Everyday living, Life Writing, News


My relationship with time (never a straightforward one, since I don’t really subscribe to linear time) becomes complex as I accrue within my memory and my body more and more evidence that time does, indeed, accumulate and pass.

But as well as passing, time returns. Trees bud their leaves year by year, birthdays (of the dead as well as the living) come around, late afternoon light falls on the same table day after day at l’heure bleue.

The hurry, the leisure and the comfort of reprise – they’re all one.

My mother had a repeating carriage clock that she loved. She kept it beside her bed; when she woke in the night she had only to reach out and press the little button on the top to hear the clock chime the most recent hour and the quarters – a friendly voice in the dark. But as she became ill with Alzheimers, the clock seemed to go haywire too, chiming erratically, not keeping any recognisable time. When the clock stopped altogether, we put it away. My mother died soon afterwards. That was twenty-one years ago.

We’ve been settled here in Suffolk for almost two years, and we’re finally sorting out some of the details of life. We recently found an expert to fix up my mother’s clock, along with another carriage clock we were given as a wedding present in 1992 (that one stopped working in 2017, after the third of four moves in three years, as though it just couldn’t take any more upheaval!). Philip collected them both on Friday from Motionwork where Matthew Hopkinson had performed his magic on them and had then checked their timekeeping over several months.

I am very excited to have the two clocks back, ticking and chiming away in their different voices (not completely synchronised, thank goodness – that would seem like too much conformity). I have my mother’s carriage clock in my study, so that I am conscious of the hours spinning. Already, after just these few days I don’t really ‘hear’ the chimes any more, though I am happily aware of having this familiar object, beloved of my mother, in my working space. The other, our wedding clock, sits downstairs in our shared family living space, reminding me of my Uncle Bobby who gave it to us, and of the clock’s place in our other homes over the past twenty-eight years.

I still don’t quite believe in linear time, I’m more of a circles and spirals person, but the innards of the clocks seem full of spirals, and their faces are circles, and the wheels and cogs and hands go round and round, so I’m content.

And now, here is a beautiful musical timepiece: Tick-Tock by the gifted composer Amy Crankshaw (I am delighted to be collaborating with Amy on various operatic and other projects at the moment, of which more another ‘time’). Tick-Tock seems to speak of the complexities of different kinds of time, and of how they all co-exist quite comfortably.


Blow the dust off the clock.
Your watches are behind the times.
Throw open the heavy curtains which are so dear to you –
you do not even suspect that the day has already dawned outside.

– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

2 thoughts on “Timepiece”

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