Friday 10 June 2016

What time is it?

Since my first tick-a-tick-a-Timex, of which I have written before, I have always worn a wristwatch. I can’t recall a time when I didn’t and for men of my generation, the type of watch you wore said much about you. Which is why I now go for an affordable Seiko in a classic, plain style. Dull, unpretentious, reliable; after all, it has a job to do. Not for me the trendy gigantic face, nor the chronometer with too many buttons, none of which serve any useful purpose. Breitling, Rolex, Cartier et al will never adorn my wrist unless I simultaneously win the lottery and lose my marbles. Like your choice of car, your choice of watch often says less flattering things about you than you’d like and for the cost of a Navitimer I could buy a half-decent set of nondescript wheels.

But I notice the younger generations eschew the arm-borne timepiece in favour of... mostly in favour of never knowing what time it is. In the age of everything you want whenever you want (no doubt they believe the EU made this happen!) the ticking away of the hours is irrelevant. They will never know the shared joy of the following-day post-mortem of last night’s scheduled television. Where is the community in stream-when-you-like? Also punctuality appears to have become a bygone courtesy; “I’m not ‘very’ late” is a poor substitute for actually keeping to time-critical appointments.

And having a clock on your smart phone – no matter how much you plead otherwise – is just not the same! Given that the average under-thirty is glued to that tiny screen twenty-four-seven you would imagine they would be more than usually aware of the time of day, yet they rarely display evidence they are even aware of which day of the week it is. If manners maketh man then Mathey-Tissot maketh man on time. All of which ranting was prompted by the sight of a watchless George Osborne with Andrew Neil the other night.   

Now, young Gideon, it is known, was a lotus-eater in his heyday and heeded the hedonistic call of the wild. Not for him a deference to convention, rather the regular and massive indulgence in time-altering substances. If he’d worn a watch it would have been little use; it’s hard to tell the time when you’re seeing double... at twice the speed of thought. From time to time, stories emerge which show him in a less than admirable light and one such anecdote was recently related to the tabloid press.

The young Chancellor-in-waiting had acquired spacious new rooms in Magdalen College. As the son of a baronet, it was suspected that a certain number of strings had been pulled. He held a party soon after moving in and everybody admired the up-and-coming history student’s expensive tastes in décor. Pissed as farts they partied into the night until George suddenly decided it was time for bed and invited the stragglers to join him in the boudoir. They room was dominated by an enormous double-king-size bed with an enormous brass gong above the headboard.

“What’s that big brass gong for?” one of the guests asked. “That’s no gong,” slurred George “that’s a talking clock!” The guests looked at each other; by now everybody was exceptionally squiffy. “A talking clock? Seriously?” asked the inquisitor, incredulously. “Sure,” said Osborne “I’ll show you.” He picked up the beater and struck the gong hard. The soundwaves pounded the air in the room and everybody flinched. Then, as the reverberations were dying away they heard, from the next room, “You bastard! It’s half past three in the morning!”

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