27th January

Related Incidents

for Emily

Five bags of sugar. No small weight to carry inside you, but now she has arrived in the world, her first day out. Here, the thaw is on, green appearing as the snow retreats, the sound of water running everywhere. Fifteen miles away, across the hills, across the firth, she is home. New daughter, sister, niece, grandchild, great-grandchild. Only hours old and already she is all these things and more.

Much further away, an old man is trying to get his clock to go. It is a grandfather clock. He wonders, Is there such a thing as a great-grandfather clock? It’s always been temperamental, but after being moved recently from the corner of one room to the corner of another (a necessary relocation) it has taken to stopping every twenty minutes. The secret is to have it sit on the floor just right, so that the pendulum swings with a regular tick, like a strong heartbeat. Every morning he taps another coin into place under the base, and starts the pendulum. Twenty minutes later the clock stops ticking. But he does not give up. Sometimes it ticks for half an hour. One day it will decide to keep going, as if it has been in that corner, in that room, all its long life.

One day far into the future, the baby will be an old woman. Her mind will be full of the life she has led, the people she has known, the love she found or lost, memories that bring smiles or tears, a world that has changed beyond anything she could possibly have imagined when she was a little girl. One day, but not yet. For now, her life is unlived, unremembered, unimagined, unwritten. She wakes, she cries, she feeds, she sleeps. Every other discovery awaits her.

The old man watches the second hand tick round the clock’s face. If he keeps watching, the hand may keep moving. If he turns away, takes up his newspaper or switches on the television, it may not. He knows there is no logic to this hypothesis. Some say that a watched kettle never boils. He thinks it possible that a watched clock may never stop.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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