Ludgate Hill, London, 10th September 1752
Where were you on 10th September 1752? You weren't there, were you?
And don't tell me you weren't born then. "Look. Galileo dies, January 1642. Nine months later, Isaac Newton is born," my Hungarian quantum mechanics professor once told me. "What more proof of the transmutation of souls do you need? Excuse me, my philosophy students want me back on the dance floor." He finishes his gin and tonic and, a girl on each arm, struts off like a cockerel. Most of my real training in physics happened in situations like this.
Where were you, Thomas Mudge? Out in the ether, dreaming up your lever escapement?
Where were you Dr Johnson? Out for a night with Rosie at the Anchor on Bankside?
Where were you John Harrison? Out at sea, proving your Sea Watch?
No. None of you were there. I went there in my dreams, but it was a lonely place. No London Gazette bears that date. No Lloyd's List. No Daily Post. Only you were there, William Hogarth, to paint an empty London, robbed from its people.
Why? That date never existed in England. In all, eleven days disappeared. The 2nd of September was put to bed by the 14th of September. We'd got good enough at keeping time to start fiddling with it. And we've never really stopped ever since.