Going Cuckoo over Clocks
I had originally put up a poem titled ‘The Clock on the Wall’, written in my late teens many years ago. But since it was too small for a hub, I thought it best to fill in something about clocks as a kind of background to the poem. In the process, you might say I've 'gone cuckoo over clocks' because you'll find a lot of assorted stuff here about clocks.
Well, there is so much to write about clocks. I observe how we've been swamped by battery-operated clocks for the last 40 years or so. I remember, how prior to 1970, we had hand-wound, sturdy, small, steel clocks (I love the German time-pieces!) - but now such clocks have become antiques. I don't remember seeing any musical clocks or cuckoo clocks in homes, except those I've seen in the famous museum in my own city. But clocks have always been with me - from the wrist-watch that I first wore at age 15 (an old steel HMT) to the innovative Timex alarm clocks that seem to be the rage these days.
Going back to my childhood and my first days in school, I remember this nursery rhyme about a clock and a mouse. It was called Hickory Dickory Dock, and it went like this:
Hickory, dickory, dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
The mouse ran down.
Hickory, dickory, dock.
I remember the song we used to sing round the piano in primary school. It was
My grandfather’s clock
Was too large for the shelf,
So it stood 90 years on the floor...
It was bought on the morn
Of the day that he was born...
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.
90 years without slumbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
His life seconds numbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
It stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.
Looking it up recently on the Net, I found it had several stanzas, which I don’t remember I ever sang. All I know are the two telescoped ones above.
So much for childhood memories about clocks. I don’t remember reading any poems about clocks. But I had graduated to reading mystery novels, and I noticed that Agatha Christie’s books always had clocks somewhere in them. The clocks usually stopped when murder was committed. Which remains a mystery to me, because the clocks these days stop only when their batteries run out. But in those days, they had these pendulum clocks which they wound up with a key. Strange, you don’t find those clocks anymore. We’ve clocks these days that chime the hour without the need for a pendulum.
Talking of pendulums, I need to give you a little history about clocks. Clocks were sundials in ancient times. The sundial measured local solar time (daylight time) with reasonable accuracy. But sundials didn’t work at night and on cloudy days. There were also candle clocks and hourglasses, and water clocks. Water clocks, known as clepsydrae (singular: clepsydra), along with the sundials, are possibly the oldest time-measuring instruments.
While never reaching the level of accuracy of a modern timepiece, the water clock was the most accurate and commonly used timekeeping device for millennia, until it was replaced by the more accurate pendulum clock in 17th century Europe. The word clock (from the Latin word clocca, "bell") suggests that it was the sound of bells which characterized the prototype mechanical clocks that appeared during the 13th century in Europe. The invention of the mechanical clock in the 13th century initiated a change in timekeeping methods from what is called a ‘continuous process’, such as the motion of the gnomon’s shadow on a sundial or the flow of liquid in a clepsydra, to repetitive ‘oscillatory process’, like the swing of a pendulum or, in these modern times, the vibration of a quartz crystal, which were more accurate. All modern electronic clocks use oscillation.
Well, that about sums up the history of clocks.
Dear reader, you might like some of these quotes about clocks, some philosophical, some witty, and some wildly jocular:
"We all run on two clocks. Oneis the outside clock, which ticks away our decades and brings us ceaselessly to the dry season. The other is the inside clock, where you are your own timekeeper and determine your own chronology, your own internal weather and your own rate of living. Sometimes the innter clock runs itself out long before the outer one, and you see a dead man going through the motions of living." ~ Max Lerner.
They took away time, and they gave us the clock. ~ Abdullah Ibrahim
Don't watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going. ~Sam Levenson
Clock watchers never seem to be having a good time. ~ J.C. Penney
I think that in the future, clocks won't say three o'clock anymore. They'll just get right to the point and rename three o'clock 'Pepsi.' ~ Doug Coupland
Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life. ~William Faulkner
Our strategy is one of preventing war by making it self-evident to our enemies that they're going to get their clocks cleaned if they start one. ~John W. Vessey, Jr.
The media were always sniping at former U.S. President, George Bush. I don’t know why they called him Dubya, but this joke is really funny: (Cheney was his Vice President.)
“Dubya: Look at the clock, time is racing!
Cheney: That’s the second hand, George.”
"A mouse trap placed on top our your alarm clock will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep."
"An alarm clock is a device to make you rise and whine."
