I like clocks.
I’m not talking about those modern yokes that need a battery, but rather the real ones that require winding. Comparing the two is like comparing a diesel locomotive with a steam engine. Modern clocks may tell the time correctly but they lack soul.
Many years ago I bought a Highland clock [or as some call ’em, a short-case clock]. I got it in an old junk shop and it has been merrily keeping time since with a gentle tick and loud bongs on the hour and half-hour. I love that clock and it brings back happy memories. It’s part of the atmosphere of the house.
Last week, the bongs stopped.
It was due a bit of tender care and cleaning anyway so I took it down and dismantled it.
I removed the hands, the pendulum and the face and then gently eased out the clockwork from the body. As I suspected, the bong spring and the tick spring were both overwound. It was just a matter of easing the tension on them. To do that, I inserted the key, put a bit of tension on it and released the ratchet. Fine. Did a half turn and then repeated. There was a long way to go but I was taking it slowly and carefully.
Then the ratchet slipped.
An overwound spring is quite a powerful fucker, and releasing it without restraint is the mechanical equivalent of shorting out a battery. The key was still inserted and suddenly it went into a violent and incredibly fast spin. And has luck would have it, my hand was still in the vicinity and two of my fingers took the brunt. They both went blue and numb. It was really fucking painful.
I eventually managed to release both the bong spring and the tick spring and set to work cleaning the works. I then discovered that the sudden and immense release of tension on the spring had caused some damage. Bollox!
At this stage I was having to work with only two fingers and a thumb on the right hand. However, a clip needed removing, the screwdriver sipped and I took the knuckle off one of the remaining fingers. I was now down to a thumb and an index finger on the right hand.
I carried on regardless, pumping blood all over the place. I managed to repair the damage and got the bongs to work. Brilliant!
I reassembled the whole thing and hung it back on the sitting room wall.
Two minutes later it stopped ticking. Fuck!
Where I had a tick and no bong, I now had a bong but no tick.
I took it down again and stripped it to pieces once more. I found a problem – an axle pin had jumped out so I eased it gently into place. I reassembled everything and hung it back on the wall.
Ten minutes later it stopped again.
It’s currently lying on its back on the kitchen table waiting for its next operation, while I enjoy a well earned mug of tea. I’m not going to give up on it. I’m stubborn, like that. Herself suggested a new clock but I said no – I like the old one.
I suppose I had better get back to it….
Time waits for no man.