I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Invisible milestones

ONE OF LIFE'S OBLIGATIONS It's 06.20, nearly time to get up. My Longines sitting on my bedside chest-of-drawers says so and my Longines is never wrong. My Longines cost a fortune, a gift from VR thirty or forty years ago; its clear face and needle-sharp hands tell Swiss truth.

I reach over to put it on and I know - sinkingly - something's wrong. A familiar wrongness which has happened perhaps a dozen times. Sweat from my wrist has rotted the stitching of the strap and the buckle is now detached. The penalty of wearing a leather strap. But, alas, there is no alternative.

Once I substituted a plastic strap which lasted longer. But brother Nick, now in a rest home, his mind adrift with Alzheimer's, told me the watch was too good for plastic and I immediately agreed.

A metal strap? Sixty years ago a sub-editor on the newspaper that employed me as a tea-boy said metal straps were "a mark of the beast". I immediately agreed with him, too.

Leather straps cost £20 a pop. I can afford that and must. VR and Nick deserve it; I'm reminded of them both when I tell the time. Which is now 07.06.

FRENCH BIGGIE Another short extract from Proust's A la Recherche. The key is to read it slowly because it, like the Longines, is concerned with time. Time cannot be hurried.

I would ask myself what o'clock it could be, I could hear the whistling of trains, which, now nearer and now farther off, punctuating the distance like the note of a bird in a forest, shewed me in perspective the deserted countryside through which a traveller would be hurrying towards the nearest station, the path that he followed being fixed for ever...


  1. My watch showed 5.55 AM when I first read your post but that's not why I am commenting. Just wanted to say that you inspired me to write about my special wrist watch, some day.

  2. I don't wear a watch anymore, hardly ever look at a clock the way I used to - like seeking a glimpse of a lover's face. Time, or the marking of it, doesn't matter anymore.

    But I admire yours, its history, its sentiment-filled face and aging strap. Good story in that, quite good.

  3. Longines! Strikes a spark somewhere deep in my memory box but I can't get to it. Was there once a famous advertisement, slogan and/or signature tune linked to Longines watches? In America? On the radio?
    Does anyone remember?

    Hope you find the right leather strap. Or you could go for an ethnic-type crocheted band. No, I thought not.

  4. You've certainly borrowed little from Proust's stye. I'm surprised reading it hasn't rendered you apoplectic. I never liked wearing a watch, and but for a few experiments in my youth, I never did. I rely on church bells and my cell phone. Might have gotten along with a pocket watch, but they have been out of vogue here for some time. Don't like things touching my wrist, I can barely endure the elastic at the top of my socks.

  5. I have a timepiece with a pedigree too. My husband bought an old Rolex for my fiftieth birthday. I had to grow into it, for the first few years it remained in a drawer. I wear it now, every day, partly because it meant a lot to my husband in the giving and partly as a nod to workmanship and quality. It has to be wound every night, and I've come to rely on the ritual. You could pin the watch to your shirt with a kilt pin, which would add a splendid degree of eccentricity to your appearance.

  6. PART ONE - I went to excess.

    Ellena: By all means write about your watch and any other artefact (or trait of behaviour, or garment, or lost thing) that has become an unthinking yet essential part of your life. Because in a sense you, like me, will be writing about yourself yet doing so less self-consciously. Perhaps getting closer to the truth. Do so for this reason too: don't imagine you have to tell your unending story via rare events, weird characters and exotic locations. The best raw material is the normal day-to-day stuff ambushed suddenly and seen with a clearer eye.

    Crow: You and MikeM both. What is it about US citizens (I'm required to call you that rather than American because MikeM tells me the latter is not precise enough. I find it clumsy but then I am - more precisely - English not British and I accede willingly to his request).

