Caught by the River

The Summer is Over (Clocks Go Back Tonight)…..

27th October 2007

Louise Wolfson, antique clock restorer

There’s happiness in clocks. It’s to do with restoration, repainting, keeping an old thing alive. I didn’t take a course. I learned on the job about the types of movement in clocks, the cogs, and how to diagnose a clock, how to listen to a tick. You can tell various things when you hear an uneven tick – it means there’s something wrong. I don’t particularly care for quartz. A wind-up clock is a living thing. The tick you hear today is the same tick someone in the past heard. It’s not a recording. It’s an organic sound. Plenty of people don’t like a tick. There are people out there who might prefer silence. But I think it’s hypnotic. A good, even tick makes me happy.

Restoration is bringing something back to life. Keeping the past alive is a joyous feeling, because you’re in the past in a way, and intimate with it. Inside a clock, you’ve got quite delicate gongs with tonalities that are very pleasant to the ear. It’s never a harsh sound. Different clocks belong in different rooms: grandfather clocks in the living room, cuckoos in the kitchen.
Clocks aren’t my only source of happiness. I write country songs, paint and walk in the countryside. I’ve got my mum and brother. The passing of time is not something that makes my looks any better, so that is a little unfortunate and makes me unhappy. My wise grandfather said the secret to happiness is not to do what you like but to like what you do. I like what I do. Every eight days you have physically to turn the keys of an antique clock, so in a way you’re interacting with time itself. You’re switching on time like a magician.

Interview by Craig Taylor
Saturday October 27, 2007
The Guardian

  • The Guardian