The French windows opened on the lawn and I positioned my carver to maximise the view down to the lake. There were no midges this year. The occasion hour that had been cancelled over this Spring must have curtailed their breeding season. I cursed that I had forgotten to wind the mantelpiece clock which had stopped at 4.23pm. Someone came down the stairs at an uncharacteristic pace. She had probably forgotten something because she stopped , paused, and made her way back to the Rumpus Room. If it were Gillespie then she would wind the clock, if it were Frobisher she would stand at the French windows and rub her arms to signify a late afternoon chill.
I experimented with sitting symmetrically in the carver, a hand on each arm, my legs pressed to its legs, but felt uneasy in that it had then felt like an electric chair. I relaxed and closed one eye after the other experimenting with three dimensional vision.
The light was diminishing even though I thought there had been a loss of an hour that very afternoon. I couldn’t see the lake now not least because a figure in a heavy shawl was blocking my gaze. Scrutinising the pattern on the shawl I was sure I could make out the familiar diaper patterns. Bats came as close as they dared to the patio. At the other end of the summer room somebody was winding the ebony clock. Nobody ever consulted it, but it was best to keep its mechanisms in good working order, don’t you think?
She was up in the rumpus room sorting the books on the west wall by alphabetical title, but speculating on just what was meant by a Rumpus. An odd title for a quiet room. It was described thus in the estate agent’s particulars but the enamel plaque had been unscrewed from the door. Today the administrator had undertaken to tell her if and when the hour had been cancelled during the afternoon.
The debate in her mind was whether “P” should continue on the next shelf down. It was impossible to predict how the Library would grow, given the three of them. An abundance of framed pictures would suggest that wall space was the priority. Somewhere the telephone started ringing. Losing an hour would throw her schedules out just as “Q” was beckoning. Hurrying down the stairs she remembered that they didn’t have a telephone. She decided to wind the clock instead. She assumes I was asleep but so didn't share with me the oft discussed associations of the act in Tristram Shandy.
“I love the sound of that slipping ratchet.” The figure in the window spoke. “and that you never correct the hands.” Frobisher tapped her dial. I put a hand on each arm, convinced I was an entirely motionless Test Pilot. “Diaper.. diaper.. diaper” I shifted between pattern and nappy in his mind while adjusting my oxygen mask.
It turned out that the hours were untouched that afternoon so “Q” turned into “R” and the documentary on Kew Gardens we all watched wasn’t cancelled. The Tumble Drier moved to acceleration and at exactly the same time as a juvenile bat bumped painfully into a hanging basket. “Funny,” she said, “I heard the telephone too”. The general agreement that a shawl with tassels had, in rotating, mimicked an old model of telephone. I poured tea at table. Parking the cosy on my head during the act of pouring , I amused the Housemates but above all, kept my scalp warm. “It really suits you. Like a Nabob.”
That there were fireflies over the still surface of the lake added to the crystalline inertia.