Hi, this is Gerry and this is my Diary for Friday, 27th March, 2009. Nearly the end of the month and the clocks go forward this weekend. Do you know the story of time in Europe? I'll tell you a bit about how it's organised. March always seems to be a busy month for a lot of people. For me it was very busy. I had a lot of work to do, some trips and some visits. I'm going to tell you a bit about another train trip that I enjoyed. I travelled from my little island all the way to Strasbourg in France by train, and it didn't take as long as I thought. Then the work in the garden has gone on - our pond  is now finished and we've had our first visitors.
This weekend we change our clocks here in Britain and the same thing happens in the Central European time zone. We all move onto "summer time". It's also called daylight saving time. It means that we have longer evenings - the sun goes down later. My mother likes this. She likes to have light at the end of the day, and a lot of people think the same. It's better for driving as well. There are more accidents in the dark at the end of the evening than in the dark at the beginning of the day. In England and Wales, some politicians want to change the system so that we keep "summer time" in the winter and then have "double summer time" in the summer. In other words, they'd like us to have the same time as in Switzerland and France and Germany and so on. But people in Scotland and Northern Ireland are against this, because it would mean that in the winter the sun wouldn't rise  until 10 o'clock in the morning or later. And people who start work early in the morning, like farmers, also don't like summer time. They like light early in the morning. Other people say: Why don't we change starting times instead of changing the clock? So, for example, children could start school later in the winter, say 10 o'clock, and earlier in the summer. The school day would change and not the clock.
The Swiss and the British both have a long history of interest in time. The Swiss are famous all over the world for their watches, but the British made the first chronometers - these were special clocks that you could take on a boat or carry from one end of the country to the other. Before that everybody just had to look at the sun and calculate 12 o'clock - that was the moment when the sun was in its highest position. When they built the railways, they needed to have standard time, so you knew when the train was coming. So in Britain we have GMT: Greenwich Mean Time. Before that, every town had its own time. The time in Dublin for example, was 25 minutes later than the time in London. And Dublin didn't actually change their time until 1916. Incredible, isn't it? France had the same time as Britain until the Second World War. Then the Germans arrived and their time was one hour earlier. And after the war, France didn't change back. And did you know that when you cross the border from China to Afghanistan, you have to change your watch by three and a half hours. When I come to Switzerland or France, I'm happy that I only have to change my watch by one hour. And I'm going to tell you about a trip to France now.
I just came back from a trip to Strasbourg and I went there and back by train. It took me about 12 hours in total, each way. But actually the train time was much less. You lose time when you have to change trains. From Bangor in North Wales, our nearest big station, the quickest train to London takes about three and a quarter hours. Then you have to take the Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel to France. When I went to Strasbourg I changed trains in Lille, and when I came back I changed in Paris. But London-Paris takes about two and a quarter hours and Paris Strasbourg takes about the same time. So it's under eight hours actual train time from here to Strasbourg.
On the way back I had a funny time on the Eurostar. The train was quite empty from Paris to Lille and then a lot of people got on there, so we were full then to London. But for the first part of the journey, I got to know the passengers in my part of the train. I was sitting next to a French businessman and I had an interesting talk with him. But the funny passengers were British. First, there were two older English ladies. Both of them were quite small and very round. And they were on holiday, I think. It was their first time on the Eurostar and they were a bit difficult. They were very polite. Very English. They always said: "Oh, excuse me. I'm very sorry but ..." or "I'm sorry to trouble you, but I'm afraid I've got a problem here..." But they also didn't give up . So, firstly, they didn't like the seats that they had. I think they just wanted to sit together, and so the staff  found two seats together for them - just behind me. But then the lady next to the window said she was sorry but that there was a terrible noise there, "I'm sorry, I can't sit here. It's giving me a terrible headache," she said. "Can't you hear it?" she said. The French train staff listened and said "Yes, but you know, I think it's the wind. We can't really do anything about that." Well, the lady wasn't happy, and so she asked to speak to the manager on that part of the train. The manager came but he couldn't help, either. And he was French as well, and he spoke English with a French accent and the lady couldn't understand his accent. So when the ticket collector came, who was English, she complained again and she said the manager refused  to speak English with her. "He just spoke French," she said. "I couldn't understand him." In the end, they found two more seats for the ladies, so they ended up not sitting together, but they seemed happy.
The other passenger in my part of the train was a young Englishman. And he was a little autistic, I think. He was a bit strange, but I thought the staff were very nice with him. Here are a few of the things that he wanted. First, they came to offer him a drink. It's like on a plane: they come with a trolley . The young man wanted two glasses of apple juice and a can of coke, with a glass. Very precise. Then he wasn't very happy because they didn't bring the food immediately. The staff wanted to wait for the people getting on at Lille. When the food came, he ate it very quickly, but he didn't eat the piece of chocolate cake that he had. He turned to the old ladies and asked them: Does it have it nuts in it? Well, they didn't know, so he asked the member of the train staff. She didn't know so she went off to ask somebody else. When she came back and gave him an answer, she then asked him: "Do you have a nut allergy? Are you allergic to nuts?" And he said: "No, I just don't like them." Finally, they came to clear his tray . But then he wanted to know if he could keep the little plates. He wanted to take them home because he thought they could be useful for him. "I mean they're quite cheap, aren't they?" he asked. So he kept a couple of these little plates, and the young member of staff who was looking after him had to explain to her colleagues. A strange young man, but the staff were very patient with him, I think.
But my French neighbour wasn't so patient. He said to me, in French - so the English passengers couldn't understand: "You know, I'm so happy that in the all the years that I have been working, I've never had to deal with  the public. It would make me crazy.
And that leads me on to my saying of the day. "It takes all sorts." or "It takes all sorts to make a world." This is an old saying. It means that we should be tolerant of difference. We should think that it's good that not everybody is just like ourselves. Diversity means richness, not poorness. The old ladies got on my nerves  a bit, but they were just a bit complicated. And the young man? Well, he was just a bit special. But he actually helped to make my trip from Paris to London more interesting, and he gave me a story to tell you.
Nearly time for the end of the show, but I should tell you, before I go, that our pond is now full of water and we came out the other morning to find two ducks  who had come to visit. We're still working there so it's not so good for them to make a nest there, but maybe next year we'll have a family on our pond.
And I have one more local animal story this week. It's about some other birds: crows - they're big black birds - and seagulls - they're the big white birds that live near the sea. Now, near where we live there's a place where there are a lot of mussels. Mussels are a sort of seafood: black shellfish. ("Miesmuscheln" in German, "moules" in French). Anyway the crows have learnt to take the mussels from the seashore , then they fly to the road near the sea and they drop the mussels onto the road, so they break and the crows eat the mussels. Well, the seagulls saw this and thought "That's a good idea", but they aren't as clever as the crows. They take the mussels and drop them but not on the road but usually on the grass or on the mud  where they don't break. More exciting news from the island next time, but until then, this is Gerry saying: Take care!
 pond: a small piece of water, for example in a garden  rise: come/go up (sunrise = the moment that the sun comes up)  give up: here: stop (with their complaint)  staff: people who work somewhere, employees  refused: here: would not, was not willing  trolley: here: a sort of table and cupboard on wheels  tray: the flat thing that they give you on a plane, for example, with your plate, glass, food and drink  deal with: here: work with, have contact with  got on my nerves: annoyed me, made me a little angry or irritated  duck: a bird that can land and move on water  seashore: the flat part of the land next to the sea  mud: soft, wet earth