I have taken off my watch.
When I was 16 dad bought me a wristwatch for my birthday.
I have been trawling to remember the brand, but it was, of course, Swiss made, and may have been from an H Samuel shop. Not Omega or Tissot…just can’t get it…
It showed the date. Oh my, how fine. And how proud I was to wear it.
That lasted until around when my father died, in 1992. 25 years showing me when I was in the world.
Then I actually started wearing one of dad’s old watches. He had spoiled himself with a Rolex Oyster when I was probably about eight. Then that was stolen, along with almost everything of value in our house, so he tried a Tudor. Self winder. It only stopped once, when dad had a slipped disc and lay in agony in hospital for days.
When I was 50 my wife bought me a Tag Heuer. Ooh. Yes, I did want one. It was the least expensive model, but just brilliant. Not too showy, but noticeably Tag.
And I still wear it.
Until last month.
Why do I need to have a watch on my wrist now?
Why do I need to know the time at a glance?
There’s no train to catch. No meeting to get to.
No cricket to check. No hospital appointment to attend.
In fact, time has become just a slow watery flow that gently meanders towards the sea
Never ending, never changing
I see time slipping away, I feel time slipping away
I see nature change, seasons move, birds arriving, nesting, leaving
But I don’t need to know that it is 10.58, or 2.14.
At night I see the time illuminated beside me, 1.08, 2.10, 3,06, 4.20, 8,47
This time of gentle slow living, of looking more closely at the natural world, listening, smelling, touching…this time is like childhood.
I remember the walks from Abergavenny up the Sugar Loaf, through St Mary’s Vale
Stopping for lunch under our favourite beech tree on the side of the hill.
The smell of bracken broken as we step through it
An adder, coiled silently where I was about to step
A family of grass snakes sliding off the towpath into the canal nearby, swimming in the sunny water as we walk carefully by
Even a slow worm on a dry hot bank on the lane down to the River Usk, where we would paddle between sandwiches and squash
My walks with Lupin through my local little woods and fields here take me back there, and I know that time does not matter, or, anyway, has slipped away.
But my memories of safe, happy, childhood in Abergavenny with my lovely Welsh granny are still here.
So who needs to know the time?
I deeply hope that we will all continue to live slowly when we are unlocked. That everyone will simply do what they have to when it suits them, not when a clock says “Work!” or “Go home!”
Staggered starts at work. Why ever not? And when you arrive, not when you are told to arrive.
Allow people choice and responsibility, and to enjoy their lives more.
Of course we will need timetables for trains and planes and buses.
Of course we will schedule meetings.
Schools will cling to timing as if its a life raft to prevent chaos.
But let’s just relax a bit, and remember that amongst what we all know to be essential there are many things that are just simply not time sensitive, if we allow them not to be.
The graveyards are full of people who thought they were different and important and indispensable.
Time is like that. A few minutes here, an hour there…
We try to use time to make our lives more meaningful. A full diary, we proudly say.
Got to start on time, we are told. Why? So we know our place in the hierarchy.
Well something dementia teaches you is that time is running out and you remember less and less of where it has gone.
You need to think back to earlier years, to memories of happiness and warmth and safety.
And to get on and live as ever you choose.