We went home via Liverpool Street station this evening so that I could go to a jeweller’s that is there. They had phoned to say my job was complete. All I had to do was go and fetch it. I handed the receipt to the assistant.
“Ah yes, pocket watch,” she said.
I was feeling a little anxious, telling myself I should have insisted on having an estimate before committing myself to the work but I hadn’t done so and I would have to pay the bill whatever it was.
“£85,” said the assistant.
I gulped inwardly. “You could buy a new watch for that,” Tigger later remarked. Not just one watch but several and they would probably work as well as this one if not better. On the other hand, they wouldn’t be this watch. This watch is unique, the only one of its kind in the whole of time and space.
“I’m surprised it could be mended,” I said, to give myself countenance. “It is rather old.”
“So is the watch-maker,” quipped the assistant.
“Keep the envelope,” she continued. “That’s your guarantee. We guarantee labour, not parts. We can’t guarantee parts.”
I left the shop carrying my watch. It needed winding and setting. I wound it and the second hand began revolving reassuringly. I put it to my ear to hear the ticking but could hear nothing. I told myself this was because of the noise all around me. Now we are at home in the quiet, I still can’t hear it.
“Maybe you’ll be able to hear it once they sort out your hearing,” said Tigger.
The photo isn’t very good. I had to take it at an angle to stop the flash dazzling the camera. The name on the front is Saqui & Lawrence London. This chain, once seen everywhere, disappeared years ago. I did once take this watch into a branch of theirs to be repaired. The elderly assistant was quite excited to see it and called another to look at it. They were amazed to see one after all this time. That was many years ago.
The watch was my father’s. I don’t know when he bought it as I was never able to talk to him about that or anything. Our paths crossed but briefly before he died. My mother had the watch on her bedside table when I was an infant. When the mainspring broke yet again, she gave it to me to play with. I used to shake it and listen to the ticking.
When I went to secondary school, she paid to have it repaired and it accompanied me through my school career, either in the top pocket of my jacket or on the table beside me as I studied. Then I inherited a wrist watch and callously abandoned my old friend.
Not entirely, though. It has been with me ever since and from time to time I would get it out, shake it and watch the second hand struggle round its dial and come to a halt or open the back and watch the balance wheel rocking in its jewel setting.
It was not an expensive watch and I imagine that most of its siblings disappeared long ago. By my reckoning, it must be at least 80 years old. Now I have woken it from its slumbers and set it going again. In this age of throwaway gadgets, there is something appealing about using a watch that was made in another time, in a different world, one that could never have imagined ours.