his beautiful clock, by Diane Skidmore

The melodic tinkling chimes of the clock wake me from my dream.

For yet another day I come back into the real world. The golden clock is so beautiful – attributed to Jean-Claude Chambellon – the Elder! Did he have a son who also made musical clocks? Were his clocks also adorned with flowers and musical instruments? Was that his own dog? Could I add a tiny guitar to make it feel more real? Because when the music begins, it carries me back to my beautiful Mexico. And I feel so sad. My heart wants to sing but…

Mrs Cockburn and her children are not aware of how hard it is for me to see them playing so happily with Polly, their parrot. It’s just another reminder of the past and my home and how far away I am. I still have my own little parrot – Chico. He is not alive, it’s true, but he sits in my tiny replica kitchen – my favourite memento, the one that Mama gave to me so I would remember forever the place of my birth. The clock chimes again. I understand why Mr Cockburn brought it back from France – the chimes at midday go on for so long. But yes, it is now midday and at home Mama will be in her kitchen, grinding the flour for the tortillas on the metate, laughing with her sisters as they sit on the tiled floor, surrounded by all manner of utensils and with the coals of the brasero ready to refry the beans. The flowers on the clock remind me of our garden – except our flowers seemed to be so much bigger and brighter – maybe because the sun is always there. But it was the gold, the gold that brought the Conquistadores. And when they had melted all our heritage and taken it across the sea…I guess I should be grateful to Jean-Claude. At least he put flowers on his beautiful clock.

Mr Cockburn is a lovely man. He loves his wife and children. I suppose that is why he wanted a ‘special’ Mexican maid. Apparently his ancestors had gone to Mexico shortly after the Conquistadores – they had paved the way for the sharing of goods and even people. My mama had thought I would have a better life but I wish they all knew that along with the treasures he had brought with him, (myself, the new maid included), the painting that hangs in the entrance to his wonderful home – “Still Life of Arms and Armour” – scares me to death. The vision of the armour of the Conquistadores reminds me every single day that my mama’s kitchen is missing a daughter.



About claire collison

Writer, photographer, creative facilitator, and breast cancer survivor, I am currently Artist in Residence at the Women's Art Library (WAL) My first novel was a finalist in the Dundee Book Prize, and my short stories and poetry have appeared in print and online. In 2015 I was awarded second place in the inaugural Resurgence Prize, the world's first eco poetry competition, judged by Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. This blog began as a space for words generated on my walking/writing workshops at the Mary Ward centre in Bloomsbury - Writing the City (WTC). WTC has since grown to include many other venues, including the Museum of Broken Relationships, the Barbican, the River Rom, Southwark Woods, Aylesbury Estate, and most recently, as part of Walking Women festival, An Intimate Tour of Breasts. I have worked with Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, as the recipient of the first Max Reinhardt Literacy Award, designing teaching resources; and for The Photographers' Gallery, helping school children develop visual literacy as part of 'Seeing More Things'. If you would like me to design a workshop or walk for you, please be in touch!
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One Response to his beautiful clock, by Diane Skidmore

  1. rhodri89 says:

    Very interesting stuff.

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