Time and Tide

Come on, seriously? July? Tomorrow? How did that happen? I know we all remark upon it constantly: how quickly the time goes, that it flies, disappears, but this year it really slipperdy-jippeted as the calendar dates danced away from me. I love a calendar. I love the ritual turning of twelve pages and plotting what I have planned. I love placing neat handwriting, containing it in the little white boxes. I love thinking that I have it all worked out, that the year is a wild horse and I have tamed it. Yet my last entry for 2020 was 17th March. After this date, I left each little box empty. Yes, I still had things to do – not places to go – I didn’t stop doing things, there were still dates to be kept, appointments to be noted, but something compelled me to stop writing them into the calendar. Something akin to stopping the clock when the old man dies. And now I have three blank months, April through to June, that – as I look back on them – feel like a peaceful wasteland, a rewilded garden.

I can’t tell you the precise date, but sometime towards the end of March the Balmoral clock, here in Edinburgh, she who presides over Princes Street, stopped. I suppose when the hotel closed there was no-one to attend to her, to coax and oil and wind her, and so she stopped short. The time: half past five. For around ten weeks, no matter where the sun hung in the sky, it was forever half past five in Edinburgh.  When I looked down from Calton Hill or up as I walked along Waterloo Place, time had frozen. And I found it acutely touching; moving and thought-provoking. The clock knew she wasn’t needed for the business man rushing down the escalator at Waverley to catch the 10.23 to London, or for the retiree strolling along Prince Street Gardens who might need to put an inch on their step if they didn’t want to miss the 15.44 through to Glasgow. These people, and thousands more, had disappeared, and she knocked off: stuck in time, stuck on time, presenting us with a poignant message the time would be different this year.

Can you blame me for thinking that I had been gifted more time on the basis of a stopped clock? That I took it easy, enjoyed these empty, blank days.  Well I did, until a few weeks ago, when I looked down from Calton Hill to find that the Balmoral clock was working; she had fallen back into step and marching along like before. And I felt a curious mix of pleasure and disappointment that things were changing again, that slow-time had run out on me, much more quickly that I thought it would. Tell me calendar, where did those three months go?

A Clock Stopped – Emily Dickinson

A Clock stopped – not the mantel’s –

Geneva’s farthest skill

Can’t put the puppet bowing –

That just now dangled still –


An awe came on the trinket!

The Figures hunched, with pain –

Then quivered out of decimals –

Into degreeless noon –


It will not stir for doctors –

This pendulum of snow –

This shopman importunes it –

While cool – concernless No –


Nods from the gilded pointers –

Nods from the seconds slim –

Decades of arrogance between

The dial life – and Him –

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