Another summer story

Image Credit: Imesh Gunaratne -

Until we arrived in the UK we had no idea about the clock changes before summer and autumn. The very first year we turned up an hour early for work without knowing the time had been turned back an hour the day before. The UK changes time twice a year. They turn the clock one hour forward around end March, losing an hour. During this, the time difference to Colombo is four hours and 30 minutes. Time wise Colombo is ahead. Again in the last week of October, the clocks go back making the Colombo time difference to five and a half hours. People are used to it. In the summer the day is long. The longest day in the UK is June 21. On June 21, 2014, the sun rose at 4.43 a.m. and set at 9.21 p.m. There was 16 hours 38 minutes and nine seconds of sunshine available. But shops or any establishments would not open than the usual business hours.

On June 21 every year, hundreds of people gather in the 5,000-year-old Stonehenge. It is a prehistoric ring of standing stones in Wiltshire, England. Although there are stone circles in Europe, Stonehenge is the biggest and most famous site in the world.

It is said that a kind of priests called Druids used Stonehenge for a calendar. On June 21, people go there to watch sun rise on the Hell Stone which is the most popular one.

About 10 years ago, I had to deliver a speech at my old school Thurstan College, Colombo at an opening of a new building. The chief guest was the current President. My speech included the facts of our lives in the United Kingdom and also clock changes. I had to say that until I experienced it myself I never knew such a thing is in existence. I said I don't blame our geography teachers but it is better if the clock change and day light saving facts were included in the curriculum. After the speech, two teachers came to me and said even they were not aware of it.

There was an experience I will never forget about the long daylight days in the United Kingdom. Once a distance relative arrived in London to visit a spare-part factory in mid-England. He had a well established motor spare part business in Panchikawatta and had been importing parts from them for a long time.

Although we never met before he called and asked me whether we can accommodate him during his stay. I agreed with a bit of reluctance as I had never met him before and was busy with work. But I went to the airport with my brother in law to pick him up. I recognised him with the description given and asked him whether he need to change travellers cheques which was the most used method of bringing foreign currency at the time.

He looked at us with a suspicious face and said "that's fine". I brought him home and a Sri Lankan meal was waiting for him. He didn't eat but wanted to lie down for sometime after being up since the day before.

He changed himself to a sarong and went to have a shower. After a few minutes, he came out and called me into the toilet and showed the wash basin. It was totally red and with a close up I realised that it was blood. He said he has a severe liver problem and had vomited. I wanted to take him to the emergency section but he refused.

I phoned a doctor who asked me to take my relative to hospital. I was scared thinking that he might die at our place. I convinced him to come with me and got him admitted to a hospital. As he was a visitor in the UK and the situation not an emergency, he was not entitled to free medicine.

I had to sign an agreement that I would pay all his medical expenses. He knew that I signed it with reluctance.

He said: "Don't worry I will give you money" and gave me a number to call. It was the number of the company he was supposed to visit. When I called that number the general manager was sad to hear what happened to their Sri Lankan customer. They agreed to pay his hospital bills and contacted the management. I was relived.

The same night we went to see him with a plate of Sri Lankan rice and curry. He seemed not happy to see us and asked "why we took so long to come". Then he turned to the window and asked what the time was.

I said it was 8.30 p.m. I told him the sun shines longer in summer. His face lit up.

He said in Sinhala: "If Sri Lanka is like this I could leave my shop open until late".

He died soon after going back to Sri Lanka.

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