When the Old Man retired in 1982, he was given a gold watch. Over the years, the watch gave good service. The battery was replaced several times. When the watch stopped running about a year ago, the Old Man sent me out to Cheerful Market, to get the battery replaced.
The proprietor of the watch-stall took the back off the watch, and then told me that the clip which should hold the battery in place had broken, and he could not repair or replace it. So there was no point in fitting a new battery. For this advice he charged me nothing.
When I reported all this to the Old Man, he leapt to the conclusion that the man at the watch-stall was in some way trying to cheat us. I did not agree. Surely, I objected, the man at the watch-stall could have fitted a new battery and charged us for it, in the knowledge that it would work at best intermittently and in any event for only a short time. Doing that would have been cheating us. How was he cheating us by charging nothing?
The Old Man declared that if the clip was broken, it must have been broken by the proprietor of the watch-stall, who, he said, had fitted the most recent replacement battery.
The next day, the Old Man pestered me repeatedly about going to buy a new watch. I didn’t want to go all the way to Cheerful Market just for that. The Old Man asked whether there was a shop in William Street (half a mile from his house) that sold watches. “I’m lost without a watch,” he kept saying. Eventually his persistence ground me down, and that afternoon I drove him to Cheerful Market.
To my surprise, the Old Man led me to the same watch-stall. (I noticed the look of surprise on the proprietor’s face when he recognised me — but I did not respond.) Without mentioning the gold watch, the Old Man selected a new watch. It cost him £9.95 or £10.00.
Ever since, he has been very satisfied with his new watch, and several times he has praised the clarity of the watch-face.
I thought that that would be the end of the matter, but unfortunately the tale of the gold watch bears a resemblance to the saga of grandfather’s clock. For months now, the Old Man has suffered from a recurrent obsession about getting a replacement battery for the gold watch.
On the Sunday, he kept remarking that when we went shopping, we must get a new battery for the gold watch.
On the Monday morning, I hoped that he would have forgotten about the gold watch, but after breakfast I noticed that he had put the watch on his coffee-table.
While we were getting ready to go shopping, I hoped that he would overlook the gold watch, but when we were on the point of leaving, to my surprise he handed me the watch and told me that I should get a replacement battery for it in Suburbia Somnolenta. (I suppose he had realised that we would not have time to go to MegaGroce and to the watch-stall in Cheerful Market.)
When I drove back to Suburbia Somnolenta that afternoon, I took the gold watch with me, carefully wrapped up.
[Original posting 13 February 2010]