Old Time

sunrise_at_the_keep

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
us?
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
time.

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.

Longitude

Harrison Sea Chronometer H5

Harrison Sea Chronometer H5

On this day in 1722 one of the greatest disasters in British Naval Military History occured;  the Scilly Naval Disaster.  A British fleet returning from the siege of Toulon during the Wars of the Spanish Succession, left Gibraltar bound for Portsmouth in heavy seas and bad weather.  Four ships of the line ran aground on the Isles of Scilly with the loss of 1,400 men.

An enquiry established that the disaster was due to the inability of the fleet to calculate their Longitude.  So began one of the greatest quests in maritime history.  In 1714 a large prize was made available for the person who could solve the problem.  It was not until 1767 that a Yorkshire carpenter and clock-maker, John Harrison was published as the winner.  He began by constructing massive clocks, perfected his technique and won the price with what looks remarkably like a large watch.  The principles, in particular the circular balance, underpinned the world of horology until the development of electronic systems.

At the same time as Harrison was working in England Pierre Le Roy invented the detente escapement in France, another essential of the accurate chronometer.

The invention of the Chronometer allowed explorers like James Cook to map the world accurately, and delivered an advantage to the British Admiralty which enabled the development of the British Empire.

It seems such a little thing, but it is very important to know exactly where you are.  I find a similar dynamic in operation in the Business World.  Many business owners know where they want to be, but struggle with how to get there, because they have a limited understanding of where they are now.  If you fully under stand your present position, and know where you want to get to, the intervening steps become very simple to map.  Those steps are what we call a ‘business plan’.  That mapping is the core of what I do in the workplace.

Lost; by Carl Sandburg

Desolate and lone

All night long on the lake
Where fog trails and mist creeps,
The whistle of a boat
Calls and cries unendingly,
Like some lost child
In tears and trouble
Hunting the harbor’s breast
And the harbor’s eyes.