"I realistically eat every hour and 15 minutes. I watch the clock to see when I eat again. I'm almost upset that I'm not eating now. ~Micheal Todd
I once made love for an hour and fifteen minutes, but it was the night the clocks are set ahead. ~Garry Shandling
A Rare German Joke #1
(When I say 'rare', I mean this is the German joke to make Germans laugh. Usually Germans understand no language but their own, and German jokes cannot be translated into English, including the one about 'salted peanuts' which Germans have been laughing over for the last 50 years.)
Harvey's grandfather clock suddenly stops working right one day, so he loads it into his van and takes it to a clock repair shop. In the shop is a little old man who has a heavy German accent. He asks Harvey, "Vat sims to be ze problem?" Harvey says, "I'm not sure, but it doesn't go 'tick-tock-tick-tock' anymore. Now it just goes 'tick...tick...tick.'" The old man says, "Mmm-Hm!" and steps behind the counter, where he rummages around a bit. He emerges with a huge flashlight and walks over the the grandfather clock. He turns the flashlight on, and shines it directly into the clock’s face.
Then he says in a menacing voice, "Ve haf vays of making you tock!"
Schoolboy Q&A Jokes #2
Q: Why shouldn't you tell a secret around a clock?
A: Time will tell.
Q: What happens when you annoy a clock?
A: It will tick you off.
For those of you who would like to read a book about clocks, I would recommend James Thurber’s The 13 Clocks, an old book from 1950 reprinted in 2008 with Marc Simont’s original illustrations. It’s a fairy tale story about a Prince in disguise, an evil Duke with his Princess niece, an extraordinary character called the Golux, and a terrifying “blob of glup” called a Todal. And there’s a woman who weeps jewels, an invisible spy, and “something very much like nothing anyone had seen before.” And, of course, as in a fairy tale, the good guys win, the Prince rescues the Princess, and the evil Duke gets what he deserves; but the true joy of the story is in the telling, and finding out how it happens. It’s not a lengthy book—only eight chapters, just about the right length for reading at bedtime. Little children will love it, even if they don’t really understand it all. The language is flowery and whimsical, and Thurber is fond of throwing in words that aren’t real but sound like they might be.
If you are on the other side of the Atlantic, you will love this beautiful story titled ‘Against the Clock’ by P.G. Wodehouse - about a village clock and a suspenseful game of cricket. It’s at http://www.arthursclassicnovels.com/wodehouse/criket10.html
Writing about clocks, you can’t help adding a note about clock towers. They add so much beauty to a village or town landscape. I remember the clock towers that I saw in the village squares in Kheda and Anand districts of Gujarat. My own city of Secunderabad boasts of a beautiful clock tower, and here’s a photo I took of it with my Canon Powershot back in 2006. http://www.flickr.com/photos/55163494@N00/162080662/
The most famous clock tower is the one we call Big Ben. When I visited London in 2005 I noticed it dominated the London landscape around Westminster. Big Ben is actually the name of the bell; the clock tower is called the Great Westminster Clock. It is more than 150 years old, and is the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world. But the Saudi Arabians are coming up with a glitzy giant clock being set atop the Abraj Al Bait Towers at Mecca. That clock tower will dwarf the Big Ben, but can never match the history and tradition that backs the London clock.
There are some beautiful clock towers around the world, like St Marks Clock in Venice, and the Memorial Hall Clock in Yokohama, Japan. You can see their pics at http://www.flickr.com/groups/clock_towers_around_the_world/pool/
Before I sign off with this introduction, I would like to mention the clocks scene in the movie ‘Pulp Fiction’ – and the question that they keep asking about it: “Are all the clocks in the pawn shop set at the same time?” The answer to that is: ‘No.’ Was it a great movie? In my personal opinion, ‘No.’ Why? All the great classic movies were produced prior to 1969.
But for those of you who prefer to listen to songs rather than watch movies (and I belong to this group), there’s a good song by the U.K. group Coldplay titled ‘Clocks’. Do you like Coldplay? Well, Coldplay is for my son’s generation. But their song’s far better than U2’s 11 O’Clock Tick-Tock! I think U2 is better off singing “I Still Haven’t Found What I’ve Been Looking For”
The Clock on the Wall
I look at the face
Of the clock on the wall,
A white minute-hand
Over its gleaming black
The regular ticking
Sounds loud in the stillness,
Till one revolution
Completes the hour...
The pendulum strikes
The end of the race.
It begins again
Through days and through weeks,
Crawling and creeping
To complete the year,
The end of a stage.
Its continual plodding
Resembles the life
Of the man in the street
On his tedious way...
A meaningless age.
© Tan Pratonix
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