This is my first post. I’ll give you something different every time; today it’s the object that has hung above my desk since 2008. When someone asks me what it is, I’m surprised by the question. To me, it’s perfectly obvious.
In a house-move, one of the feathers (the fluffy white one) was damaged. I found its replacement in Ruskin Park at Camberwell. Weeks passed before I dug in my jacket pocket and found it again. Washed and dried, its quill dipped into glue and inserted, it does its job happily enough.
I own more precise time-pieces: I wouldn’t advocate the use of this one, for example, when soft-boiling an egg. But for a writing stint it’s perfect. Unobtrusive, its silent imprecision removes the possibility of coercion or compulsion about timing my work; there are stopwatches and alarms for that. Instead, I can glance up and wonder what the time is, exactly, before forgetting the question and going back to the story. It quite literally makes time fly.
In chapter 6 of Silver & Salt, it’s a gift made by a 5-year-old Ruthie for her father, Max Hollingbourne, who is a photographer and never works without a timer. His back-up, in case his machines fail him, is his 1-Mississippi, 2-Mississipi mantra, taught to Ruthie one autumn evening in the darkroom at the family house at Pennerton in Kent, England.
Ruthie makes the clock with her mother, Sophie, who takes a gilding kit and presses gold-leaf onto its face.
‘Then they attached feathers for hands in place of the old ones: a short stubby white one for the seconds, and two longer ones for the minutes and the hour…’
Later in the novel the gilded-clock is put to other ends, when Max tells Ruthie, who has fixed it to his Lightroom wall at the family’s villa in Greece, to stand beside it, ‘tilting her head to one side; keeping her gaze centre-on…’