Church Clock

There’s a church in a village long swallowed up by Greater London. It came powerfully to mind tonight as I looked out across fields of oilseed flowers to a lovely range of hills which now separate me from that place – and time. After rain and an unseasonably cold wind, the sky was blue here. It felt quite warm, and the drifts of white cloud were infused by the gold of the evening sun.  Blue and gold.

For 13 years I climbed the spiral staircase of the tower of that church three times a week, often in the winter, in the dark. There were no lights, but my feet knew how to go. No-one except me ever went up there. Why were the steps so worn?

My regular duties were to keep the tower clock wound by hand.  I loved it. I loved the place. I loved its great mechanism.

It didn’t occur to me to wonder why the steps were so worn. The clock was fairly recent, only about 90 years old. The steps I climbed, I now realise, were put there about 500 years ago. No wonder they were worn. I received messages from people living nearby that they loved to hear the clock strike: the hours and the quarters. It was company. It was reassurance.

The face of the clock was blue. Its detail in gold.

Blue and gold. Like tonight’s sky.

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