Last early start tomorrow, back on civilised hours next week. Tonight, then, just a quickie.
Further to yesterday’s ramble, there is much more changing than just the simplification of money and measurement (and yet the percentage of people who can’t understand any of it is increasing – so much for ‘education, education, education’).
There are youngsters around now – and I don’t mean five or six years old, I mean fifteen or sixteen – who cannot tell the time using a clock. They can tell time perfectly well on a digital display and they grasp 24-hour time probably better than we did at that age. Not really surprising, 24-hour time is hardly intuitive from a 12-hour clockface, but it’s easy with a digital clock.
Faced with my pocket watch (I developed a metal allergy in my forties which meant my old wristwatches started dissolving my wrist – different story) the young ones in Local Shop are fascinated and baffled. Most of them thought the chain leading into my pocket was some kind of fashion statement. Nope. It has my watch on the end of it. With Roman numerals just to push the confusion blade in that extra inch. Oh, and a picture on the face of a man with a dog… and a rifle.
Incidentally, I still have my grandfather’s watch chain, adorned with coins from the countries he shot people in during the first world war. It’s solid silver, hallmarked on every link. That’s not the one I use for work, that one is locked away. Very locked away. The work one is cheap chromed steel.
Back to the point. Many youth hear the terms ‘clockwise’ and ‘anticlockwise’ and it means nothing at all to them. Clocks are just a display of numbers so where is the direction element? ‘Anticlockwise’ to them means time going backwards. Or perhaps a clock that is going back to the shop.
“This clock is no good. It’s going backwards.”
“Oh, sorry sir, we appear to have sold you a Doomsday Countdown clock by mistake. Here is your refund.” [looks at clock] “I’d spend it quickly if I were you sir, and not on another clock.”
Before clocks were invented, people needed terms to describe the direction around a circle. They had built all these stone circles while drunk and bored and had decided to get drunk again and dance around them. Come on, don’t tell me you believed all that ancient religion stuff? Those were party stones. The solar and lunar alignments were because they set them up with one bloodshot eye closed and used the only available source of light to line everything up. Lunar or solar alignment depended on whether or not they drank until dawn.
There was a problem. Some danced one way, some danced the other way and they bumped into each other and fights ensued and the police were called. Since the police had yet to be invented by the long-not-born Robert Peel, it took them at least 2000 years to show up, so something had to be done in the meantime. Some means of describing which way to dance around the circle.
With the invention of the clock also at least a thousand years away, nobody came up with ‘clockwise’.
Their terms were deosil and widdershins. Deosil is what we now call ‘clockwise’ and widdershins is ‘anticlockwise’.
With the modern reliance on digital clocks, perhaps it’s time to revive those terms. Put them on the school curriculum. What say you, Mr. Gove? Then we can come full circle and dance drunk around rocks in the moonlight again.
It does have a certain appeal, you have to admit. Change doesn’t have to all be bad news.