Saturday 26 August 2017

I've all the time in the world for my lovely nieces!

My nieces hold a very special place in my heart. To be honest, they’ve been a constant source of joy ever since they were born, and now, as Hayley turns 40, my brainbox is full of images of our shared past: bus rides to Hamley’s toy shop to choose presents; endless photos in which the pair of them look incredibly beautiful; an evolving sibling bond, so steely strong and full of love it leaves me jaw-dropped in awe.

Mooching around Galway to find the right present to send Hayley for her birthday, my mind drifts back to her sister Michelle’s 21st.

Looking for a link between her life in London and mine here that might last a lifetime, I found a Galway Crystal mantle clock, which I asked to be fixed to a wooden base with a gold strip attached, engraved: 

Happy 21st Birthday Michelle
When I went to pick up the finished article I immediately saw that the engraved strip was askew, while the right end was much wider than the left.

The whole thing looked ridiculous. Were they really serious about selling it to me like that?

“Erm, am I imagining it, or is there a slant to that?”

The older woman behind the counter sniffed and flared her nostrils.
“Hmmff. I think you’re imagining it, but I’ll see what I can do!”

That really bugged to me. Either I was imagining it, in which case there was nothing she could do, or she’d offered me a shoddy product.

“Now! Here you are so! Will I wrap it?”

“Please! Oh, actually, can I just have a quick look at it first?”
As she handed me the clock, her cold blue eyes drilled contempt 

into my brow.

“Yes, yes it’s fine!”

By then I’d have said it was fine even if it wasn’t, because I wanted to rid my universe of her arcane disapproving ways. I wanted out of her torpid nasty shop.


As I watched her wrap the clock in tissue paper, I realised that it was telling the wrong time.

I’d certainly feel a lot happier if the clock looked like it worked when Michi unwrapped it, in front of the whole family at her birthday dinner in London.

“Sorry, could you set it to the right time, please?”

Simple enough request, you’d think, but she stared at me with eyes that would make diamonds wilt, a withering hateful glower capable of forcing rivers to flow upstream.

Exhaling slowly and noisily, she waited until she was breathless before choosing to speak again.

Finally she started to talk, adopting the deep guttural grunting tone popular among teenage girls possessed by the devil. With a customer service attitude that left much to be desired, this woman (working in a clock shop) then asked what many might consider a most unlikely question.

“Huuummmpphhhh. Oh now. So now. Well then, do you happen to know what the right time might be?”

To her evident pleasure, I explained that I don’t wear a watch. Nodding slowly, she implied that she knew I’d be useless like that.

How did she make a living? Why run a shop, if all you want to do is make your customers feel like a piece of runny pooh on the carpet?

To my left: row upon row of clock faces.
To my right: clocks. 

Above, below, behind, in front: nothing but clocks and watches.
43,000 clock faces and she’s asking me the time?

Somewhat fearful and tremulous of voice, I asked: 

“Do any of these tell the right time?”

“Well, now, it’d be a fine tirrible job to keep all of these telling the right time now, wouldn’t it?

“Yes, it would, but just one that did tell the right time might be an idea! Gordhelpus, just one!”

That was it. 

I’d overstepped the mark. 

She wrapped the clock, stuffed it into a small tatty box, and told me that seeing as how it was so important to me to have the right time, why didn’t I adjust the time myself, back at my home, where I probably had the time perfectly set on my own clock.

“Okay I will. So it’s all working, is it? Nothing else I need?”

 As I watched, a shiver of nervous hesitation ran up her spine, causing her body to shift and bend just an inch.

A strip of Sellotape hanging from the fingers of her left hand, she closed and sealed the parcel before finally answering my question.

“Well, now, do you not have a battery?”


No madam I do not have a battery as I am human and not android. Do you have a battery? More pertinent right now, does that clock that you just sold me, wrapped up and bleedin’ sealed into that box, not have a battery? And if not why not and even more so, why did you not tell me that the clock was actually, in its present state, nothing more than a non-functioning lump of crystal glass and metal?

As it happened it would’ve been handy to have a battery then, in the form of a pacemaker, as my heart, which had worked fine until I met her, had since gone into palpitational free form.

“No, I do not have a battery. Of course I don’t have a battery! Why would I have a battery? Does it need one? Why on earth did you wrap up that clock with no battery?”

“Well then,” she sighed, “I suppose you’ll be needing a battery as well.”

What a delight it is to know that begrudging human moraine like herself can no longer compete in our modern retail marketplace, where smiling, helpful and concerned staff have finally won over the old order.

Today’s Galway represents the finest city to find a personal meaningful gift for a loved one.

Happy Birthday lovely Hayley! 
Hope you like the pressie. 
It truly was a pleasure to buy it, honest! 

©Charlie Adley


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