On clocks and watches and the passing of time

Photo by Brooke-Campbell

When I left the navy, I took off my watch and let time lose track of me.

Okay, that’s got my pompous litfic-ish catchphrase (that I coined on that day and have never forgotten) out of the way. On with the post.

My friend Kari Trenten asked this on Facebook:

Random question while I research…do you like clocks? Do you enjoy old fashioned time pieces or do you carry around something modern to tell time with?

It’s a fine pair of questions, and her curiosity jogged my memories of something very dear to me.

All through my childhood, my favourite clock was my Nan and Grandad’s. It’s a Napoleon’s hat-shaped mantle clock of pale reddish-blond wood that used to chime pleasantly on the hour and give a part-chime every quarter hour too.

A hundred years old now, I should think, it had a lovely delicate tone. It was quite heavy, about ten inches across its base, maybe six inches high and four inches deep, and contained a fine working mechanism that no one was permitted to touch except Grandad.

It sits in my Mum’s house now. After some years of neglect, she had it renovated to keep time accurately, but decided not to have the chime fixed.

She knows it’s the only thing I want to inherit. My memories of Nan and Grandad’s home are a treasure. It was a sanctuary for me, that place, and the clock was always there. When it comes to me I will certainly have its chime restored.

The older I get the closer I feel to history

Just before Christmas I watched David Tennant hiking over the windswept Isle of Mull with a local historian on Who Do You Think You Are? and learning about his great-grandparents, who were evicted by one of Scotland’s many ruthless landowners from the smallholding they’d farmed for generations. David remarked that when he “did” the Clearances at school it had seemed like a million years ago, but it really wasn’t.

That thought resonated with me, and does so even louder now that we’re in 2014. A hundred years ago this year, my maternal grandparents were born. Grandad in January and Nan in April, just a few months before the First World War kicked off and our planet took an innocently routine breath before everything started speeding up like crazy.

So much has changed since then. Technological advances have transformed our world almost beyond recognition and looking back at photographs and writings from around 1914 it’s easy to assume that nothing is the same.

People are, though. People are still the same.

Yesterday was my birthday. Thank you, 🙂 I had a lovely day. Today I’m 57. Which to youngsters will seem ancient, I know, but I can tell you that my life has flown past almost at the speed of light.

Two of my lifetimes ago, it was the year 1900. Queen Victoria was still on the throne here in Britain. My grandparents weren’t born yet and their parents were still children. But people were still people, just like we are now.

Twenty of my lifetimes ago, The Battle of Hastings hadn’t happened yet, and William the Conqueror-to-be was still William the Bastard over in Normandy.

Forty of my lifetimes ago, the bloody Romans weren’t even here yet.

It’s nothing. My life has flashed by in an instant, and I expect theirs did too.

People are still the same. The world has changed a lot, but people are still people. Those smelly thugs driving their speeding chariots at the legion shield walls were the same as we are now, and all that was less than forty of my lifetimes ago.

The older I get, the closer to history I feel. Closer to my family who lived before me and closer to others. And, curiously, closer to those who are still to come.

It isn’t such a big timeline, our human family history.

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