From choice I’d have preferred a store voucher, instead of a carriage clock for my mantel shelf, when I retired for there is something strangely perverse in giving a tick tock of any denomination to mark the occasion. It’s almost an insult, considering a person’s entire working life has centred round the need to arrive punctually for their day’s labour, followed by having one eye on the firm’s clock, willing it forward to going-home time, and especially home time on Friday. Surely retirement is about waking naturally, with time to pursue hobbies and interests that take us away from the irksome task of constantly having to be somewhere at a given time.
The morning after I retired was New Year’s Day 1998. I was warm and in a cosy four-poster brass bed with drapes and I had a view of falling snowflakes and Clitheroe’s Norman castle keep. It was not unlike being in a snowglobe or a Joseph Farquarson painting. I had anticipated this start of retirement for so long that I glowed with anticipation as I stretched out my arm for the pink alarm clock, which was silent today instead of making its aggravating tinny racket. Then I opened the window and flung the thing as far down the garden as my arm allowed, in line with the keep, shouting “Yeeeeeessssssss” as its pinkness flew through the air.
It came to rest on the path, not on the soil in which I planned to bury it. In any case the snow delayed me going outside to kick it into the desired location; at least for the time being.
The precipitation turned to heavy rain which continued for several days and I completely forgot about the clock until I came across it quite unexpectedly. Amazingly it still had the audacity to be ticking merrily away even though one of its hands had dropped off through the impact.
As I picked it up I felt a tinge of guilt for it had given faithful and loyal service for many a long year. Very gently I carried it towards the greenhouse with a mind to let it end its days surrounded by plants, in its own retirement. But part way there I recalled all those cold and frosty mornings in the days when central heating hadn’t been invented, when icicles formed on the inside of the windows. To stave off hypothermia we wore pixie hoods to bed and had old overcoats on top of the feather eiderdowns.
It triggered off memories of scraping ice off the car windows, the traffic jams, and the endless working toil that had taken over most of my life up to now.
Turning round I flung it twice as far as I’d done the first time with real feeling and, running after it to make sure it didn’t escape, I jumped up and down on top of the thing until it broke into a million pieces. Which is why I don’t have a photo of that damned clock.
Maggie B Dickinson
Featured Image: Clitheroe Castle, Possibly 12th century and built by the de Lacy family 12th. Second smallest castle keep in England.