31. Triggered by time

Are we triggered by time?  Or is time triggered by the sun, the moon and every other planet orbiting above us?

At last, after a timely train ride we had arrived in Prague. It quickly became clear that we were on a trip back through time. From the church steeples to the clock towers,  this beautiful city seemed steeped in history. The most famous clocktower of them all must surely be the Prague astronomical clock, the “Orloj”.

Prague Astronomical Clock

However and most unfortunately, our timing was slightly off – by at least a month.

The Orloj was taken down for reconstruction and replaced by a LED screen in early 2018, with the restoration works scheduled to last for the whole summer tourist season of 2018. As we were there in August 2018 all we saw was a screen printing of the famous timepiece.  It got me pondering about why it was such a drawcard for the tourist throngs. So I googled – as you do!

According to Wikipedia, the Prague astronomical clock – the Orloj –  was first made in 1410. A long long time ago!

The astronomical dial has a background that represents the standing Earth and sky, and surrounding it operate four main moving components: the zodiacal ring, an outer rotating ring, an icon representing the Sun, and an icon representing the Moon.

The clock mechanism has three main components — the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and  Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; statues of various Catholic saints stand on either side of the clock; “The Walk of the Apostles”, an hourly show of moving Apostle figures and other sculptures, notably a figure of a skeleton that represents Death, striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. 

According to local legend, the city will suffer if the clock is neglected and its good operation is placed in jeopardy; a ghost, mounted on the clock, was supposed to nod its head in confirmation. According to the legend, the only hope was represented by a boy born on New Year’s night.Another legend, recounted by Alois Jirásek, has it that the clockmaker Hanuš was blinded on the order of the Prague Councillors so that he could not repeat his work; in turn, he disabled the clock, and no one was able to repair it for the next hundred years.

Inside the large black outer circle lies another movable circle marked with the signs of the zodiac  which indicates the location of the Sun on the ecliptic. The signs are shown in anticlockwise order. 

The displacement of the zodiac circle results from the use of a stereographic projection of the ecliptic plane using the North pole as the basis of the projection. This is commonly seen in astronomical clocks of the period.The movement of the Moon on the ecliptic is shown similarly to that of the Sun, although the speed is much faster, due to the Moon’s orbit around the Earth.  The half-silvered, half-black sphere of the moon also shows the Lunar phase. 

But wait – there is more…..

The four figures flanking the clock are set in motion on the hour, and represent four things that were despised at the time of the clock’s making. From left to right in the photographs, the first is Vanity, represented by a figure admiring himself in a mirror. Next, the miser holding a bag of gold represents greed or usury. Across the clock stands Death, a skeleton that strikes the time upon the hour. Finally, there is a Turkish figure representing lust  and earthly pleasures. On the hour, the skeleton rings the bell and immediately all other figures shake their heads side to side, signifying their unreadiness “to go.

Every hour of the day, twelve statues of Apostles with its attributes appear at the doorways above the clock.


Now this miracle of 15th century engineering and seeing what makes it tick would have been well worth seeing.  It certainly would have ticked my bucket list.

That was a time-consuming and fascinating rabbit hole I went down in my quest for knowledge. So I guess it is true that everything is triggered by time.  

It is all about the timing, isn’t it?

This is a response to a Flash Fiction prompt from ‘Putting My Feet In the Dirt’, July Writing Prompts hosted by ‘M’

Travel is indeed a life changer

On a freezing, windy, raining Wellington day over 60 years ago the TSS Captain Cook departed with the last batch of troops to fight in the Malayan Emergency. My family was on that ship.

We departed Wellington Harbour on Guy Fawkes Day, 5th November 1959 amidst a backdrop of fireworks displays and streamers. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was to be the final  voyage of TSS Captain Cook. The troopship TSS Captain Cook started as the RMS Letitia, then renamed the Empire Brent by the Australian Ministry of Transport and finally became the TSS Captain Cook when it was bought by the NZ  government. 

“On the 2nd August 1957, official authority was granted to raise and train the first “Regular” Infantry Battalion in New Zealand history. Under the command of Lt-Col W. R. K. Morrison DSO, the 1st New Zealand Regiment would be New Zealand’s land force commitment to the British Commonwealth Far East Reserve, The 1st Battalion, The New Zealand Regiment was deployed to Malaya from October 1957 as part the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade Group. Between 1958 and 1964 the NZ Regiment would rotate 3 Battalions through Malaya. “
This deployment was unique in New Zealand military history, as it would be the first time that families would accompany a New Zealand overseas military deployment to an overseas location. 

Fortunately I didn’t know too much about jungle warfare or political wrangling so I just had an amazing experience living in a different culture, surrounded by the Malay, Chinese, Indian and Burmese populations.  There were also Australian and British families who became my school friends at the British Commonweatlth school I attended for that first year. 

Travelling has opened my eyes to an appreciation of the many and varied cultures that make up this world. Although the travel bug may have bitten me at that tender age, it would be many more years before I travelled overseas again – and that was to be a much different experience.