Thursday 9 June 2016

synchronicity or time and tide

If you are not already a regular listener, be sure to check out Futility Closet’s phenomenal podcasts. In their most recent episode, they tell the story of a multi-generational career of London’s last time-carrier, a dedicated woman who bore the precise time to subscription-holders up until the outbreak of WWII by consulting the only definitive source available, the Astronomer Royal of the Greenwich Observatory—who, in turn, stole the exact time from the heavens.
All Futility Closet shows are regaled with fascinating facts but what I find consistently intriguing is that their well researched topics invariably make us think about some aspect that hadn’t occurred to us beforehand. I knew that standardising civil time came with shipping and the railroads, eventually transforming into an oppressive bully that conjured up the idea of punctuality and made rushing a virtue, but never considered how reliable time-keeping devices were commercially available before the whole world was on a time-table. Even though the clocks kept very good time, there was no way for the owners of these fancy devices to set them to the agreed upon hour (no means of broadcasting time and tide and bell towers rang on their own schedule, as well) rendering them rather useless, so they engaged the services of said time-carriers in order to ensure that they were properly synchronised by means of a pocket-watch carried around the city in a handbag.