Paul Mackay am 15. Oktober 2012

La Faula is a winery and Agriturismo in the Friuli Region of North Italy. Some years ago Christine, Carlo and Franca of Helios Sundials stayed at La Faula. They were here on a research trip to the village of Aiello di Friuli which is known locally as the "Village of the Sundials". Many guests pass through La Faula and many have interesting professions or hobbies. But not many are sun-dial inventors, developers and designers. Not knowing anything about sundials, we were, of course, impressed that someone could have the knowledge and skill to design sundials and have them made but to us sundials were colourful ornaments designed to bring interest to the outside of a house. A piece of metal stuck into a wall at an angle with some nice images around and a half-moon of Roman numerals underneath. It seemed unlikely to us that a sundial could be more than that - after-all the essence of a sundial is just a shadow falling on a light surface!

Christine, Carlo and Franca returned to La Faula more than once. Franca especially had made friends with our dogs, Carlo seemed to enjoy the cooking and, mostly, the weather was nice so it was a good place to pass some days. Luca and I asked ourselves a number of times whether we could imagine having a sundial at La Faula. But we couldn't. Our house is an old farmhouse and they never had sundials. The old share-croppers told the time by listening to the church bells that toll-out every hour and half hour. The Villas of the Nobles had sundials but, well, we fall on the share-croppers side of the line. Putting a sundial in the garden would almost have seemed to be a pretension. And we want La Faula not to pretend to be something that it wasn't but to take its real past and use it to flavour the present.

But as time went on our curiosity regarding the Helios sundials was piqued and eventually we felt that we were resisting serendipity that had brought Carlo and Christine to La Faula and that good things should be seized at the moment lest the moment pass. So we chose the Polaris Sundial for our home and Agriturismo.

We knew where we wanted to put the Polaris - I will not call it a sun-dial because it is more than that. To prepare the concrete base we asked a retired bricklayer in the village to help us. I had found an old compass in a drawer so that we could orient the base perfectly along a North-South line. But the old bricklayer didn't need a compass. He identified a mountain behind La Faula and said "That's North". I checked with the compass. The mountain wasn't exactly to the magnetic north, it was a little bit off. But the brick layer would have none of it. "I don't care what the compass shows" he said "It's probably not accurate. The peak of Monte Canin is the point North". I didn't argue. I felt that if for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years Monte Canin had signified 'North' to the people who lived here then it was only right that this should be cemented, as history, into the base. And so it is that today, the Polaris is ever so slightly aligned differently to its base!

The Polaris has been with us now for two years. I gaze upon it every day and like my Breitling watch and the first Seiko my Godfather brought from Singapore, the Polaris pleases me for its engineered and worked stainless steel. When I touch it and rotate the bezel to reflect that date and month I marvel that such a precisely worked instrument can stay exposed to the elements and still be so smooth and measured in its movement. And for me this would have been enough. It would have been enough to put this beautiful instrument in our garden. Not a brass sundial aping those of old such as can be found in any garden centre. But an instrument intrinsically with its own beauty, to be touched and enjoyed. I would't have asked anything more of it and never expected to have had reason to use it to tell the time. But tell the time it does! And it has become my horological companion during the summer.

La Faula is a small operation and during the summer Luca and myself and our workers must play various parts. I am the grass-cutter, swimming-pool maintainer and Chef! When I came to La Faula I put away my Breitling as a watch on a farm is an impractical thing that in short-order will be damaged. Most farmers around La Faula tell the time by counting the pealing of the Ravosa Church Bells. But in the Agriturismo this is impractical as one is never focussed on the ringing so one never hears it. For the last two years, however, this has ceased to be a problem. To my wonder, I found that not only is the Polaris beautiful but at La Faula it is also practical. And so the Polaris, like the other time-keepers that I have enjoyed during my life, has become a part of the fabric in which I live. Every day I enjoy its beauty  my eye falling upon it as I exit from the main front door of the house. And in the summer it gives me the time of day. This is how the Polaris Sundial arrived and became a part of La Faula!


Dear Mr Mackay,
Concerning sundials, I'm not only interested in their construction, but also in the stories behind them. That's why I read your articles with interest and much pleasure. Your style is very eloquent and it was great fun learing about the three time-keepers which have played a special role in your life.
By the way: Sara, one of my granddaughters, came home for Christmas after having spent three months in New Zealand. I asked her to take photos of sundials, but she couln't find any. Do yo have any idea why there are obviously no sundials in your native country?
Greetings from Freiburg and the Black Forest, Germany
Renate Frank

Dear Paul,

after having read your story several times, it is now really time for a comment.
It is a great pleasure for us to have the Polaris sundial situated in the LA FAULA garden - with the Monte Canin, the right point north, in the background. We love your place and we will of course come another time to look for the doggies and for the sundial and pass again unforgettable days. Until than we follow the webcam images on, they give us the impression as if we were there.

It is a privilege that the Polaris is mentioned as your companion like it was your Breitling and your first Seiko from your Godfather. We shared your stories and heard a lot of your former live in Wellington, in London and now at LA FAULA. The characterisations are really ingenious: your patrol as a 19 year-old New Zealand Constable testing the security of the parliament, the London people with their watches as potent status symbols, the moment of finding the Breitling unlike any other ...

We wish you good times with your chronographical companions furthermore!

Christine, Carlo & Franca

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