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Time Machine (Milton Keynes)

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The Time Machine animated clock in Midsummer Place, Milton Keynes.

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      06.09.2011 19:24
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      An unusual clock and one well worth visiting if you're in or near CMK (specially if you have kids)

      The Time Machine in Midsummer Place in Central Milton Keynes is a clock. Now a clock may not seem like a particularly interesting thing to visit, or something which should appear as a place of interest, but really, it does deserve to be here, let me explain.

      The Clock
      'The Time Machine' is also known locally as the 'Frog Clock', and is one of the largest indoor animated clocks in the country. The original images for it were conceived by the artist & author Kit Williams famous for his wonderful book Masquerade which I adored as a child, and have recently been re-enjoying with my niece and nephews.

      The clock is pretty impressive. It measures around 16 metres across, and apparently weighs in the region of four tonnes. If you like art work and sculpture, then this is a masterpiece at any time of the day, but when the clock strikes the hour, this amazing clock comes to life to the delight of anyone watching.

      The Animation
      The tune 'I'm forever blowing bubbles' plays in the background as the frog springs to life blowing bubbles up into the air around him. His eyes light up, and the intricate lily pad spreads out behind him. It's hard to describe exactly what happens, so I do urge you to go and see this for yourself, but there is a forge where golden balls are made, and then these balls of sunshine slide down rails delivering themselves to the frog. A hammer smacks the ball inside the clock and then it reappears to run down an escapement before returning inside the clock again.

      The whole thing doesn't take long - a few minutes, but a big crowd always appears just before the hour in readiness, and I don't know any child who doesn't enjoy watching this at least a few times. My niece and nephew have demanded visits to the frog over the years when they've visited with us, and I never mind taking them as I think I enjoy it as much as they do.

      Bringing Back Memories
      When I was a small child I lived in London near Lewisham, and when my mum went shopping in the precinct here, I'd always try to get her to take me to two places, one was a play area where I could climb on model dinosaurs, and the other was the animated clock in Lewisham Precinct. So when as an adult living here in Milton Keynes, Midsummer place was built 10 years ago with it's wonderful Frog Clock, I have to say some of those childhood memories were brought back to life for me. This clock is however quite different to the one at Lewisham, and much larger and more impressive.

      When to Go
      I would suggest that to see this at its best, and when the crowds aren't too heavy, it's best to visit it on a weekday, as at weekends when the kids are all off school, and there are more visitors to Milton Keynes attending, the crowds waiting to see the Frog do his thing are quite a lot bigger. Having said this, if you can only visit at a weekend, then don't worry as the clock repeats every hour, and there are plenty of interesting shops to see here in between times as well as cafes etc. where you can grab a drink while you're waiting. The clock being so large, and also set up quite high, is visible easily even if you're stood back behind other people, but if you've smaller children with you, making sure they're near to the front so they can see properly is a good idea.

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