Eaves drop on privet cams
Part of the restoration would involve matching holes and screws and this might sound maddening but it was exactly what I liked about clockmaking as I had learned it from my grandfather Gehrig—the complete and utter peace of it.When I wanted to go to art school, I thought it must feel like this, to paint, say, like Agnes Martin.The later screws, about two hundred of them, had a Standard Whitworth thread with a set angle of 55 degrees. So I immediately knew this “object” had been made in the middle of the nineteenth century when Whitworth thread became the official standard but many clockmakers continued to turn their own screws.These different types of threads told me that Crofty’s “object” was the product of many workshops.In fact my first assignment at the Swinburne had been his gift to the museum: a monkey. ” He was talking to Catherine Gehrig who he had known so very well, for years and years. And then in the stinging focus of his gaze I understood that he had pulled a lot of strings, had pissed off a lot of people in order to get the backstreet girl set up where her emotions would not show. I thought of those nineteenth-century prisoners escorted to their cells with bags over their heads, locked up with their looms to work and work and never know where they were. My head was furry and my chest thick, but I lined the tools up like a surgeon’s instruments upon my bench—pliers, cutters, piercing saw, files, broaches, hammer, anti-magnetic tweezers, brass and steel wire, taps and dies, pin vice, about twenty implements in all, every one tipped with an identifying spot of bright blue nail varnish. So: it had been packed by amateurs, during the Blitz; evacuated from London to the safety of the country.That particular monkey had had a certain elegance, except for the way it drew back its lips to smile, but for a person raised on the austere rational elegance of clockwork it was creepy beyond belief. Finally, in order to complete the restoration, I had to cover its head with a paper bag. He had seen me in very stressful (dangerous, in museum terms) circumstances and I had never given him cause to see me as anything other than calm and rational. Eric, by contrast, loved big emotions, grotesque effects, Sing-songs, the Opera. I can’t.” Then, I saw the blood rising from his collar. He was looking after me for Matthew, but for the museum as well. Truly I am.” “Yes, I’m afraid you have to go through Security if you want to smoke. I thought, please God let this “thing” not involve clothes or any sort of fabric.He had certainly lost it by the time I understood our family secret. He fell off his stool without me understanding what the problem was. He hated these city louts coming into his shop demanding to have their batteries changed. What my father had lost was what my Matthew was always blessed with, the huge peace of metal things.
I hope my father knew this blissful feeling as a young man, but now I doubt it. He loved clockmaking, but he was destroyed by what it had become. On that April afternoon in the Georgian halls of the Swinburne Museum, amongst the thousand daily visitors, the eighty employees, there was not one single soul who had any idea of what had just happened. It was impossible Matthew was not there, waiting to surprise me. There was a vertical frown mark just to the left of his big high nose. We were museum people, scholars, priests, repairers, sand-paperers, scientists, plumbers, mechanics—train-spotters really—with narrow specialities in metals and glass and textiles and ceramics. It is what clocks were good for, their intricacy, their peculiar puzzles. Many of the Swinburne’s conservators had spent a season in the Annexe, working on an object whose restoration could not be properly undertaken at the main museum. “Of course you do not know.” I could not look at him. “Here you are darling, let me swipe that for you.” As we moved through the first secure door I was still very shaken by the Mini. I fled down the Philips stairs into the main floor. I may have looked mad, but perhaps I was not so different from my colleagues—the various curators and conservators—pounding through the public galleries on their way to a meeting or a studio or a store room where they would soon interrogate an ancient object, a sword, a quilt, or perhaps an Islamic water clock. I ARRIVED HOME STILL not knowing how my darling died. It was not a prison—a prison would have had a sign—but its high front gates were festooned with razor wire. I could feel Eric watching me with his soft wet eyes. And she, that great designer of marital “understanding,” would play the grieving widow. They would all be there, his wife, his sons, his colleagues. ” “Had a cancellation.” I don’t know who laughed first, maybe it was me because once I started it took a while to stop. Someone decided not to die.” “I don’t know, Catherine, perhaps they got a lower price from a different cemetery, but it is tomorrow at three o’clock.” He pushed a folded piece of paper across the table. If I was raging it was because I was excluded from the funeral, but of course I was far too unhinged to be at Kensal Rise. To my astonishment they knew who I was and displayed towards me an unexpected tenderness which made me mad with suspicion.But really, truly, anyone who has ever observed a successful automaton, seen its uncanny lifelike movements, confronted its mechanical eyes, any human animal remembers that particular fear, that confusion about what is alive and what cannot be born. I have always been certain that it was the threat of torture that stopped him saying the same held true for human beings. That we were intricate chemical machines never diminished our sense of wonder, our reverence for Vermeer and for Monet, our floating bodies in the salty water, our evanescent joy before the dying of the light. It was yellow, had a brown legend—“Sam’s Own Mixture”—and a picture of a dog who I assumed was Sam, a gorgeous Labrador, gazing adoringly upwards. I would teach it to sleep on my bed and it would lick my eyes when I cried. That they were small brass screws would be obvious to anybody.The horologist’s eye saw more—for instance, most of them had been made before 1841. I had learned to do that when I was ten years old, sitting beside my grandfather at his bench in Clerkenwell.