    I must say being reminded of VR and/or Nick isn't my primary reason for wearing a watch. It's a tool, like carrying a handkerchief (Unsanitary I know, but so is finding a way of disposing of Kleenexes), cash, a credit card, Hugh Johnson's pocket wine guide, a list of the CDs I own, my mobile, etc. You appear to have escaped time and good luck to you. But for me there are medical appointments, TV programmes I'd like to see, rendezvous to be made, occasionally a train to be caught (less so now Joe is dead), estimates about how long certain tasks will take.

    I'm intrigued with "quite good". In English English it means passable or not exactly bad. But I take it you were speaking (writing actually) American.

    Natalie: This is going to sound snobbish but what the hell. I've been accused of worse things. In 1984 there was a deal on colour TVs and I decided it was time to shift from b&w. For one thing it made the multi-coloured balls in snooker matches (something I've long since lost interest in) more coherent. But with my colour TV came a far greater benison - it was supplied with a remote. And on that remote was a mute button. Since that blessed day I've never heard a TV commercial in my own house. And - retrospectively - I cursed my unwillingness to buy a colour TV while living in the USA and thus spare myself millennia of unendurable culture shock.

    Longines, like Rolex, imagines itself to be a luxury brand and tends to advertise in the glossies. A TV commercial seems unlikely. However the name does appear in TV since Longines, like Rolex,does provide the timing for certain sporting events.

    There was an aftermath to the above post. Why not clean up the strap and apply Superblue, said VR. This I did and thus I'm presently £20 (actually £25 - working from memory I got this wrong) to the good.

  7. PART TWO - my excesses continue.

    MikeM: I can't remember your age, only that you're quite a bit younger than me. I read Proust for the first (and second; I think, I can't be sure) time in my sixties, then a third (possibly second) time in my seventies. Now, for the fourth (possibly third) time I'm close to the start of my eighties. You have to have time. More particularly you have to be tempted.

    Non-Proust readers throughout the world are in a huge majority, something like 99.97%. All of them can advance uncontestable reasons for not reading him: long sentences as you noticed, a long book (about 3000 pages), it's about the French, it is inter alia about homosexuality. Perhaps I read him the first time for ignoble reasons - a desire to join an elite. If so, it was bloody hard. And yet I never wanted to drop the book (Of course you weren't, you say, you're a Brit and every US citizen knows most Brits are pooftas).

    I was glad when I'd read it. It was something I could boast about. A year or two passed and I got this itch to read it again; probably still an ignoble impulse. To re-establish myself as part of that elite. But those impulses belong to my comparative youth. In old age you only do what you want to do; you're not inclined to waste time. This time I'm reading it on the Kindle (which helps with the long sentences and much much longer paras) and I'm reading it slowly.

    I made a vow that I would never, never recommend Proust to anyone. It's a pointless exercise. There are so many barriers that each eventual Proust reader must come to him of his or her own free will. I wasn't entirely on my own. Joe had read Proust and subsequently read him in French. Sir Hugh, my brother, who has a reputation for doggedness, read the novel and was able to share an exquisite moment when I said to him: it's a comic novel, isn't it? And he agreed.

    The decision to include extracts was done knowingly. Yes the sentences are long. But perhaps the style and the observations he makes entitle him to long sentences. But stay my hand. It's your decision and will be for ever more.

    Thank you for the other admissions. Some might indentify them as signs of weakness, I appreciate them as examples of honesty.

    Stella: A beautifully rounded story. One always risks sentimentality and possibly crassness in weaving emotions into material objects. Especially expensive objects. You avoided both. The story's fine enough but what matters even more to me is the economical way you told it. My response is as ever the same: keep writing even when - perhaps especially when - you've nothing to say.

    There was a sequel to the post. See my re-comment to Natalie.

  8. Of course I had to do a search for an old Longines ad and got no further than a new one, which would work perfectly for you, RR.......in black & white and effective with the audio turned off. You'll think you're back in '83.

  9. Oh, I've read some long sections of In Search of Time Lost. I enjoyed it, and hope one day to persist from beginning to end. Never wondered much about the nuances of translation (in prose) until I read passages from Proust. And I'm just 60.