Andy Richardson: Tick tock, tick tock, what time is it my dear? Face off time...
What’s the time?” She Who Must Be Obeyed had grown tired of doing the simple things for herself and needed assistance. Thank heavens it was just a request to get the time and not, oh, I don’t know, do her breathing, walking or thinking. I’m not sure I’d be good at any of those, particularly the thinking bit. She Who Must Be Obeyed moves in mysterious ways. Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, and all that.
Before turning my attentions to the question of time, I wondered if this was how things would be in 30 years – but with me doing the asking and her assigned to compliance. Would I be wrapping a blanket over my legs, reminiscing about the good times in 2020 while asking for a glass of water as I gazed across a lawn filled with roses, or something?
Reality disrupted my reverie. Time.
“It’s…. hang on.”
I looked for a clock. There were none. I ran downstairs, there’d be one in the kitchen, probably. Above a diner table and chairs, covered in beautiful red tartan fabric, was a clock. Great. It dominated the wall, like the clocks do in architecturally beautiful railway stations. Except the clock was clearly wrong. Like the ones in railway stations. We’d bought it on a whim from a homewares store and not bothered to insert a battery. Form over function, and all that. It looked great, it just wasn’t very good at telling the time. I muttered darkly: “You had one job. You had one job.”
Undeterred, I moved through the house.
The kitchen would help. There’d be digital clocks on the oven, the microwave, even the fridge had a digital display, though that seemed to be running a ticker trail that said: “You should not leave ice cream in here for more than three years. Defrost me. Idiot.”
A red light was flashing on the oven. Great. “It’s, err… no it isn’t.” At some stage, I ought to have synced the clock so that it kept perfect time. Instead, it flashed glumly, providing a constant reminder of the time it had been delivered by men who knew what they were doing, I think they’re called ‘electricians’. I’d had one job: to look at the clock of my phone and input the data. Like a dyslexic in a spelling test, I’d failed. The clock bore no relation to Greenwich Mean Time.
No matter, the microwave would help. Or, it would have if I’d bothered to sync that. I hadn’t. She Who Must Be Obeyed grew restless. How many wonky clocks can one household have?
I pulled a laptop from under the sofa. Google would know. And Google did. Except Google wasn’t awake because the electricity cord that powdered its engine was somewhere else. Bleakly, I stared into the garden. The sundial was out of action. A cumulonimbus had sent it on the blink. Damn.
“It’s half past morning,” I shouted up the stairs. “I’m off to the shops. Do you want anything?”
“A clock. Actually, no, just get me a real man who can tell the time.”
Thanks, love. I’ll get milk and eggs.
My aversion to time kicked in somewhere in my early 20s. Life seemed to revolve around deadlines. Get the paper done, get the stories written, get to work on time, meet my friends on the dot… Gah. So many rules. So little air to breathe.
I rebelled. I bought myself a watch. It had got a picture of Thomas the Tank Engine on the dial and the hands may have been wheels. Every young white-collar worker should have one. If I had to rely on the time, at least I’d make it funny. While colleagues were buying status watches, ones with flashy dials, multiple hands and brand names like Brietling, I was taking it back to childhood. I imagined myself reporting on a story from court, in the presence of a judge, who’d look at me with derision as I stared at a time piece that paid homage to the late Reverend Wilbert Awdry and his son, Christopher.
And then I sacked it off completely and moved to a do-what-you-can-when-you-can regime. In an industry that runs on deadlines, I decided simply to try to be efficient and to not worry too much about clocks.
When I returned, the clock on the wall had sprung into life. She Who Must Be Obeyed had found a battery, found a computer power cord, synced the oven and the microwave and thrown away the three-year-old ice cream. We could now be assured of putting out the recycling on time, tuning into the TV without missing the start of a programme, getting out the door without being late and not missing a train. Bless. At least there’s one adult in the house.
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