Bartholomew Newsam – 16th century clockmaker – is sitting at his workbench. A bright spring day, light streams in through the window. He is in his early fifties – at the height of his career but a low point of his eyesight, so he is grateful for the sunshine.
“The spectacle makers have no guild either”, he thinks to himself, as he removes a heavy contraption of glass and hinged iron from his face with relief. “If they did, I expect they would have some down-to-earth motto, not in Latin. ‘A Blessing to the Aged..’”
“…like me”. Blast his eyes – he didn’t feel old otherwise. His springs still rebounded, his cogs felt well oiled. He still ticked and his bells rang at regular intervals.
He leans forward to concentrate deeply as he moves a delicate, thin, golden sliver with a tiny hole at one end, the hole has to fall onto the centre of the small clock face, only eight centimetres across.
“A minute hand. The lady shall have a minute hand”, he mutters. Nicolas Kratzer, deviser of the King’s horologues, a man ‘imported’ from Bavaria, has furnished some of his wall clocks with minute hands. But no-one has put one on a pocket watch, no-one has felt confident enough of the quality and evenness of the forged strips of metal provided by their heavy-handed, hammer-wielding guild masters the blacksmiths, let alone the consistency of the spring they can capture within it as they fashion the case for the coil. Even using the more accurate systems of weights and pulleys of the larger clocks, a minute hand has been considered ambitious.
“Strange” he thinks, as a minute is easier to measure incrementally than anything greater. Easier for me to count to sixty than the one thousand, eight hundred that is needed for just an hour. Easier to boil an egg than roast a beast.
He hums – as he fixes a tiny solid gold bolt to hold the slender minute hand in place.
“Will she let me show her how much love I can make to her in a minute?” he croons as he works – the waxing and waning – or rather swelling and shrinking – of time pulse inside this tiny, heavy, dense machinery he is constructing and for a moment he imagines he is fashioning a gilded clockwork cage and somewhere deep within it a winged pulsing thing flutters and bruises itself against the cogs.
The Lady Bolle – a handsome woman with plucked brows and lashes. No young and ignorant foolish floozy with billowing hair who would rely on some pompous man to tell her the time of day. Would she only place her faith in the working of timepieces fashioned by the hands of Germans or Belgians?
No, the Lady Bolle was the daughter of a mayor of London. To receive such a beautiful timepiece from an English craftsman – he might be the master of a new guild.
He holds the clock face up to the light and squints at it. He presses the ‘volvelle’, the rotating disc at the centre of the clock, and then, as the pressure holds it under his finger he turns it so that the writing etched on the flat gold surface rotates to become the right way up for him to read.
“Tempus Rerum Imperatur”, Time is the Commander of all Things.
She would be fluent in Latin. How would she understand this description? Almost like a memento mori, to give a lady a timepiece might serve to remind her of the very uncomfortable relation between beautiful women and time. Might it backfire?
He hears a knocking downstairs and the shuffling step of his manservant going to open the door to the street. Outside the window there is a commotion – a coach sweeps past only four hundred feet short of its final destination, the Swan with Two Necks, having come down from Manchester. The same coach he had caught one unseasonably cold April Tuesday twenty-eight years previous.
The door to the room bursts open. “I have a message from the Lady Bolle”.
“Yes, what is it?”
“She is to be painted by Paul van Somer. If she is pleased, and if it can be ready by next week, the horologue will feature in the portrait”.
St Lawrence Jewry
I felt really stupid and got lost.
I should really have taken the Northern Line all the way to Bank. Time is Commander of All Things.
Arrived at the beautiful St Lawrence Jewry a Wren church rebuilt in 1957 after being fired-bombed in 1940 during WW2. Cecil Brown designed a huge, white, gilded, square space surrounded by enormous stained glass windows mostly but not all designed by Christopher Webb. The most magnificent one is dedicated to Christopher Wren himself. It shows brick- layers, carpenters, plasterers, stonemasons and stained glass craftsmen at work. By Hammer and Hand All Arts Do Stand.
At the bottom are some well-known spires and towers belonging to Wren’s City churches. There are 126 churches within the square mile of the city.
Metal, stone, wood and glass a baroque crescendo in white and gold the organ recital filled the space, falling, spreading, touching our souls letting in light to the dark places.
Lucem Da Wobis Deo – O God Give Us Your Light. I listened.
A motto’s life
Trevor pecked his wife on the cheek. “Mercatura adivat omnes!” he remarked cheerfully as the both got into their identical small BMW’s to head for their respective offices via the M25.
Oh yes. “Marketing benefits everyone.” Trevor reflected as he tuned the car radio to Magic FM and thought over his launch plan for the company’s new male deodorant.
