Big Ben has a Bank Holiday breather

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The Independent Online

Big Ben, that paragon of tireless 24/7 working, tried to take a little break this Bank Holiday weekend.

Big Ben, that paragon of tireless 24/7 working, tried to take a little break this Bank Holiday weekend.

At 10.07pm on Friday evening, as the country started a three-day rest, the minute hand came to a halt. After a few immobile moments, it made a perfunctory effort for a while, then ceased altogether at 10.20pm. It took engineers - working round the clock, so to speak - 90 minutes to persuade the hand to resume its normal 147-miles-a-year progress. The result - horror of horrors - was that Radio 4 was forced to broadcast pips rather than chimes on the hour, thus revealing to us all that Big Ben broadcasts live to the nation, rather than relying on a recording made years before.

The cause of the hiatus is not yet known. There had been speculation that it was the unseasonably warm weather, but more sophisticated minds later said it was more likely to be that great catch-all: a "technical hitch".

For those of a superstitious inclination, worried that it might be a bad national omen, we can provide reassurance: the ravens are still at the Tower. So far.

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