Tuesday, 20 October 2015

STORY: "When The Clocks Go Back"

When the Clocks Go Back
BY Sean Kavanagh (c) 2015

I’d always hated autumn. 

The not quite weather, the not quite dark.  Then, the sudden creep of early evenings and foggy mornings.  It was like a waiting room for winter, without any charm of its own.  And then there was the rain (though to be fair it pretty much rained all year round in Port Isaac).

I was leaving for the early shift at the local café, shuffling along in the morning gloom.  A torch beam hit me in the eyes.  I reacted instinctively, squinting trying to bat the photons away like an irritating wasp.  It was the sort of futile, foolish thing I did. The torch beam moved from my face.

“Sorry Mol, “said a familiar voice. Constable Figis.

“It’s fine. “ I said, annoyed, and not thinking it was fine at all.

“Early start? “ It was chit chat, but even chit chat sounded like a mild form a questioning from such an old policeman.  I’ll never know why they went back to that silly old uniform either, a bit of PR for the elderly voters I suppose.  He even had one of those old black bikes of indeterminate make that policeman used to have.

“Yer, those bacon sandwiches won’t make themselves. “ I’d meant it as banter, but it came out a little bit stroppy.  It was autumn and the morning, what did he expect? 

Figis smile.  “I’ll leave you to it then. “ He swung a leg awkwardly over his anonymous bicycle. “Keep one for me, I’ll be in for early lunch around 11”

“Will do. “

Then he smile.  Something had just occurred to him.  “Remember the clocks go back tonight Mol. “

“Don’t worry, it’s hard to forget.  Not my favourite day of the year. “

“See you later. “  He rode off, as slow as it was possible to ride without gravity making a fool of you.

I decided to walk into work.  The village’s “High Street” of eight shops was only a mile from my mum’s house (yes, I live at home).  As I ambled on, I began to think about what Figis has said about the clocks going back.  My granddad would always call my mum and tell her when it was happening, part of their little routine as the year went by.  The first year after my granddad had died, my mum decided to tell me the clocks were going back – a family tradition passed down the line I suppose.  She’d done it ever since. I think it helped her cope.

I arrived outside the café.  The windows steamed and damp already.  God I hated the place.  But this was what passed for a good job locally. 

And so the day went by, as days did.

The evening was foggy, but at least it wasn’t raining.  It wasn’t even that cold.  I think the leaves fell from the trees more out of boredom than any sense of the changing season. Mum had gone out to see a friend, so I just curled up on the sofa and decided to read a book.  It was something I’d enjoyed as a child, and the comfort of it seemed appropriate. 

It must have been too comforting as I fell asleep.

 Which made the firm banging on the door even more startling.  At first I thought mum had forgotten her key, but then I remembered what was going on.  I pulled my robe on and went to the door – it was Constable Figis.

“Hello Mol. “ Formal this time, not like the faux banter of the morning.  I noticed his torch was gone and he was holding some kind of oil lamp.  He must have got it from the museum at the local closed silver mine.  “Remember the morning? Remember what we discussed?”

I nodded. “The clocks go back today. “ I stepped aside so he could see the hallway behind me. All the clocks, watches and other gadgets with time-keeping devices in were piled up neatly for collection.

“Good girl Mol. “ Figis was patronising me now, probably for the benefit of the two Ludds behind him.  Local idiots in blue sashes.  Still, you get what you vote for, and this is what the elderly of the county (and a lot of other counties) had voted for.  Though yearning the ‘good old days’ and the ‘simple life’ had soon spiralled out of control. “Go on then lads, “ said Figis to the Ludds.  The illusion of lawful control.  You could tell the goons in the blue sashes thought of Figis as an impediment – a joke - not a part of the process.  His turn would come.  The Ludds barrelled into the house without wiping their feet and started collecting up all our clocks and such. 

“You sure this is the lot? “ asked one of the Ludds.  His breath certainly evoked another age – one before regular tooth brushing.

“It everything. “ My reply was slow and even.  You never knew when these Ludds might turn nasty. He kept staring at me, leering.

“She said that was everything, “ repeated Constable Figis firmly.  The Ludd threw him an odd smile and headed off to the rag and bone cart parked in the street.  It looked full, but it was hard to see since they’d taken the street lights out.  Figis pulled out his note book and started to write.  Halfway through he looked up, seeing I was becoming nervous.  “Don’t worry Mol – nothing more sinister than a receipt. For your own good. We’re all part of the process now. “

And then they were gone.


A few days passed (you could count the days easily enough, but the hours were a bit more tricky without a clock and only the gloomy autumn sun to guide you).  No new notices went up on the village board from the Ludd council.  I looked like they were going to leave us alone for the winter.  My mum had carried a pained look on her face since they’d come for the clocks and I could guess why: they’d taken her dad’s old wristwatch.  It didn’t even work, its only value a memory of my granddad (and I suppose of a fast vanishing world of machinery).  I tried to be extra kind to her to make up for the watch.

Then, just after dark, about a week later they came.

BANG BANG BANG…. I thought they were breaking the door down at first, but it was just the loud arrogant knocking of the head Ludd (I could see his blue and gold sash – ritzy).  I opened the door, confused, but not overly afraid.  We’d long ago given up the fantasy of fighting these people.

“Something was overlooked. “ The head Ludd yelled it like a judgement.

“Sorry, I….”

He cut me off. “Something was overlooked! “ He was angry, and not really making it clear to me why. I noticed Constable Figis was standing right back in the street not making eye contact with me.  The law totally impotent now.  His bike was gone too.

“We gave you all our clocks, watches, egg timers.  Come and look there’s nothing, is there mum? “ My mum had come downstairs and was standing looking nervous.  “Mum, DID you forget something? “

“Oh yes, I’m afraid she did.  “ A man stepped out of the shadows.  It was ‘doctor’ Carns.  He’d replaced doctor Singh our real GP months ago, and no one seemed to know if he was really a doctor. 

“I’m sorry Mol…” My mum was standing openly weeping.  I had no idea what was going on.


“Shall we do it here? Or at my practice? “ Doctor Carns shook his leather bag.  Metal things inside jingled.  I didn’t like the sound of that. 

“Can I get my coat? “ mum asked meekly.   

“We’ll get it for you.  “ The head Ludd sent one of his men into the house.  He came back with my coat in error, but I didn’t argue.  Mum put it on, seemingly unaware it wasn’t hers despite the difference in size between us.

“Please, someone, can you tell me what’s happening.  “ I was close to tears as the Ludd and doctor Carns took my mum firmly by the arms and led her away. “She didn’t do anything!” I yelled.  Everyone stopped.  My mum shook her head at me with gentle resignation.

“As I said, something was overlooked. “ The head Ludd was staring coldly at my mum.

“It’s my pacemaker Mol. “ It was all my mum said before being led off.  I stood there not knowing what to do, what to say. Constable Figis had to put his lantern out to hide the look of shame on his face. 

“But it was just the clocks that went back…” I slumped onto the doorstep.  ‘Doctor’ Carns came and stood over me.  “It was just the clocks…..” I repeated.

“Pacemakers are very good time keepers Mol.  Very good.  And also, forbidden. “ He put his top hat on and walked slowly away before stopping briefly. He turned.  “I’ll make sure they send the coat back.” My mum’s face had already disappeared from view. I would never see her again.

            The clock had gone back. 




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