Saturday, March 07, 2009


These days, it tolls for me. Mainly because we are now the proud owners of a Grandfather Clock.

Q: What is this?
A: It’s a grandfather clock, sucker.

  1. E, D, C, G
  2. C, E, D, G
  3. C, D, E, C
  4. E, C, D, G
  5. G, D, E, C
The above is not a bunch of Random Gibberish - not that my Esteemed Readers would expect me to (ahem) put Random Gibberish up here - but rather, the notation for Westminster Quarters, perhaps the best-known melody for Clock Bells.

I’ve become very familiar with the Westminster Quarters over the last week. Every fifteen minutes, their gentle chime reminds me that another little chunk of my life has sped by.

They are not haphazard, these chimes. Sequence 1 plays on the quarter hour, followed by 2 and 3 on the half. On the third quarter, 4, 5, and 1 play; and on the hour, 2, 3, 4, and 5, followed by strikes for the number of the hour. Thus, the five sequences are each repeated twice, in order, over the course of an hour.

I find it strangely comforting that, while there is some uncertainty as to the melody’s author, it is most widely attributed to one William Crotch.

As to the clock itself, it is a fine exemplar of the Horological Art, replete with fine wood, glass, and brass. It is not the sort of thing I would have rushed out and purchased for myself, but it was the most gracious alternative amongst the choices offered by the Great Corporate Salt Mine for a career kiss-off retirement gift. Somehow or other, a mountain bike or a digital point ’n’ shoot camera doesn’t feel like a suitable reward for a 32-plus year career. Whereas a fine Clock, as it ticks and chimes away the hours, reminds you of just how much of your life you have managed to piss away... working at that career, f’r instance.

I don’t mean to sound unnecessarily snarky. It really is a beautiful Retirement Gift, and it adds a certain Classic Tone to the corner of my office where I have emplaced it... a Tone both metaphorical and aural.

I’m not exactly sure where the appellation “Grandfather Clock” comes from. I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that a grandfather clock has a pendulum to operate its escapement... and grandfathers are notoriously pendulous. Which brings us back to Mr. Crotch.

In closing (as I hear the clock chime sequences 2 and 3, marking the half-hour), I offer a riddle, one propounded by Eric Idle of Monty Python:

Q: What’s brown and sounds like a bell?

[Answer below the fold.]

A: Dung!

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