Pclasp (@admin)
8 months ago

Cuckoo Clocks

I am something of a clock and watch lover. One of my favorite places is the Horology section in the British Museum. The intricate workings of old timepieces fascinate me. The British Museum exhibits show the development of clocks and watches over the years, explaining how different mechanisms work. There are some lovely Grandfather Clocks there, encased in beautiful walnut and cherry wood. There are no cuckoo clocks, I'm glad to say. It's the one type of clock I can't abide. They are so twee and crass. They are the garden gnomes of clocks.

In the movie, The Third Man, there is a famous little speech given by Orson Welles' character, Harry Lime. Welles himself contributed the lines. He says that Italy managed to produce the great Renaissance artists such as da Vinci, against the background of war and terror. He contrasts this with Switzerland, a country that has enjoyed peace for so many years and all they can come up with is cuckoo clocks. It's a damning but amusing observation. The first cuckoo clocks are thought to have come from the Black Forest region of Germany in the 1700s, but we won't quibble.

In my imagination, I always have an image of an old shoe cobbler working away in a wooden chalet up a mountainside, with cuckoo clocks on the wall. There are plenty of modern owners however, and some cuckoo clocks are much sought after. They're still being made, just to irritate me. The worse thing is the actual cuckoo that jumps out, making an infernal racket and making me jump out of my skin.

The settings for these clocks adds to my discomfort. I don't mind them so much if they're in a house with traditional décor and furnishings but I do find it alarming when people have cuckoo clocks in the midst of their ultra modern furniture. They seem blissfully unaware of the jarring juxtaposition of such items. Everything else they own is digitally operated and wonderfully quite and then the cuckoo pops out on the hour, every hour. I want to throttle it.

Perhaps it's me who is perverse, but try as I may, I can't think of cuckoo clocks as cute. A real cuckoo chirping away on a sunny morning from his tree branch is a welcome addition. He's doing what comes naturally, as part of the other background bird song that drifts thru my window. He's not trying to be cute, seek approval or tell us the time. If I want to know the time, I'll consult my watch. I don't need the services of an artificial bird.