Don’t let any of the photos fool you; today, Tuesday, January 5th, was gorgeous. Nary a drop of precipitation all day. So, it was perfect for a day trip to Greenwich and, since TfL (Transport for London) makes getting around unbelievably easy, we went.
We spent the bulk of our time there going through the Royal Observatory and reacquainting ourselves with the history of determining longitude. In spite of having read the book Longitude and having seen a movie or TV production based on it, I had forgotten some key elements of the story. If you haven’t read the book, you should. Even if it sounds deadly dull, read the book. It isn’t dull at all; it’s fascinating. All of these things that we don’t spend a millisecond thinking about now (anyone heard of GPS) required years of thought by others. And many creative enterprises.
One example: When we want to know the time, we can find it displayed everywhere. It’s almost impossible to escape a glowing digital display of the time. And, once we set a watch or clock, it keeps fairly accurate time. But that has not always been the case. At the observatory, we learned the story of the Belville family, whose business was selling time. Before watches and clocks were as reliable as they are today, keeping accurate time was difficult. The Belvilles (father, his widow, and, finally, his daughter) had a business that provided accurate time to their subscribers. Once a week, (Mr., Mrs., or Ms.) Belville would go to the Royal Observatory and set a very accurate pocket watch with the official Greenwich time. Then, the person would scurry around to all of the business’s subscribers and let them reset their timepieces using the official time on the pocket watch . What isn’t to love about that?
We meandered through a tiny slice of the National Maritime Museum. Okay, I admit it, it was mostly just the shop. We did visit the Painted Hall of the Old Royal Naval College to admire its elegance. We noticed an object on a plinth on the grounds of the college and, from a distance, we couldn’t decide if it was an old sculpture covered by a large bag or a very modern sculpture of a large bag. Turns out it was the former. Guess we have been looking at too much modern art.
Later, seeing an unadorned mini-plinth, I decided to turn myself into a sculpture. Thanks to my trainer, Jill, I was even able to balance long enough for Joan to snap a photo.
Although I was feeling slightly cocky after conquering my mini-plinth, when I saw the fellow up in the rigging of the Cutty Sark, I realized that my accomplishment wasn’t that much to crow about.