SO, it was a bright cold day in February and the clock was striking 13. In other words, we are learning to tell the time.
“Actually….” I tell the six-year-old, “If we’re doing it your way…it’s….50 past one. Or 110 minutes past 12.”
I shouldn’t have said this because she looks deeply confused.
Part of her brain is rejecting this lesson, or how it’s being taught.
So I start to wonder. What would happen if we didn’t teach her the time? If we just…never did it.
Would she pick it up, eventually?
In the corner, the three-year-old is at the ‘why’ stage of development.
She asks why at every opportunity.
As in: “Why is rain,” she says. “Why you have feet, Daddy? Why is your breakfast milky?”
To be honest, the introduction of the big hand and the little hand has complicated matters.
“No…I haven’t got the big hand,” I tell the eldest.
“The clock has – not me. Not my hands.”
She looks at the clock.
“That’s not a hand though,” she says. “It’s more like a stick.”
She’s right. Clock hands are more like sticks.
“It’s just that you have to think of it as a hand when we’re learning to tell the time” I explain.
“Why,” she asks. “Why not a leg?”
I consider this for a moment. “The big leg and the little leg….”
The three-year-old pipes up: “Why do you have a leg, Daddy?”
Even I’m beginning to doubt the general principles of time.
I don’t remember anyone teaching me the time.
But this was the 1970s, things were different then.
Knowing the time was an exclusive right of the big people.
I’m sure our Dad didn’t have a watch until his Forties. Owning a watch was a frivolous expense in the Seventies.
A luxury. A bit too much like jewellery. And men didn’t wear jewellery in the Seventies. Unless they were medallion men.
A plain wedding ring was Seventies Man’s concession to jewellery.
Televisions in the seventies didn’t have clocks either. Not like today, where everyone’s a walking Flava Flav.
There was no clock on the oven when I was growing up.
And we used to call it a stove. As in: “Don’t burn your hands on the stove.”
You don’t hear the word ‘stove’ anymore, it’s gone out of fashion.
Digital clocks make it worse, it appears.
Just as I think we’ve made progress, later she looks at the bedside clock.
“So it’s nineteen past seventeen,” she says.
I shake my head. “19.17 is just gone quarter past seven…but in the 24-hour clock.”
Her eyes roll: “The 24-hour clock? I only thought it went up to 12?”
“You don’t have to worry about that now,” I say. It’s bedtime.
First published in The Westmorland Gazette – 27/02/2014