In May 2011, on a whim, I bought a wall clock from a junk shop. It reminded me of the clock that had hung in my grandparents’ dining room. I had lived with them for a short period as a child, while my parents were estranged, and the sound of their clock chiming the quarter hours had seemed in some way comforting.
“It has a beautiful song” the shop worker had said to me when he found me gazing at it. His translation for chime, from whatever mother tongue he spoke, charmed me. “I’ll take it”, I said, as it played the quarter hour. Later, I discovered it was a Westminster chime, made in the 1930s by the Hamburg American clock company; my clock, however, only sang for three of its quarters due to an unusual dual train mechanism.
When my clock broke down the following summer this rare feature meant finding someone to repair the clock was tricky. I decided to trust my instinct for a repairer with respect for the past and a love of mechanism. I don’t remember exactly when he collected my clock but I think it was August 2012. I remember it was a Saturday morning and that he put it in a black bin bag; I have a vivid memory of watching from my front window and thinking ‘I have just let a stranger put my clock in a bin liner and disappear with it.’ Perhaps I wondered, even then, if I would see it again.
I still have the compliments slip the clock repairer gave me that morning. Later that year, when I’d heard nothing about my clock, I telephoned the number on it nervously, wondering if I’d been the victim of a clock heist. But I had nothing to worry about; the clock repairer gave a perfectly plausible explanation and I had said ‘no problem – in your own time’.
A few months later I rang again; ‘just checking on the progress of my Westminster Chime clock’. Again there was an explanation. From May 2013 I started recording my calls on the compliments slip (not that I made regular enquiries – it was half a year until my next call). On 21st July 2014 I was promised my clock by September. When the clock didn’t appear I telephoned on 24th November and was told the spring had broken; he would fit a replacement and return my clock in the new year. When I telephoned on the 2nd April 2015, not having heard anything, the repairer explained that he’d had to make a spring as they are no longer manufactured; he needed time to test my clock now.
I was starting to lose confidence. It was almost three years since my clock went for repair. Should I be worried? Each time I telephoned there was an explanation as to why it hadn’t been returned but how long could this continue? Should I be suspicious? And if I had been foolish to let a man take away my clock in a bin liner, what was the worst case scenario? If he had stolen my clock then it was to satisfy a need. I could live with that couldn’t I? Even so, when I was told (June 22nd) that my clock was still being tested and wouldn’t be ready for a few weeks I heard the frost creep into my voice.
I made my final telephone call on 1st September this year. My clock, I was told, would be ready the following week. This time I didn’t react; I had stopped believing in the clock. If I make any further calls, I told myself, they will only be to keep up this charade. ‘In your own time’, I said.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I received a phone call on Friday evening. My clock was ready. Would I, by chance, be at home this weekend? So more than three years after it went for repair, my clock returned today (in a black bin bag). The repairer has done a good job; my clock is singing the quarter hour as I type, its song bright and clear.
This afternoon, while out with Dylan, I thought about those long years and my patience through them. These are not qualities I particularly associate with myself – waiting, having faith in someone or something, being patient. And as I was thinking this I realised that I was standing still in a wood, waiting. Dylan had reached the part which he feels enchanted. Here, Dylan stands in trance, hugs trees, stares motionless across a field and reaches on tiptoe to hold his face to the pines. I am so used to this enchantment that I stand patiently, until Dylan is able to move on, without even realising.
I have had to learn such patience to let Dylan live the way he needs; waiting by streams and trees and dragons made from cutlery is what I do now. It can be difficult to wait but it is usually worth being patient, with Dylan. I was reminded of this earlier in the week when I visited him at the care home. I took Dylan to look around the local church. I let him pace the nave, as he likes to, and stare upwards at the glass. I waited while he walked the pews and checked the pulpit. Then, as I was about to suggest we leave, I realised Dylan was stuck – not literally, in pulpit or pews, but in his head.
Dylan was counting. He was turning pages in a book and looking left, rhythmically. He had scrunched up his eyes in a way I know means he has temporarily screened out the world. I paused, wondering what to do. I really ought to get Dylan back to the care home; I needed to get to work. But interrupting whatever pattern Dylan had established could, I knew, lead to terrible distress. It was better, I decided, to be patient; I would wait for Dylan to do things in his own time.