PC 274 Tick Tock

After last week’s grim scribbles, I hope these are altogether easier to absorb! If someone had simply read the title to you, you might have been forgiven for thinking this was about Tik Tok. That, in case you don’t know, is a video-focused social networking service known in China as Douyin. It hosts a variety of user-made videos covering tricks, pranks, dance and entertainment which last anything from 15 seconds to three minutes. 

When few people owned a watch, towns built clock towers. The one on North Street in Brighton was opened in 1888 and its golden ball still rises on the hour.

A large Victorian town hall was built on Church Road in Hove in 1882, but destroyed in a fire in 1966. It had a clock tower.

Its replacement was opened in 1970 and is an example of the Brutalist style of John Wells-Thorpe; personally I think it’s disgusting! It has a modern unattractive tower complete with a clock.

Sometimes the clock tells the right time; often it seems to be surprised when we change from GMT to British Summer Time or vica versa. Mind you, it’s easy to get confused. Eire, The UK and Portugal are in the same Time Zone; move further east and you add an hour for Central European Time. Many years ago I flew into Brisbane (QLD) Australia, set my watch to local time, hired a car and drove south to Byron Bay for a few days. Arriving in a local restaurant for dinner the following evening, I was surprised when the manageress said: “You booked for 1930 but we kept the table for you.” I looked at my watch, which showed it was indeed 1930. I glance enquiringly at the woman. “Ah!” she said, looking at my pale English complexion, “you probable flew into Brisbane. We’ve in New South Wales and an hour ahead!” (Note 1) 

Scribbling about Australia, I love this from Chris Hammer’s book ‘Opal Country’, a fictional town in New South Wales:

“At the centre of the roundabout sits a squat brick clock tower. Approaching from the north or the east, the clock tells the correct time during the winter, but at this time of year it lags an hour behind, so that it’s telling Queensland time instead of summer time. Coming from the west, it is perpetually five thirty, and coming from the south, forever ten past ten.”

I own a half-hunter as an accoutrement when suited and spurred, but it’s not as visible as a timepiece worn on one’s wrist.

Fortunately for me the Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont (See PC 6 Petropolis April 2014) was a friend of Louis Cartier, one of the three sons of Louis-Francois Cartier who had founded a jeweller business in Paris in 1847.

Needing two hands to control his flying machine, Dumont was unable to look at his pocket watch, nestling in his waistcoat pocket. Cartier made a small version, attached a leather wrist strap to it and presented it to Dumont in 1904. He called it the Santos Cartier.

In one of my boxes is a collection of old watch ‘detritus’; some work and some don’t. I should really throw them out but each contains some sentimental memories. Most of the watches I have owned don’t emit the traditional ‘tick’ – well, certainly the Cassio digital one didn’t!

A further tray has my Christopher Ward (CW) ones – four that get rotated on an infrequent basis. Celina has a CW slim wrist watch but rarely wears it; time now of course comes courtesy of one’s mobile ‘phone!

If we care to look we are constantly reminded of the time. In our living room there’s a digital clock on the Bosch Microwave, on the oven, on the Brennan music system and on the landline handset; on the end wall a large modern clock.

‘To Clock’ is a verb meaning ‘to notice’ or to mean ‘taking a particular time’ as in “He clocked 10 seconds in the 100 metres race.”

There are many examples of rather odd public behaviours and obsessions during and in-between the Covid-induced lockdowns of our society. One is a renewed interest in more old-fashioned pastimes and a revulsion about our ‘throw away rather than repair’ attitude; ‘The Repair Shop’ has been an unlikely hit series on BBC television. Filmed in the Court Barn of the Weald & Downland Living Museum in Singleton, West Sussex, the fictional workshop to which the public bring items of huge sentimental value for refurbishment has developed a cult following; so much so that a 9th series has just been commissioned. Those who follow it have become absorbed by the skill and artistry of the repair shop experts who tackle the restoration of eclectic items brought through their door;  leather chairs, paintings, trophies, teddy bears and dolls, grandfather clocks, radios etc etc …… and recently a ‘clocking on’ machine.

If you couldn’t understand why I was scribbling about The Repair Shop in a postcard entitled ‘Tick Tock’, now I hope the penny’s dropped? Clocking On machines were prevalent in factories where the workforce punched their attendance card on arrival and departure. A clock recorded the time and naturally they became known as ‘clocking on’ machines. One was recently brought into The Repair Shop by a chap who had used it personally for over 40 years when working for an engineering company in the West Midlands. When the building was demolished he bought it.

My step-father loved his large clocks and wound them every Friday evening on his return from the office in London. Although there was no grandfather clock, all the downstairs rooms and hall had a ticking clock; the latter, sitting on the hall table, chimed the hour and that sound echoed through the house (See PC 58 Going Home – December 2015). When the house was still in the early hours, when to a young boy ghouls and ghosts wandered about, the sinister atmosphere was magnified by this sound.

Tick! Tock! Tick! Tock!

Richard 18th March 2022


PS Big Ben is Big Ben. But actually that’s the nickname for the Great Bell of the striking clock on the north end of the Palace of Westminster. The Elizabeth Tower, as it is now officially known, has undergone a £79 million refurbishment which will end this summer. The whole edifice, tower, bells and clock, is one of London’s most iconic landmarks and will always be called ‘Big Ben’!  

Note 1 QLD is GMT -10, NSW GMT -11, Western Australia is GMT- 8 but the Northern Territories are GMT- 9½!  

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