‘Take an hour and change the fate of the world,’ sang Tock

Tock (1)

When I was a child I loved a book called The Phantom Tollbooth, about a boy named Milo who travelled in his toy car to the Kingdom of Wisdom. Once there, he picked up a faithful companion called Tick-Tock (Tock to his friends): Tock was a watchdog, in a rather literal sense. He had a watch let into his side and was preoccupied with time. “Time is a gift, given to you, given to give you the time you need, the time you need to have the time of your life,” as Tock puts it.

Well, we need Tock in Morocco. Last September, amid the genial chaos of Summer Time ending (or not) I wrote sadly about it, noting though that the ludicrously undignified confusions of the Moroccan clock appeared to be at an end because a new law had fixed the dates for several years ahead. I wrote,

Until this year, the decision on when Moroccan summer time starts has not been made well in advance by committees of astronomers and imams, to be printed in pocket diaries and almanacs. It has been fairly chaotic, and the notice very short. In early March this year the decree came forth that Summer Time would begin on March 25th; then towards the end of March, the decision was reversed, and summer time was postponed to April 29th. This followed hard upon the issuing of a decree on March 8th, putting Moroccan Summer Time on an orderly basis for the future: it was not a particularly promising start to the new calendrical regime.

Well I was sort of right. 2013’s problem was with the end rather than the beginning of Summer Time. This year someone decided – last Saturday – that the end of Moroccan Summer Time at 3 o’clock in the morning that very Sunday, was not such a good idea after all. So it was postponed for a month. “Le ministre délégué chargé de la function publique et de la modernisation de l’administration,” took the decision “de manière urgente” and did so “en raison de ses retombées positives sur l’économie nationale.” So that’s all right, then.

The problem is not the decision (sub specie æternitatis, it’s rather useful to be “au diapason de” London time). But Tock would have had strong views about taking this sort of decision at less than 24 hours notice. As the old dog sang,

Take a second to look around
See a sight, hear a sound
Take a minute to concentrate
Analyze, contemplate
Take an hour and change the fate of the world!

Which is not what seems to have been going on in the corridors of power in Rabat. On Sunday morning I was telephoned in London by my office in Rabat to be told that all bets were off as regards flight times back to Casablanca that evening. I quickly rang my wife, who was thinking about setting off from Rabat to take a guest to Casablanca airport for a flight that was suddenly an hour earlier than expected – she had to whizz down the motorway at supersonic speeds and only made the flight because it was delayed.

And now we’re back to the wearily familiar business of sending e-mails to people with whom we’re making telephone appointments outside Morocco: “Take no notice of the time showing on our computers, use London time.” This year the British Council, with advance notice of the date on which Summer Time was going to end, had been able to patch its computer system so that at 3.00 yesterday morning the time sprang back an hour. So had every Moroccan company with international business and every international company with Moroccan business. Tick tock.

This robust decision is said to be saving the country 100,000,000 dirhams in energy costs and more than 2,000,000,000 dirhams “in terms of investments.” Quite a claim for four weeks of daylight saving. If it’s that clearcut it’s a little hard to understand why the decision wasn’t made when the law of March 8th 2012 was passed in the first place; let alone why the postponement had to take place when Morocco was within hours of the changeover for which every business in the country had been preparing. You have to pinch yourself to remember that Morocco operates outside its own borders.

“Time is your friend,” says Tock. Well – only up to a point.

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