It Is Time

Closeup of She – author image

Our old clock is out of date. Few would blame us for thinking so – for it is over one hundred and thirty years old. It may not be correct speech but I like to the call the clock She. It turns out She is a demanding old dame. This is because She likes regular physical touch. The smart young thing on another wall is very aloof. It requires no attention at all except it eats a battery a year and come feed time it sulks until it is fed a new one.

That is just one difference between the old girl and the fresh young thing. The only similarity between them is they both have analogue faces. (The reason for this is in this digital world I like to keep my mind active reusing the skills I learned back in primary school of telling the time.)

As I have said She likes to be touched. Every four days I get out the winding key and I twirl it about inside her sprockets and she rewards me by keeping very good time without too much tension in her aged springs. It wasn’t always like this.

I have known her for sixty of her years. In most of those years She behaved. When my father-in-law, Laurie, died back in 1983 she became quite tense and refused to work. Marie, my mother-in-law, over wound her in the wrong sequence and She totally objected. The thing is she refused to do anything for Marie despite never missing a beat in the fifty-four years She was kept by Laurie.

So upset was Marie at the petulant behaviour of She Marie took her to Graeme Woods the Jeweller in Colac and She had her innards removed and a new battery operated movement installed in her. Mr Woods was a man who understood the skill of the artisans who built her by hand in the eighteen eighties and he very carefully enclosed her mechanical heart into a felt bag so that when Marie returned to pick up the clock she was given two parcels. The case with the battery operated inners and the mechanical heart of She. With forethought Marie carefully stored the mechanism of the clock for another age.

While ever Marie lived the heart and the base lived in her care separately. Marie was happy because the pretender battery heart gave her no problems at all. The marble clock kept remarkably good time for the next thirteen years she lived.

I had two problems with She when we inherited her. The first problem was the ugly hands Mr Woods gave She. Instead of the gracefully fine hands the original watchmaker had made for her ( those you see in the photograph) the hands he had given her were the fat fingered mass produced type that came in the box with the battery operated heart. These were positively hideous. I insisted She should have the same radiant face She was born with.

The problem remained that She was tensely overwound. Of all the skills I possess, one skill I lack is the skill of a watchmaker. I am a fat fingered clumsy oaf when it comes to things requiring kinetic skills yet (In writing this I publicly declare I undertook this work alone.) somehow I was able to release the tension in the springs making one turn of the catchment mechanisms at a time. After some fiddling I got the heart beating and ran out the stored energy over several hours. First I did this with the chime mechanism and then I did it with the clock itself.

I cleaned her and removed all the working parts one by one. I left any tarnish She had because She had earned that by working hard over the century. I replaced her still heart into the marble body of the clock and tightened the nuts that held her in place. Then I fixed her beautiful hands to her face. And I make a clumsy error.

The problem started because I had no fine wire to feed into the hole that locked the hands to the face so I used a sewing needle. However before I could think about what I was to do next I broke it. It is still there locking those hands against the face. No one notices but if you look carefully you will see my error. The needle broke off but today you can still see the eye of the needle. No watchmaker would be so crass.

My next job was to coax life into the heart of She who keeps time. I partly wound each mechanism and rocked the pendulum back and forth carefully and found it would run for a few minutes and stop. It was only when I used a builders level to settle She comfortably was I able to ensure She ran constantly.

Today I wind the chimer, set the time, wind the clock and I gently lift one side off the table to allow the pendulum to rock back and forth as it is supposed to then I replace it on the sideboard. I do not ask She to run eight days as She should. I usually wind it partially every third or fourth day. That way She never has too much tension in her old springs and she works just fine.

Today our life is like this old clock. Our days are on life support. Time is sort of running backwards. It is possible to buy petrol at the price it was twenty years ago. Just as it is sobering to see the value of shares I have held for that period selling at the same price or lower than they were when they were purchased.

Covid 19 is sending people into a life they are unfamiliar with. People are growing home vegetable patches. They are walking instead of driving everywhere. Kids are being home schooled by mum and dad. Near us, it is only people in essential jobs that actually go off to work. Millions are suddenly unemployed – just as people once were in the Great Depression. She – the clock – kept time in those horrid times. She is doing so again today, as She has always done, one tic and one tock at a time. She is redundant in almost every way possible in these modern times. Every appliance tells the time, just as every laptop, phone and, watch does. Today we have no need for watchmakers like Mr Woods or the brilliant watchmakers of the past. But we do have time for the patience they showed.

It seems many people in lockdown are finding time, with their careers, are on hold to reassess their lives. The pressure of living cooped up in close quarters with loved ones is a real struggle for some. Many people are finding days long and nights longer when routine is removed.

My advice is to be like She. Don’t stress. Tic- tock. Take time each second and relish the life each day brings. The news is grim because it tells us of good lives lost to this virus without notice. It is up to each of us to take stock and notice all that is good is dependant on good health. Stay home. Stay safe!

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