Old Time


In the Irish countryside we have “Old time” and “New time”.  For the rest of the world that translates into GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) and BST (British Summer Time).

We are currently in the limbo period between the Arrival of Spring and the Clock moving forward by one hour.  For us early rising commuters we have bright sunny mornings and I get to see the Sunrise a lot.  It’s important to enjoy this period before we are thrown into dark risings once again next week.

On the up-side I will make some time next week to do a little gardening in the evenings when I come home from work.  There is not a lot you can do productively with early morning light, unless you are a farmer.  Late evening light is much more useful.

We now think of time as being consistent across all areas, but this was not always so.  The first people to adopt standardized time were Sailors.  Calculation of longitude involved measuring longitude against a fixed time.  The Royal Navy, who had Harrison’s Chronometer, adopted GMT because the ships on the Thames could set their clocks by observing the ball drop on the roof of the Royal Observatory.

The adoption of GMT as the standard for “Railway Time” in the 1840’s probably had a greater impact on standardizing time in Britain than the Navy convention did.  Rail networks need standardized times for obvious reasons such as printing timetables and avoiding collisions.

In Ireland the replacement of Dublin Mean Time with GMT only happened 99 years ago, in 1916.

The Sun Rising: John Donne

Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late schoolboys, and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of

Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long:
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me
Whether both the’Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear: ‘All here in one bed lay.’

She’is all states, and all princes I,
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compar’d to this,
All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, sun, art half as happy’as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere.

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