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When I was a child my mother obtained a small antique chiming clock. It is made of wood, simply inlaid, shaped like a simple pointed arch in a Romanesque church, perhaps ten inches tall at the apex. (In style it is not unlike the simple old church in Gilmerton where my daughter lives.) I don't remember where my mother got it, but she loved it extravagantly, not for its almost modern asceticism of design - a bewitching simplicity - so much as for its rich, subtle tone when it struck the hour. It chimes deeply (for all its tiny size), and richly (because of the wood).

When my mother died I inherited the clock. Once long ago there was a minor house fire during which the clock was knocked off its shelf, sustaining a small scratch on its front: I regarded this as a charming sign of age. I had it reconditioned many times. Since it is after all a piece of obsolete technology (one winds it from time to time with an intricate key!), of course it was never as accurate as the computer...at least not when the computer clock was working.

This is part of its real charm, of course. Computers are absolutely accurate when they work (roughly 20% of the time) and utterly useless the rest of the time, while my mother's clock ticks on relentlessly, never so very accurate, never so very inaccurate, a reflection of a time when that was more than good enough.

My eldest daughter came to visit recently. She told me that she'd be willing to cede "the garnets" and "the pearls" to her younger sister if only she could have "the clock" when I died.

So I gave it to her during this visit. It was slightly damaged in travel when she took it home, but will be repaired. Its quiet, deep little note will sound the hours through the night in her house, when everyone is asleep.

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