An amusing problem of living in eastern Australia, I’ve discovered, is the silly time difference with almost anywhere in the world: two hours with Tokyo, 11 hours with London and 16 hours with Washington DC. Being ahead of virtually everyone means that it’s already tomorrow by the time we find out what Trump’s thumbs have been saying about today’s Fox & Friends or which self-interested cabinet minister has just resigned in the latest episode of Brexit Saga. This often makes DD’s job – keeping Australia up to date with Britain’s take on breaking news and vice versa – spill outside normal work hours, and it makes my mornings rather animated, as I catch up with umpteen messages and posts from friends reacting to events I’ve just slept through. And more to the point, it means that tomorrow morning DD and I will be dragging ourselves out of bed at 4am to catch the England World Cup semi-final, held 6pm today Moscow time.
With the sun yet to rise for another three hours, we’ll be snuggled under the blanket on the sofa nursing cups of tea, turning the sound down so low we can hardly hear it for fear of waking up the toddler – a rather stark contrast with people back home who will be bellowing at the screen, enjoying a long summer evening with barbecue tongs in one hand and a pint of cider in the other. I find that one of the symptoms of the diplomat lifestyle is that my heart and mind are never quite where my body is: the news I follow is that of the UK, the US and Japan, and the day is marked with missed FaceTime calls from my old school friend. It’s almost a ritual now that we miss each other a dozen times over any given week, with me busy cooking dinner or bathing my son while she’s chasing hers trying to wipe Weetabix off his face or clear up his first poo of the day.
Trying to organise Skype calls with other friends and family is just as comical, with me fading fast after a long day while they’re psyching up for the long day still to come. To this I also like to add a bit of confusion, because I’m never quite sure what the time difference is. With the UK and Australia both operating daylight saving hours at opposite ends of the year in different directions, the time difference yoyos from nine hours to eleven, except for a week in April and three weeks in October when it’s ten. And it’s very entertaining how a 33-year-old brain seems to find Googling ‘London time now’ and subtracting 9.53pm from 6.53am just as challenging as solving trigonometry when it was half the age.
To make matters worse, in checking the facts for this blog post, I discovered that Australia has three time zones that differ in segments of half an hour, and while the southern states observe daylight saving hours the northern ones don’t, which means at certain times of the year there are five time zones. I’m now telling myself that when we’re on holiday around Australia we should just forget trying to keep in touch with the rest of the world, or if we must, to always, always run it past Google first.