Clock up

Am I the only person who grew up among an extended family whose clocks were fast and deliberately so?

Anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes fast was the norm, and they didn’t lose time all by themselves.

Even when they were adjusted back and forth at the summer and winter solstices they were maintained at their fast times.

Years later I recall a relative coming to stay with me and without my knowing it, she changed the times on my clocks to 20 minutes fast.

But when I flew into a panic thinking I was late for a train, she pointed out her changes in a manner that suggested I was the odd one.

Was this habit a response to the aberrance in time keeping that seems to this day to be part of the national psyche?

Just think about how many times you’ve waited in for the handyman/tradesman/phone engineer who arranges to be with you on a certain morning but has failed to show by lunchtime.

Try moaning to anyone you know and you’ll be told they’re all the same. In other words, this is the norm.

Then there’s the friend who fixes a time for coffee and will always greet you upon their arrival with a casual ‘sorry I’m late’.

The digital age has largely dispensed with the need to glance up at a wall clock. Maybe it has something to do with a perception that digital timepieces are more accurate than tick-tock versions.

Certainly, our computer clocks automatically move as the seasons require, and many of our mobile phones do the same, so the precise time-keeping of saying it’s 2.44pm has replaced saying it’s nearly a quarter to three. And yet we’re late.

So when did the tick-tock clock time out? Maybe it was the advent of the invidious radio alarm searing into our slumber at an ungodly hour as we enjoyed a last precious minute of cosiness in bed before facing the final wake-up call of shower and coffee.

Yes, indeed, there’s something inherently comforting about the sound of a clock ticking, its chime marking the hour and slowing our pace like a piece of music that has us walking in time to its beat.

It’s as if time is moving gently rather than marching on, but unless you’ve inherited a fine old grandfather or mantle-piece clock, such comfort may only be provided nowadays by a swipe at the snooze button to fleetingly sooth distressed sleepiness.

Somewhere in between is the gimmick clock — for fun as well as practicality. There are plenty on offer to combine wit with great design so you end up with something to act as the focal point of a room or on an expanse of wall.

Even consider the entertaining little cuckoo clock. Fashion items they’re not, but for a touch of fashionable kitsch, the little hut with carved leaves and tiny bird popping out on the hour makes a great conversation piece. That is, until its hourly chirping becomes as invidious to your sweet dreams as the radio alarm.

¦ Next week we borrow from Baroque style for a touch of interiors high drama


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