Telling the Time

Slowly, lazily, the town hall clock chimes noon.  It is a gentle sound but is heard all across the town centre. I’ve seen pictures of its mechanism. It seems it’s still wound by hand, and, even when the clocks change, it tells the right time within a couple of hours.

The clock is fairly new for our town. It’s been there for about 120 years. I suppose the town hall itself could be called an example of modernisation. It’s probably about the same age. From the north to the south the buildings trace the centuries: mediaeval in the north, Victorian in the south, with fringes on the west and east tracing the developments of the 1970s and 1980s.

Here, where the clock chimes, behind every facade and exposed in the plaster of the shops and pubs, are Tudor beams. Cobbles border the town hall.

In the August sun families mingle in summer gear, merry children riding atop their fathers’ shoulders;  young mothers sharing their stories of infant genius.

For 13  years once I wound a church clock by hand. It had three weights: the clock itself, the hour chimes and the quarter chimes. I loved that clock and the spiral staircase to the chamber where I drew up the weights three times a week. This had to be a very regular process. Otherwise the chimes did not synchronise with the time.

At the bottom of the tower was a clump of pink spur valerian. It began life on the estuary near my parents’ Devon home in the 1970s.

The pubs of this old market town are commemorating the Battle of Britain this week.  I recall that one pub had on its wall a collection of pictures of aircrew and pilots from that time. They would recognise much that I see here now.

May we build on their legacy.

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