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Time is, in theory, constant…

 But in practice appears to speed up & slow down at will. If you’re having a tricky time, it seems to slow down. If you’re having fun, it flies by! Oh and in the spring, we lose an hour and in Autumn, we gain an hour. A whole hour! Although of course, we don’t really….time just continues. One of my friends used to say that she thought there was an old lady in her attic who spun time according to these principles!

For nearly thirty years, my working life has been governed by the clock. Not just in terms of what time I start & finish, or when I’m booked to do something, but how many words I can say in X seconds. As a BBC Announcer & newsreader,  I found radio a more forgiving medium than television. For a start, there are no pictures to worry about. The style tends to be cosier and the pace more leisurely. Of course, there are firm deadlines, particularly if other services are opting into or out of yours, as was & is often the case with World Service radio.  I used to enjoy reading the slow-speed news for English learners – so relaxed! Let’s not forget simulcasts too. I remember reading the news for Radio Wales & having to ensure that I finished at a set time, because programming was being simulcast with BBC Radio Merseyside.”Sara will be perfect for this, she’s used to working in telly!” they said. Thankfully, all went to plan.

 With television, there’s far less time for talking, it’s less intimate & much pacier. Continuity announcements tend to be significantly shorter. Plus, of course, you have to fit words to pictures – nobody wants to see a blank screen, unless it’s intentional & incredibly brief! There are also opts to consider, as each nation and region splits off for their own news or  programmes.

I remember one evening when I was on duty for BBC Wales. An evening in which time stood still and then galloped at record speed! I was transmitting a rugby match for Wales only, followed by a stack of other programmes up to Newsnight. The floodlights failed halfway through the match. The production team couldn’t fill the allotted time. Whilst we had prepared for such scenarios, it was pretty hairy. Which programmes would best fit this particular gaping hole? How many minutes or seconds did I have to play trails & keep the viewer informed between programmes? How many graphics did I need to make up? There were scripts to write, visuals to create, programmes to stack up, people to inform and deadlines to meet. I should explain that in the Nations, Announcers are not just announcers, they press all the buttons too, transmitting programmes, trails, symbols etc & they generally make a television channel ‘happen’. Thanks to exceedingly high levels of adrenaline, everything went without any further hitches. Though I confess, I was extremely relieved when we joined Newsnight on time & I finally finished my eventful shift! 

(Pic’ below courtesy of friend & BBC colleague, Stephen Dutfield).

As a voice over, I often have to whip out my calculator to time a read for a radio commercial. Timings are frequently very tight & there can be lots of words to cram into thirty seconds. “Read faster, but sound slower!”.  Of course, timing is also crucial when you’re narrating to picture, be it for a television programme, commercial, corporate, explainer video, or anything else you can think of. If you’re out of synch, the whole thing becomes meaningless.

If I’m catching a train and I see that I have thirty seconds before it departs, I know exactly what that means, I’ve been well trained! Others may be running full pelt, whilst I enjoy a leisurely stride.

Here in Britain, as in some other parts of the world, our clocks change in Spring & Autumn (confusingly, those changes don’t all happen on the same dates!). We lose an hour in the Spring & gain an hour in the Autumn. The switch happens in the early hours, so as not to affect working life. But of course it does affect us. An hour’s less sleep in the Spring and an extra hour in bed in the Autumn, not to mention the associated impact upon the amount of daylight or darkness. It thoroughly confuses pets. “Hey! It’s my tea time! What? I have to wait another hour! Why?!”

The Summer Time Act was passed here during the war in 1916. The idea was that it would save energy & associated costs, whilst enabling people to enjoy more time outside in daylight.

In case you’re wondering when we change from BST to GMT & back again, this should help:  when do the clocks change

I’m not even going to start on the space-time continuum! I’ll leave that to Dr Who & a few eminent physicists……

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