Every working day at 12pm I get a huge fright.
The tradition started after the cannons now used to signal 12pm precisely were offloaded from the coloniser’s ships. At first they were used for signalling when ships had arrived in the harbour. Once more modern forms of communication had been developed, they started firing one of the cannons at 12pm exactly everyday (I skipped a bit of the history there, but you get the gist of it).
The sailors needed to know when it was 12 to fiddle with things on their ships (they gave us a brief history lesson before they fired it, but clearly I don’t remember all the details). The puff of smoke on the hill and the VERY loud bang helped everyone in ‘the olden days’ set their watches to the right time.
To make sure the bang is heard at exactly the right time, two cannons are loaded in case one doesn’t go off – because the gun powder is damp in the miserable Cape Town rain, for example.
(Question: Is telling people you fire a cannon a good pick-up line?)
The cannon is fired by a remote controlled thing, and is aligned to Something Something Astronautical Something. When the Noon Gun goes off, you can be pretty damn sure that it’s the noonest noon and the most twelvest twelve you’ll ever encounter. It’s one of the oldest cannons still being fired regularly.
I tried to take a picture, but I got such a fright when it went off I swore loudly (“SHIT!”) and my hand jumped. All I got was this: