Last night I was idly watching Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway journeys (SBS has bought a load of these years old and shows them after the news as an antidote to the lunacy of the world), and in the episode Michael visited Croft on Tees on the edge of North Yorkshire where Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, spent most of his formative years before boarding school and Oxford.
Crucially Dodgson moved to Croft in 1843 at the age of eleven or thereabouts and was apparently fascinated by the then new and shiny railway between York and Newcastle.
One thing that apparently fascinated him was people rushing about and constantly looking at their pocket watches to ensure that they did not miss their train – for the simple reason that punctuality was a new thing in the early 1840’s.
Before then neither mail coaches or steamships were punctual to the minute – the vagaries of the weather and, in the case of mail coaches, poor roads, ensured that being on time was more a matter of quarter hours than minutes.
To be sure, people had meetings and appointments, but before the railways being punctual to the minute rarely mattered, or was necessary. Trains were of course different and changed our world in many ways, just as the internet has today