I did not know my father, he died before I became conscious enough about life to recognise a face or understand a situation so I was largely raised by my aunt for long period sas my mother often went missing somewhere in her mind, locked in her bedroom, wrapping herself in grief and religion, or something of that sort: we never had a chat involving the sharing of emotions.
From the age of eighteen my father’s watch, curiously non-committal it must be said, as it no longer worked and read eleven-thirty six regardless of the hour, was fixed to my wrist as a momento of a person I never met but thought about regularly: it connected me to him.
Out of good manners I take it off while I bath, and lay it on the shelf by the tub so its fragile workings are not further damaged by water. It has never pretended to be more than it is or made a promise it could not keep which removes it from comparison with most of the people and things who consider themselves reliable. No doubt, in better times, on my late father’s wrist, it saw life as I have not seen it, as he travelled round the world reporting on events for one newspaper and then another.
I’m one of those people who surround themselves with routines and habits in a vain attempt to keep the unexpected away from them and so I pretty much eat the same dinner on the same day of the week, rise punctually at six-thirty every weekday to prepare for my work as a schoolteacher and take the same walk on a Saturday morning to the same café for a solitary coffee.
So it might have continued until one day, sitting in said café, I was approached by a girl who said, “Sorry to bother you, but that watch looks very like a nineteen sixteen Rolex to me. They used a distinctive dial in that year” Not a usual conversation opener it must be said, but it then turned out that her father had worked for the company for his entire working life, ending up as a curator of their museum, and she used to visit him there.
Almost without asking she sat down at my table and soon I was telling her why I wore the watch, and how it connected me to my father, and how that understated sense of quality and craftsmanship it evidenced was, for me at least, an antidote to the slip-shod careless ways of the modern world.
That made her smile, and she said, “There, there. It’s not all bad” and I’m sure she’s right. I hope so anyway, as we sort of got on, if that’s not too forward, and we are meeting for lunch at the end of the week: her suggestion. I always knew my dad would look out for me somehow.