Sunday, 8 April 2012


About a month ago the clock on our sideboard stopped. It's the old-fashioned kind, that needs winding once a week; we bought it in an antique shop in Otford, long before we came to live in the village. It felt like bringing it home when we finally moved here.

Every Sunday evening before going to bed, one of us would take off the round brass cover at the back and turn the key carefully, winding it just enough but not too tight; ensuring that the gentle ticking sound was there to see us through the week ahead. Somewhere along the way though, our routines changed, the regular winding became more sporadic, it turned from a soothing ritual to something of a chore.

It had stopped at 11.25, that much was easy to see, though I couldn't say how long it was before either of us noticed. I don't know if the quietly reassuring tick had stuttered and stilled while we slept upstairs, or while we sat watching other clocks in our different offices, hours away from home and each other.

We quickly became accustomed to the shiny brass hands holding their position at not quite the top and not quite the bottom of the round clock-face. After a while we even started making jokes about it. I quite liked that I could turn to Philip, knowing it was really too early to suggest going to bed, and say proudly "but I stayed awake until 11.25" He in turn would say at the end of a long and lazy Sunday "it's been such a great day, and it's still only 11.25"

The clock had stopped, but time kept running on. March came and went, bringing with it reminders of all the events and celebrations that mark our lives. Mothers' Day, quickly followed by the birth of Penny-Rose my beautiful new granddaughter, then my own birthday, and at the end of the month a wedding. As the days passed, the sideboard filled with cards - congratulations and thank-you notes, photographs and invitations. Before long we couldn't see the clock at all.

Two days ago, preparing for the arrival of friends, I decided to clear the cards. Behind them stood the clock, silently reminding me of our neglect. The smooth old wooden case felt good as I picked it up and prised off the round brass cover at the back. I turned the key carefully, winding it just enough but not too tight, and the gentle rhythmic ticking began again, making it feel like home.

Two days ago, Kelly and Nathan arrived, bringing with them the laughter and chatter that always accompanies our time together. We've talked and talked, as we always do, about life and families, about work and food, about reading. About writing.

Yesterday evening, I sat for a while, watching Nathan's fingers dart quickly over the keyboard of my laptop as he wrote another of the pieces that keep us returning again and again to his blog. I sat for a while playing scrabble with Kelly, watching her cleverly crafting interlocking words from the most basic of letters. And as I did, I thought of another ritual that had once felt so comforting then somehow turned into a chore.

This morning, I picked up my laptop. The smooth shiny case felt good as I carefully opened the cover and typed in my password. I started carefully, thinking of the words, just enough, not too many. Before long, the gentle rhythmic tapping of fingers on a keyboard began again, making it feel like home.


The Elephant's Child said...

Thank you. I find comfort in rituals. Comfort and a kind of beauty.

m said...

i can only say i am so glad you're back. truly.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh...back to normal.

Shea Goff said...

And we, your readers, are so glad you came home.

Starlight said...

Brilliant. I love how you tangled up those two “topics“.

Nessa Roo said...

Congratulation on the birth of a new grandchild! How wonderful to have a little girl! I'll trade you for one of my rotten grandsons...actually, nevermind. Boys are so much fun!
I'm glad you've come back. I love seeing you in my blogroll.

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

Sharon, this is wonderful, gentle and elegant. Beautifully written. You have such a way of not wrapping life in velvet and presenting it to your readers. Happy Easter to you and yours! ~R

savannah said...

what a delight to see you on the top of my blogroll, sugar! especially as i am listening to the ticking of our own recently rewound grandfather clock. xoxoxoxo

(gentle reminders of things we love are always the best.)

Pat said...

Its good sense to have a break when a ritual becomes a chore.
Glad you are back.
I suppose I'd better take my cards down too.

Susan Cooper said...

I loved this. I could almost hear the gentle ticking of the clock on your mantle along with the soft clicking of your keyboard as you were composing this piece. It was a good space to be on Easter Sunday. Happy Easter. :), Susan Cooper

Mary-Colleen said...

A lovely slice of life.

IReadTooMuch said...

I've missed your gift with words. Thank you for this gentle reminder that the things we love never truly become a chore, but can find themselves there within the blink of an eye. Happy writing.

DPR said...

Very clever to link the clock stopping to your writing stopping. Let's hope the clock keeps ticking and you keep writing. Have missed you

Sharon Longworth said...

Thank you all for your kind and, as ever, supportive comments - they really are appreciated.

The Elephant's child - I agree, there is a comfort in rituals.

M - that's a smashing thing to say - thank you so much.

mybabyJohn/Delores - thank you.

Shea - thank you, that's very kind.

Anonymous said...

I'm always pleased to see a post from you pop up on my blog roll. That clock looks like one that my Nan had on a sideboard (don't think anyone has sideboards now)when I was young, but maybe it was the sort of clock 'every' Nan had? A lovely post Sharon.

Sharon Longworth said...

Starlight - thank you - really glad you liked it.

Nessa Roo - I have a rotten (aka completely adorable) grandson as well - I know I'm a lucky woman.

Raymond - thank you so much, and a very happy Easter to you too.

Savannah - thank you. A grandfather clock? - now you've got me all envious!

Pat - thank you. It feels lovely to be back.

Sharon Longworth said...

Susan - ticking and tapping are lovely sounds aren't they? Happy Easter to you too.

Mary-Colleen - thank you!

IReadTooMuch - I'm so very flattered that people have missed my writing. Thank you so much.

DPR - thank you sir. Is there any chance of us bumping into you in Shoreham in the near future - it would be lovely to see you.

Dicky - I like to think that our clock lived on another Nan's sideboard in another life! And yes, we still have a sideboard.

Matt Inwood said...

I find a post from you and Philip in the same night. I've missed reading you both these last few weeks. This is beautiful: gentle and gorgeously woven. So glad you're ticking once more.

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