Time. It’s only time.

I have some bright, intelligent men as brothers. And they may read this, so I won’t go into their foibles here. Well, not all of them.

I am the youngest of four brothers. And I am inordinately lucky with my choice of family, since authors don’t always have smooth and easy lives. Having brothers who are friends and incredibly supportive does help. We may not see eye-to-eye on some aspects of life – two brothers are rather keen on motor cars. In the same way that a fire is quite fond of oxygen.

While discussing my car with one brother, he took it into his garage and studied it. That turned into an investigation of the entire braking system and replacement of the disk pads that had worn out at an angle. If you’re interested, a slave cylinder had stopped working, so it was wearing at one side … yeah, okay. Anyway, after discovering this, he looked at the oil level. Or would have, had he found one. Several litres of oil later, and with a slightly petulant expression, he demanded to know when I had last checked oil, water, or other levels. An interesting question.

While he was under my car, I spoke to another brother on the phone. Now, this brother is not in the same category of, “when washing the car, I have two buckets, one with suds, one in which to rinse and clean the cloth before putting it into the suds” so as to avoid grit getting caught in the cloth and scratching the paint. No, with my car, the scratches there came from a clumsy cyclist who scraped his handlebars down both door panels. Claim on his insurance, you say?

No. My son has no money.

Anyway, I was discussing such things with another brother and describing the expression of pained disgust on my mechanic’s face whenever he looked at me, and my second brother roared with laughter. In his mind, there are two kinds of Jecks. One version, which encompasses the older and third brothers, is mechanically minded and enthusiastic about their vehicles, while the other form of brother is the type which will turn a key and expect the damn thing to work.

Brothers are wonderful things. They tend to have (in my experience) good stores of wine, beer and gin. There really is little more that the average author could hope for.

However, an unhealthy fixation with time is there in all of them.

I hate to be late for anything. I think it’s disrespectful and rude to turn up at an event or a meeting some minutes after it was due to start.

Rolex GMT-Master. Mine for thirty years, astonishingly enough!

Rolex GMT-Master. Mine for thirty years, astonishingly enough!

Many years ago I invested in a Rolex. I loved it from the moment I put it on. Yes, it’s brash; yes, it’s heavy, but it’s robust and, I think, smart. It is always on my wrist. Since I bought it, which was about thirty years ago, my brothers have cast covetous or admiring eyes at it. So they should. Apart from one brother who owns a Cartier, which he keeps for special occasions (he’s one of the mechanics), they have always tended to get by with cheaper timepieces. All three used to wear light, plastic things with cheap electronic internals. Yuk.

Over the decades, I’ve persuaded them to change their attitudes. They have started to become a little more civilised. First one purchased a steel and gold Rolex, then another and a third (I think the third one has, but he lives in New Zealand and I can’t see his wrist right now). When I wandered up to see them on my occasional jaunts to the smoke, I would see them wearing good quality metal work, rather than the cheaper plastic. That made me happy. I had at last educated them.

Except gradually their Rolexes have faded from view. First it was because they didn’t want to scratch the faces, so while gardening or working on their cars, they put on cheaper things. Then, gradually, they began to favour other watches. Watches with newer designs, no doubt, perhaps with thinner bracelets and mechanisms.

At last, my next brother up admitted that the timekeeping on his “Superlative Chronometer” just isn’t good enough. He’s thinking about selling it.

Just – isn’t – good – enough. Let’s consider that.

His Rolex is as accurate as mine. It is 99.99% correct. A newer plastic watch will be more accurate, it’s true. Because my Rolex will lose minutes every month. Do the maths and you’ll see that 0.01% amounts to a lot of time. But for me, what the hell? It’s near enough. I correct it when I see that it’s missed out on a few minutes, and soon it is back to the correct time. I find that pretty easy, actually. I just pull out the knob and put the hands to the right time.

But for a high-flying set of brothers, this isn’t good enough. An accurate watch must be absolutely infallible. So now that they’re all jumping over the cliff marked “retirement”, they’re heading towards more accurate watches.

Perhaps it’s so that they can make sure they don’t miss their favourite daytime TV shows? No, I don’t think so.

My Riehle. Made on Dartmoor.

My Riehle. Made on Dartmoor.

Anyway, I have two watches. I have my beloved Rolex, that is almost welded to my wrist (unless I stumble on a long Dartmoor walk, fall, rake my wrist along a slab of granite, and wrench the bracelet’s clasp into pieces – that cost a lot to replace!), but I also have a gorgeous, silver watch made in the early 1800s. It was made by a Msr. Riehle in Moretonhampstead. It’s thought that he might have been a Napoleonic prisoner brought to Dartmoor Prison, and who then stayed and set up a watchmaker’s shop. I love it. It’s big, it’s loud, and it’s lovely. It has lived. In the back , when you open it, there are marks alongside the stamps proving its age and quality. There are scratches where the watch has been pawned: four different little notes, reminding the broker of the date of the transaction, I guess. Occasionally I’ll wear it. I like fob watches.

Now this watch is truly inaccurate, gaining or losing minutes daily. But, you know what? It doesn’t matter.

I’m an author. I have to know which hour I’m working in. I have to know when to go to a talk, and I have to know how long I’ve spoken for. But I don’t work in precise blocks that require an atomic clock’s accuracy.

So, I’ll stick with my two watches. They are neither of them perfect, and I don’t care. They are plenty good enough for me. They’re plenty good enough for anyone. Nobody needs a watch that is accurate to more than five minutes a month. Better than that, really, is a bit irrelevant. I’ll always make sure I’m at least ten minutes early for a train, and in a business meeting, which will require usually up to four hours travelling, being five minutes late really isn’t too bad. I’ve got used to it. Retired brothers should, too.

Incidentally, while talking about time, I found some this weekend and did some painting: m_GMH2735y wife and daughter peering over a parapet to make sure my son hadn’t fallen into the river (again). Hope you like it.

2 Responses to “Time. It’s only time.”
  1. 2ffafe61@opayq.com says:

    I am the youngest of 4 too but things did not work out as well.


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