Saturday, February 08, 2014

Repairing an elderly clock

Many, many years ago we visited my parents when they were living in the Middle East. And they happened to have a clock with what I thought were Arabic numerals on the face. (It turns out that the numbers we use in the West are actually Arabic numerals, and the ones on this clock - the ones used in Arabic writing - are in fact Hindi numerals. However that's not relevant to this post, but if anyone is curious, the link in the last sentence takes you to the Wiki page that explains in full.)

Anyway,we admired this clock very much, and Richard decided it would be a good idea for us to have one. Not long afterwards, we managed to acquire one. My memory is hazy: did we buy it, or was it a gift? I have no idea. But Richard thinks it was probably around 23 years ago.

So. The clock hung in our Birmingham house - in the living room, if I recall correctly - for some years. Then we moved to Cyprus, and it either stayed on the wall or went into storage. It finally moved here too when we sold our house, but I don't think we ever hung it at our old house; I can't find any photos of it, anyway, until this one, taken in 2006, shortly after we moved to the house where we now live:

That's the clock on the wall, looking square and fitting really quite nicely, where we could glance at it as we relaxed in the evening, or came in by the front door (which is opposite). 

So as to show the Arabic (or Hindu) style of numbers on the clock, here's a closer view, which was taken six-and-a-half years later, in 2012, when I was actually photographing our display of Christmas cards (mostly cropped out of this):

If you click the image, a larger view should appear; the back button (or X if it appears that way) should bring you back to the blog.

So, for some years our square clock stayed unobtrusively on the wall, informing us of the time. Occasionally a visitor would notice and comment (a popular question was whether the hands went backwards - thankfully not!).  Once, one of the cats, running along the wooden shelf below, got annoyed by the ticking second-hand and managed to knock the whole thing down, destroying the glass cover and slightly bending one of the hands.

But the clock kept working reliably. All it required in terms of maintenance was a new AA battery, perhaps once a year. It let us know when this was necessary by running slow.

I suppose it was six months ago that I went to change the battery, and realised that it had only been a few weeks since it last needed one. Perhaps, I thought with a shrug, it had been an old battery. So I made sure that I took a new one out of a packet, and replaced it, resetting the clock as usual.

It was fine for a month or so, then suddenly it was an hour slow again. Maybe, we thought, it was trying to adjust to daylight savings by itself... but we didn't worry too much. We kept an eye on it, and it continued being exactly an hour slow, so eventually we put it right, and it was fine. For another month or two... then one morning I got up and it was an hour slow again.

We left it this time. We got used to it. We learned to adapt our view of the correct time, taking account of the clock being an hour slow. Then, one morning, it was an hour and a half slow.  It was becoming a little annoying, but we thought we could adjust to that too. I found myself regularly looking at the clock on the other side of the door to check the time, but we would have got used to that too.. until the day when it was six hours slow.

So Tim said it was too confusing, and we should take it down. I suggested that perhaps the time had come to buy a new clock, but Richard likes this clock very much, and said that he would prefer to get it mended. He found that it was easy to remove the little square black mechanism that powered the clock. He said it had probably got worn out - it's not something we've ever noticed happening before, but then we don't have many 23-year-old clocks.

He looked online, and discovered that we could buy a replacement mechanism for two or three pounds from eBay in the UK. Of course, postage would be added to that, and it would be a few weeks before it arrived if we ordered one, so we thought we might see if something of the sort could be bought locally.

We walked into town on Friday, and did a few other errands, then we walked along one of the main streets, looking for a suitable shop. There are such a hotch-potch of different shops in Larnaka: here are a few that we went past:

At one watch shop, a woman was outside and asked if she could help. We showed her the mechanism, and she said that she didn't have one, but that if we wanted, she would phone her husband who was in Limassol, and he would bring one. Typically friendly and helpful - but we didn't really want to wait around for hours, and weren't sure that it would be the right thing anyway. So we thanked her, and said we would look elsewhere. She told us to come back if we didn't find it.

A few doors along, we saw a small shop with several clocks on the back wall. So we went inside and a very friendly man with excellent English took a quick look at the mechanism, and within a few seconds produced something looking almost identical. It had a longer bit sticking out - he asked if our clock had glass on it or was open, and when we said there was no glass (we never did get round to replacing it after the cat incident) he said it would be fine. 

I should, of course, have asked what price it was at that point. He had simply produced it, and we hadn't taken up much of his time. But we didn't think about it. And then he was rooting about on his shelves again, and returned with some plastic bags, from which he produced three clock hands; he said we would probably need new hands to attach to the new mechanism, and explained how to file them down if they were too long. 

Then he showed Richard how there was a slightly different way of fixing the mechanism into the back of the clock... and said that if he had any trouble we should take it back, and he would do it. And he told us that our old mechanism made the second-hand tick round, but the new one would go around smoothly without any ticks. Was that a problem? No, we said, that would be fine. 

He didn't got quite as far as to offer us coffee, but - such is the friendliness of the Cypriot that we felt welcomed and cared for.

Finally, as he was packing the things up, I asked him how much it would cost. I hoped three euros, expected five, maybe six.

'Ten euro', he said with a smile. 

It felt like a lot for a little mechanism that probably only cost a euro or two, but it was probably cheaper than buying a new clock. I wondered if we could have haggled, but by that stage it didn't feel right.  

So we smiled back, and I handed over a ten-euro note, and thanked him. 

I guess it's good to support the local economy where possible.... 

When we got home, Richard had to file the side of the clock very slightly but it fitted perfectly, and the new hands work just as we were told, with the second hand now gliding smoothly: 

It's quite disturbing to find that the clock is telling the correct time... but I'm sure we will get used to it. 

If it's another 23 years before we need to replace the mechanism again, we will be in our late seventies....! 


Anvilcloud said...

Someone once offered to fix my clock. It was not a pleasant experience.

Cro Magnon said...

Ten Euros seems very cheap to me!