Travel Shot: The Mechanical Clock

The gentle whirring and the polite clicking sounds coming from the… contraption was fascinating. What is it, I wondered, as I walked around it. What were the ropes for, ropes that ascended to the ceiling? And the slowly moving wheels? And why was it cordoned off with a “Please do not touch” sign?

That July afternoon of 2009, I was at Salisbury Cathedral wondering what this contraption was all. A simple information plaque on one side enlightened me and I did a double take when I read it. This… contraption was a clock? A clock without a face? And that too 700 years old?

The Mechanical Clock. One of the stone weights can be seen hanging on the left, behind the clock. Note the ropes going out of the frame of this  photo—these are attached to a bell, which strike at the hour every hour.

I was standing before the oldest Mechanical Clock in Europe. There are even claims to this being the oldest working mechanical clock in the world. Dating back to 1386, this clock was re-discovered in the Cathedral in 1928 and restored back to working condition in 1956. Most of the parts of the clock are original as is its wrought iron frame.

A single-strike clock, i.e. it makes one strike for every hour of the day, the power to run it is supplied by two large stone weights. As the weights descend, ropes (which are attached to a bell) unwind from the wooden barrels. Before the weights reach the floor, they have to be wound back up again. For more technical details on the working of the clock, please click here.

Though the Salisbury Cathedral had many other attractions on offer—an impressive 400 feet tall spire and an original copy of the Magna Carta, among others—it is the simple (?) mechanical clock that remains with me after 3 years. A clock that works even today after so many centuries and is accurate to within 2 minutes.

Not bad for a 700-year old clock, eh? :-)

PS: For more photographs of Salisbury, please click here.

Travel Shot: A view of Greenwich from the river Thames

Sometimes, it takes a larger view for things to fall into perspective. Literally. Viewing the former Royal Naval College in Greenwich (pronounced Gren-itch) from across the Thames was one such experience.

I had spent a lovely day spent at Greenwich as part of a guided walk through Maritime Greenwich, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of particular interest to me were the two buildings of the former Royal Naval College, which was designed by Christopher Wren, and captured by the famous Italian painter, Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto. Throughout my explorations there, I kept searching for that one view that captured the beauty, simplicity and symmetry of Wren’s design, but in vain.

It wasn’t till I crossed the river Thames to the opposite bank to take the DLR back to London that I realised that I had been searching for Canaletto’s view from the wrong side. When I emerged from the underground foot tunnel, this was the beautiful sight that greeted me.

A view of the former Royal Naval College, Greenwich, from the River Thames

Continue reading

Museum Treasure: Gold, silver, copper, diamond

The Sedgwick Museum of Geology in the university town of Cambridge (UK) is, to put it mildly, a fascinating place. It has a fantastic collection of fossils, rock specimens from all over the world, as well as a large collection of minerals and metals. On a visit to Cambridge, this was one of the places I chose to explore. I loved their unique collection, but what really caught my attention was a display of the natural or native forms of gold, silver and copper, as well as a natural “solitaire” as found in its host rock, Kimberlite.

Gold, silver and copper as they appear in their natural state

Continue reading

Travel Shot: The Bored Woman of Gloucester Cathedral

August 1, 2009: The Bored Woman of Gloucester Cathedral

The trip to Gloucester Cathedral happened by chance. Our tour group was on its way to Wales from London and Gloucester was a pit stop for the bus driver to have a smoke and stretch his legs. Since we had made good time, our tour guide generously allowed us an hour in Gloucester and suggested either exploring the Gloucester docks, or visiting the Cathedral. I opted for the latter.

A 15 minute walk and a fast trot later I was at the beautiful Gloucester Cathedral admiring its beautiful architecture, graceful columns and stunning stained glass windows, Then suddenly the above relief caught my eye. I had a tough time controlling my laughter. In a place where one comes across expressions of piety, even severity, this bored “whatever” expression was a real eye-catcher ! The inscription for this rather quirky relief was in Latin, a language I do not know. All I could figure out was that it was a memorial for a person named “Margerie” who died in April 1623.

I tried to find out more about the “bored woman” on the Cathedral website, but not find anything there. In case you do come across any information on her, you will let me know, won’t you?

Travel Shot: Feeling blue at North Greenwich tube station

7 July 2009: North Greenwich Tube Station

For a short while, it appeared as if there there was nobody on this platform of North Greenwich tube station (Jubilee Line), except for this woman and me. Her blue jeans and red jacket mirrored the blue and red colour scheme of the station. Her slumped posture and her back to the camera, seemed to me to be the perfect setting for Edward Hopper, one of my favourite painters.

How could I not capture this shot?

117 doors

During yet another attempt to organise my digital photographs into some sort of a library last weekend, I noticed one thing.

I had lots of photographs of doors. Yes, you read right. Doors. Wooden doors, painted doors, open doors, closed doors, doors in walls, even door exhibits in museums! All in all, I had 117 photographs of doors.

Here are some doors from my collection (obsession?)

Door Exhibits at the British Museum. The one on the right is made of limestone

Continue reading