Friday 11 January 2008

Clocked Up

A few weeks before she died in March 1999, my very dear aunt in the East End sent an old clock to be repaired. In the flurry of sorting out the will I paid the bill as executor, but never actually picked up the clock. Time passed by. Fortunately, like the Mounties, Albion Clocks of South Woodford, world class clock repairers, always get their man. Notwithstanding our move and two aunts’ deaths, Colin Bent ran me to earth a couple of weeks ago, to remind me the clock was ready for collection, and had been since 1999!

Like other enthusiastic professionals in similar fields, Colin is a real gentleman, and one of the nicest people you will ever meet. Lucy and I spent a fascinating couple of hours in the Albion Clocks Gallery, though you could spend all day. There’s a science museum corner with power station and factory clocks, and, current exhibit of honour, a German Black Forest Organ Clock, which plays rollicking folksongs ever hour on the hour. The whole gallery hums with a web of sound from a hundred ticking clocks — two o’clock was a work of art. I’m only sorry we missed mid-day. This particular web of sound has itself done a star turn on screen in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

So we are now reunited with a wonderful early Victorian French mantel clock. Most likely it belonged to my Aunt’s great grandfather (below) who set up shop (and house) in Winchester in the early 1840’s. I remember it from when we lived with Aunty in the late 1950’s as a bit temperamental, with the gilding on the front blacked over. Colin tells me people did this to their showpiece mantel clocks as part of the public mourning for Prince Albert, who had done much to popularise this kind of clock in England... The whole Betjemanesque experience was what Wallace and Gromit call a Grand Day Out, including a visit to Aunty’s grave, and fish and chips together in the kind of café they don’t do round here. Magic!

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