Michael got on the tube at Hendon. “Opiferque per urbem dicor,” he thought. I’m on my way to Tottenham Court Road and there, at Boot’s dispensary, I’m the “Bringer of Help throughout the World.’ ”
Kevin had a problem back at Tesco HQ. He’d had such turbulent times recently as Head of Meat and Butchery, responsible for over 1000 stores. The motto “Thou hast put all things under man’s feet, all sheep and oxen” was enscripted on the insignia of the Worshipful Company of Butchers, placed over the boardroom door. Yet there was not a mention of horsemeat. If only the Butcher’s Guild could take a leaf out of the book of the Guild of Secretaries. “Service with Integrity.” So much simpler, somehow. A straightforward mission.
Up in the Broadway, Mickey pulled up the shutters on the fruit and veg shop. “What’s all this ‘God gives us the increase’ business they’re all talking about?” he pondered. “I don’t see people round here going for any price increase on their apples. More like ‘2 for one’ at Morrisons.”
A couple of local characters walked by. He knew them. One, an ex council worker once laid York paving stone in the better off parts of the borough. Now, he just walked up and down with a bent head “God can raise to Abraham children of stone” he muttered, and he had nothing more to add.
An old woman, her whiskery face framed with flyaway grey, pushed a rusty supermarket trolley containing plastic bags full of pieces of unfinished sewing, bundled up newspapers, and some leftover food. Her olfactory signature trailed behind. She stood and addressed Mickey. “They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons!” she proclaimed.
“Good for them!” said Mickey. “Have an apple.”
In the City, a group of traders leaned back in their chairs looking at the screens in front of them. They were laughing loudly about the state of the future’s market that day. “Christ! Look at that Henry! Still you know what they say ‘Commerce and honest friendship with all, eh?”
The markets were in free fall that day and news of the financial crisis was out. City figures were gathering on street corners and a demonstration was assembling in Paternoster Square.
Chis, the coach maker was there. “The sun rises after the clouds” he remarked and with that a pale faced chef who worked in the directors dining room belonging to the bank behind, was escorted out by paramedics.
“Wounded but not conquered!” he remarked, his cut hand tightly bandaged.
“Let us all love one another!” shouted a woman in the crowd. A basket case, apparently.
A man with a cat appeared from nowhere and handed out a leaflet. ‘It’s written in Latin because we’ve been officially adopted now. The Guild of Cat Workers.
The motto means “God created felines for their intelligence and their special qualities as devious bastards.
“ We work for cats manufacturing their stuff. “ he explained and then wandered away.
Elsewhere, a curvy brunette had set up a cupcake stand representing another new Guild.
The banner over a display of multi coloured confections read “To Create Small Cakes is to be Desirable to Womankind.”
“Crecy! Poitiers! Agincourt!” shouted a disheveled man with a bow on his arm, pushing his way through the crowd.
But amidst the chaos there could be only one answer to the end of such a troubled day, as the light as the local bars and pubs twinkled .
“Hinc spes affulget! Hope shines forth,” the local innkeepers said.
“Yes!” added the Vintners. “Wine cheers the mind – Vinum Exhilrat Animum.”
“Indeed” agreed the Distillers. “Let’s all go for a G&T. You know what we say in the trade ‘Drop as rain, distill as dew.’ “
And with that the rainstorm began.
Astrid Sutton Sharkey
Worshipful Company of Marketors: Mercatura Adiuvat Omnes; Marketing Benefits Everyone
Worshipful Company of Apothecaries: Opiferque per Urbem Dicor: I Am Called a Bringer of Help Throughout the World
Worshipful Company of Paviors: God Can Raise to Abraham Children of Stone
Worshipful Company of Fruiterers: Deus Dat Incrementum (God Gives the Increase)
Worshipful Company of Butchers: Omnia Subiecisti Sub Pedibus, Oves Et Boves (Thou hast Put All Things Under Man’s Feet, All Sheep and Oxen.)
Worshipful company of World Traders: Commerce and Honest Friendship with all.
Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers: Surgit Post Nubila Phoebus (The Sun Rises After the Clouds)
Worshipful Company of Cooks: Vulnerati Non Victi (Wounded not Conquered)
Worshipful Company of Basket makers: Let Us Love One Another
Worshipful Company of Cat Workers: God Created Cats for their Intelligence and their Special Qualities as Devious Bastards
Worshipful Company of Cup Cake Makers: To Create Small Cakes is to Be Desirable to Womankind
Worshipful Company of Bowyers: Crécy, Poitiers, Agincourt
Worshipful Company of Innholders: Hinc Spes Affulget (Hence Hope Shines Forth)
Worshipful Company of Vintners: Vinum Exhilrat Animum (Wine Cheers the Mind)
Worshipful Company of Distillers: Drop as Rain Distill as Dew