The Palais-Royal Cannon

Nothing tickles me more than stumbling across an obscure reference to an arcane relationship between humans and the natural world. The tickling sensation is particularly acute when the reference is historic and it concerns celestial objects.

On New Year’s holiday in Strathconon in the Scottish Highlands I waded merrily into Simon Schama’s, ‘Citizens, A Chronicle of the French Revolution‘. The subject matter was rich enough and when generously layered with Mr Schama’s oppulent language it was a feast worthy of the Christmas period.

Following on shortly from the sentence, ‘The arrival of the Palais-Royal as a quotidian carnival of the appetites drastically altered all that.’, I learnt that the palace forecourt used to be home to cannon that would go off at noon each day when the sun’s rays passed through a carefully aligned lens to ignite the fuse.

I lay awake after reading that, thinking of how one day I must replace the cannon with a Chinese firewook, the lens with a cheap magnifying glass and the Palais-Royal with our lawn. A couple of coat-hangers and some double-sided sticky tape and we could be in business.

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