1 Intro: What is time?

2 Sundial.

3 Candle clock.

4 Dandelion

5 Water clock.

6 Earth round sun: stand by tree, turn round tree, on l.,in front or R. Ndabaninge on equator going very fast without noticing.

One o’clock.


“How are you?” and “What’s the time?”

Next Monday morning, when you start the week, just start counting how many times you hear these two questions. I’ll bet you hear them more than any other questions, and the second one more than the first.

Don’t count the questions your teacher asks you, because teachers only ask you questions to find out how much you know or how much you’ve remembered of what they think they’ve told you, and you can’t remember what the time was, because by the time you’ve remembered it, it will have changed.

Now think what a big difference one little word can make: leave out “the” from that second question, and you’ve got “What’s time?”

Well, what time is is a big question, but if we’re going to talk about clocks, we ought to have some idea what the clocks are trying to tell us, didn’t we?

If we  begin right at the very beginning, those clever scientists tell us our universe began with a Big Bang, and if you think about the sun and the earth and all those planets, that must have been a jolly Big Bang. But things gradually began to settle down, and the Old Man in the Sun <who’s a bit like the Man in the Moon, only brighter and hotter> decided to gather his planets round him by setting them spinning and then rotating round him, like a man twirling a stick on the end of a rope round his head.

Let’s come down to earth.

At first there weren’t any people about, because the earth was still very hot after that bang and there’s no point in having people about if they can’t put their feet on the ground, is there?

Well, it gradually got cool enough for insects and fish and animals and finally human beings, though the humans were very primitive, and dressed themselves in skins – that’s animal skins, not their own – and lived where they could, probably in caves.

That’s how we come to meet Urg. He was called Urg because they hadn’t yet invented nice names like Michael and Antony or Susan or Elizabeth, for they hadn’t long learned even to talk. They certainly hadn’t learned to read, because nobody could write, and there’s no point in reading with nothing to read, is there?

Anyway, Urg woke one morning, just as it was getting light, and he went outside his cave, and he looked to his left, and he saw the sun just beginning to light up the sky.

So he went back into the cave, and shoved his wife with his foot, for primitive people were a bit slow in learning polite manners.

“Arg,” he said to her,”It’s getting light. Time to get up.”

So Arg came out of the cave to look at the sunrise, then went back in to tidy up the cave a bit, and Urg watched the sun get higher in the sky, and when it was nearly overhead, Arg came out and said: “Urg, I’m getting hungry. It’s time to eat. You’d better go out and catch something for dinner.”

So off went Urg into the jungle, of which there was quite a lot, as nobody had thought of clearing it to grow things. And after hunting for a while, he managed to kill a wild boar for their dinner. All the boars were wild then, of course, but few were quite as wild as this one for being caught by a human.

Urg took it back to the cave.

“Look what I’ve got, Arg,” he said. “I’ll light a fire as I’ve learnt to do recently, and you can cook it.”

“All right,” repied Arg. “I’ll just skin it first to make it easier to eat.*

Which she did, and they cooked it over Urg’s fire, and they were soon sitting down to a hefty meal of roast pork, though of course they didn’t know that at the time.

Well, they had a snooze after that meal, and then they went out and picked some berries for their tea, and soon Urg noticed that the sun was beginning to go down  over to his right, and beautiful sunset colours were spreading over the sky.

“Arg,” he said, “It’s getting dark. Time to go to bed.”

Now, I expect you’ve noticed one or two things about Urg and Arg.

First, of course they’d discovered time. It was “time to get up” and “time to eat” and “time to go to bed.” They hadn’t put any “o’clocks” on it, but Urg knew from where the sun was that a day was beginning, was giving them time to eat, and was finishing. And he knew because he’d seen the sun come up on his left and go down on his right, and he’d seen the sun go round his earth and make a day.

You can see the same to-day.

Go out in the garden in the early morning, face south, and look to the east, and you’ll see the sun gradually getting higher and higher in the sky. And in the evening you can watch the sunset, and if you live near the sea, you can actually see the sun sinking in the water on the horizon. And you can come indoors and say: “I’ve seen the sun going round the earth.”

And it looks just like that; but both you and Urg would be wrong.

How people discovered it was the other way round we’ll find out later on. In the meantime, we know that Urg had discovered days. He went on to discover that those days made up seasons. In the spring he saw the leaves come out on the trees, the birds had their young, and the flowers appeared on the bushes. Then more days turned it into summer it got very hot; after more days he saw autumn start, and the flowers became berries, the trees lost their leaves, and that gradually turned into winter. But he learned that you could put up with winter, because more days would bring round spring again.

He’d learnt that that sun going round and round him meant days and seasons and, if you waited long enough,even years.

He’d learnt what time was.


*      *      *      *

Now of course, Urg wasn’t just sitting about all day watching the sun go round his earth, and nor was Arg. If you remember when they came to that part of the day when their tummies were runbling with hunger, Arg had said to Urg: “Urg, I’m hungry!” Well, she would wouldn’t she? And Urg had said “I’ll go and catch something.