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.