Time Bandits


A recommendation from a friend had me trawl the listings online for a BBC 4 extra Radio Show. I found it due to air at 8 o’clock. I called at the Off license for a fine bottle of wine, prepared dinner, and I was ready to dine at the appointed hour. Oh foolish me. I switched on and tuned in to discover that BBC listings have gone global and operate on the 24-hour clock. Did it ruin my dinner? No. Dinner was exquisitely cooked and the glass of wine complemented it to perfection unlike my maladjustment to the 24-hour clock.

Why should I be surprised at this development as we live in a 24-hour society, shopping 24/7, television 24/7, even 24/7 is 24/7. But as a license payer I expect the BBC to be the epitome of Britishness with a stiff upper lip and a staunch adherence to the 12-hour format. This expectation is not unfounded. The BBC Televisions flagship evening news programme is the Nine O Clock News. Isn’t the clock that appears also a 12 hour format or is that a throwback to the halcyon days of sweeping hands across an indented disc? The post meridiem news on radio is announced, after the ‘pips’ of Greenwich mean time, as the one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, or “eleven o clock news from the BBC”.

What’s with the duality Beeb, and the aspiration for military precision? If it’s flight times or a train timetable and such then fine. You can’t argue at the check-in desk if you are 12 hours late for a flight. It would also render a military operation unlikely to succeed if 01.00 hours target is stormed at 1pm when everyone’s out to lunch. This I can understand but it doesn’t have a direct relevance to my daily existence. I don’t go to work at 09.00 or return home at 17.00 hours, I do a 9 to 5. Right! So I’m not way off message, am I?

The clock hanging on my wall is an old factory clock salvaged from a defunct Linen Mill. Its humble origins are concealed in a face of Roman numerals, which give it distinction, but its numeracy is strictly duodecuple. From where I sit I can see the second hand sweep past 12 indicating that my time is up.