glasses and lacquered side-partings decided to set a single, national time at half past the hour. This makes little difference to the rest of the non-air-travelling world but all the difference to, oh, say, Pakistan.

In Ecuador (and Gabon and, um, Halmahera and so on) there are disconcerting places where you can stand at midday without casting any shadow. Like ghosts, memories, acid trips and daydreams.

How is it that I know all these tick-tock timey facts and am always, yet always late? It is, to me, one of life’s great quantum mysteries.

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