February 26, 2009

There was a thing on about body chronology (you are more liable to have a heart attack in the morning, so take it easy) which mentioned in passing that there are satellites which ensure that clocks on Earth are accurate to within a trillionth of a nano-second (I might be exaggerating, but not by much, as you can w0rk out without a calculator). Why? What a waste – pun intended – of time. Even a chromic on-timer like me is happy to leave a few seconds to spare. There are several clocks in this house, and they don’t all tell the same story.

My mother’s father was a clock fanatic. He was known as ‘Grandpa Cuckoo-clock’, essentially to distinguish him from the other Grandpa, but also because he had a cuckoo-clock set, like everything else in his house, to the second. Twelve noon was an exciting place to be in his house. The whole place went off. There was a sound bonanza, a festival of chimes. I remember standing at the bottom of the stairs in wonder, by the grandfather clock (you can imagine why I thought it was called that). Bong. Pish. Tush. Tish. For my fifth birthday, conscious of his moniker and my encouraging interest in his horological house, he gave me a cuckoo-clock, which survived longer than anything else I was ever given, largely because it was annexed by my parents and given pride of place. It lost its ‘oo’ late in its run: just a quick ‘cuck’, and it was done. And the bird came out at five to the hour – but this was twenty or thirty years after the original gift.

Perhaps that it is why I like clocks. Stopped clocks, according to the superstitious, are supposed to be unlucky. In which case, avoid my house like the plague. Everywhere you look, there are stopped clocks. Some of them could be wound up regularly, but some are simply objects of desire, but without a tick.

One of my last (who am I kidding) forays into family trees started this evening, and I’ve discovered that one of my great-great-grandmothers had a cousin who was a clock-maker. His name was George Hay Gowland, and he was well in enough with my great-great-great-grandfather, William Herring, to be the main executor of his will. He seems to have come from a line of watchmaker-jewellers in Sunderland, although sorting his family out is an enjoyable trial (it is through his wife’s sister Jane Hay, and therefore his in-laws, that I am related). Gowland’s children and nieces and nephews seem to have avoided marriage until late in life, and to have made a mint (one of them married a man who is described as a ‘retired farmer’ – at the age of 51).

That was my first forage this year. It keeps the brain ticking. The body chronometrists would be happy that I did it when I did, too. I like to lay off the family history now and then, in case I run out of it. This lot is keeping me happy by spreading across to New Orleans. What’s the use of an easy puzzle?