Stop the clock

Watch and chain Back to opinions

When I moved into my office in Heriot-Watt University, I found that the large clock on the wall of my office had stopped. I called Estates, the department in the University responsible for making sure that wall clocks continue turning, doors continue opening, walls continue standing, roofs continue not to leak, and so forth.

Et Voilà, the next day my clock was working again. Round and round it turned, always telling me the correct time.

A year later it stopped again, showing a time of ten to ten — and I found that I liked it. At Heriot-Watt, ten to ten is a good time, neither too late nor too early:

In short: ten to ten is a time of peace before the storm.

So when Estates replaced the battery, I took it out. Every so often when I feel stressed and under time pressure, I look at my clock. I see its hands pointing to ten to ten, and I feel calmer and reassured.

Every organization has a brusque but warm-hearted Scotsman in charge of buildings and/or materiel; just look at Star Trek. Heriot-Watt University hardly bucks the trend; Mr Waverley the head of Estates[1] is brusque but has a heart of gold. He glares angrily at everybody who walks into his office, berates them for their sillier requests, and then moves heaven and earth to give them what they ask for.

I walked into Mr Waverley’s office the other day. He was glaring at and berating a lab technician. The lab technician, no doubt used to this, was listening in peaceful and similing equinamity.

As I arrived, Mr Waverley glared at both of us, and continued to berate:

Sae Ah walked intae Professur Carpenter’s office,[2] an' his clock wasnae workin'. Ah took it aff th' wall an' saw 'at th' battery was half oot. Ah pushed it back in. Next week, Ah noticed 'at th' clock hud stopped again, an' th' battery was half oot again.

Ah thooght 'at purhaps somebody was slammin' his duir an' jolting the battery oot, sae Ah asked Professur Carpenter whether he hud problems wi' his duir slammin'.

‘No’, he replied, ‘why do you ask?’.

‘Because th' battery ay yer clock keeps fallin' half oot’, Ah tauld heem.

‘So you’re the one that keeps pushing the battery back in! Can you stop doing it please?’.

Ah said if he didne want th' clock Ah coods tak' it awa', an' he said:

‘Oh no, it has to be there, but it musn’t be working’.[3]

And with an English accent:

So I walked into Professor Carpenter’s office, and his clock wasn’t working. I took it off the wall and saw that the battery was half out. I pushed it back in. Next week, I noticed that the clock had stopped again, and the battery was half out again.

I thought that perhaps somebody was slamming his door and jolting the battery out, so I asked Professor Carpenter whether he had problems with his door slamming.

‘No’, he replied, ‘why do you ask?’.

‘Because the battery of your wall clock keeps falling half out’, I told him.

‘So you’re the one that keeps pushing the battery back in! Can you stop doing it please?’.

I said if he didn’t want the clock I could take it away, and he replied:

‘Oh no, it has to be there, but it musn’t be working’.

Looks like I’m not the only one then. Did I tell this to Mr Waverley? No, I didn’t have the courage. But there’s strength in numbers; if you too like a stopped clock on your office wall then drop me an e-mail.


1. Not his real name.
2. Not his real name either.