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The Mockingbird of Time

Updated: Jun 13, 2021

I read a tweet by Michael Rosen this week that sparked a chain of thought and hence, this blog. His tweet referenced his feelings a year on from being rushed to hospital and into the ICU, at the start of his continuing battle with Covid. His words do his story more justice than I ever could and at this point I recommend reading his book - 'Many Different Kinds of Love' but suffice to say his journey through initial infection and Long Covid has been followed by many.

I mention him here for two reasons. The first being that I count myself lucky to have been teaching at two schools where he led author days, captivating and inspiring pupils and staff alike with his combined eloquence and charisma. He is truly one of those people who I imagine could hold an audience in their hand indefinitely.

The second reason is that because I follow him as a fan via social media, the tweet I reference appeared in my feed to strike the chord it did. It spoke of his feelings recalling the significant moments of a year ago and his need to confront those proactively and take a role, as he put it, in "ripping up history." Time throws its punches that way, marking the moments indelible in our psyche on anniversaries or repeat visits to the venues of our fate. Sometimes years on, time turns once more to slap us in the face with them. There are moments in our lives that do this because they force us to press pause on our usual daily 'ticking along' lives. These are the moments I began to recall when I read Michael's tweet and the question formed in my mind "Does time mock us in our darkest moments?"

I immediately thought of the Christmas night sat in a resus bay, watching the stream of staff buzzing around checking Mum's readings in their attempts to stabilise the sepsis enough to start emergency surgery. I was simultaneously within the scene and outside of it - devoid of any control, compelled to wait to find what fate had in store. Other such 'out of control' or 'floating' times come to mind too. The sound on the monitor during labour that signalled a baby in distress and the need for an emergency caesarean. The interrupted music lesson when the headteacher came into my classroom to tell me of a phone call I needed to take when Dad had suffered a stroke. And of course there are the anniversaries, the missed special days of people's lives and the times we gathered to bid them farewell.

Forgive me for dwelling there a while, for there are the other moments too. Those on the other side of the coin, when this mockingbird of time really earns its name too. All of the fleeting highlights that we want so desperately to grab onto and hold tight in our grasp so that we might bask in a sunshine, replay the first steps of a child on a loop, laugh with friends until our sides hurt and we have forgotten what the joke even was about. Time ensures that we cannot hold onto those moments either and I find myself increasingly yearning for those times, times that have become even more elusive this past year.

This thread of thoughts has brought me to two places - re-reading a previous blog called Quality Time which I have included at the end of this post, and writing a poem on the theme of time. The poem has emerged over the past few days, illustrating an image that began to form in my head - I'll let you imagine if for your self as you read the poem now. When you do, I wonder how much of yourself you might recognise within it? For my part, I plan to pay attention to the final line of the poem this weekend, I intend to get outside and spend some time in the sunshine. I hope you can too.

Time keeps turning...

I stand alone in a clock shop, My life reflected in the faces around me, Brash, attention-seeking alarm clocks persist, Shouting the business and appointments of the days from their shelf.

The Swatch wristwatch of my youth sits, out of fashion, Cast aside among its contemporaries, Condemned to the novelty corner where pop-colour days are now faded, Who even wears a wristwatch now?

From outside, the display window draws onlookers close, Enticing inspection of curvaceous bodies and intricate hands, Hands that skip merrily past the beats of fun and friendship, nostalgia and frolics.

Pocket watch elders and antique carriages stand firm to mark my history, Any piece with an art-deco flow, captivates - Evokes an era where I’d like to be a Felicity or Daisy-Jayne, in a former life of decadence.

I close my eyes to sieve through the cacophony, To rest upon a single chime, Calling the past from a certain day, Rewinding my mind to a certain hour, Suspending all others, For such is its power.

My father’s stopwatch is paused within a cabinet, No longer able to keep the time of his races, A sea salt rusted testament to the man he was, To the places a life has touched.

Some days, some of the clocks keep a slow beat, Steady and constant, Stretching one hour into another, But look in another corner and time has flown away.

And just out of reach, just out of sight, One clock keeps counting down, None of us know when it’s hands will stop turning, But it will stop...

Tick tock , Best not keep watching the clock, Turn off the snooze and get on, Get out of the dusty shop, And run...

Karen Honnor - April 2021

The following blog was written in 2019 at a time when a short holiday was a more commonplace occurrence. Re-reading this now, I felt both the nostalgia of what we are currently missing as well as a recognition of its central message - to value the quality of the interactions we have together, whenever we are lucky enough to have them.

Quality Time - Blog September 2019.

This week has been about quality time. Time spent away for a few days, with my Mum, my daughter and the dog. Three generations together enjoying each other’s company, talking about all manner of things and loving the luxury of the hot tub that came with the lodge that we had hired. We stayed in a small holiday park which was basically set up to be a landscaped area for the lodges - both privately owned and holiday let - with a small reception office, staffed a few hours a day. That was it - no frills, no shop, no on site activities, just peace and quiet a plenty, with sheep and ducks as our neighbours.

Knowing this was the type of site we had signed up for, we had planned accordingly and between us taken a box of provisions. Although we could drive a short distance to a supermarket if we needed to, there was something of a nostalgic element to packing our provisions box. A nod to past holidays in my parents’ caravan when our kids were small and we would load up the car with groceries, toiletries, clothes and all the extras that toddlers seem to need, before driving off for a long weekend or half term break.

We weren’t far from the spot that Mum and Dad had their caravan and although over a decade since we were last there, it was hard not to reminisce about past days out back then, with my Dad. Much has changed and some aspects remain the same, like any typical English seaside town, but walking around Hastings and Bexhill-On-Sea I found myself wondering what Dad would have made of it all. Back before his illness took hold, he would walk for miles and find a little spot to sit to survey the countryside with his packed lunch of sandwich spread or crab paste sandwiches, a packet of crisps and a chocolate penguin biscuit. Once retired from teaching, he would often travel down on the train for a few days and spend his time walking, running and cycling. He always had a drive to be in the outdoors and active.

Being close to nature, as I described earlier, was part of the relaxation process this week. Of course, as I have often mentioned in my writing, I benefited from being by the sea. Beyond that though, to feel the wind on my face, walk around the fields and watch the clouds pass overhead, all helps to focus the mind on the important parts of life and induce an inner calm. Being back in the setting of the many holidays spent when my children were young felt strange at times and made me consider how much has changed since then. I miss the togetherness of when the children were younger - when we would all go to places together, eat together and be part of the experience together. A ‘bear hunt’ through the swishy, swishy, long grass on our way to Pevensey castle, looking for fairies hidden in the tree trunks of a National Trust garden, or losing count of how many strokes there have been as we work our way around a busy Crazy Golf course.

Does everyone look back to past sections of their life and think how much simpler things were then? The ‘memory sieve’ effects your perception though, filtering through all the positive moments and nothing in life is ever really that simple. For every happy bucket and spade moment there may well have been disagreements about where to go, what to do about lunch or stand offs with the children when we wouldn’t let them buy up a whole souvenir shop. I am sure you can recall both the good and bad parts of your own holidays or days out with family, to know what I mean. Then again, family by its very nature and familiarity brings out the best and the worst of us all, perhaps as it is when we are with family that we are in our safe space to show how we really feel.

Today life often feels complicated, my children have their own interests and pursuits, meal times are sporadic and that elusive together time is to be treasured even more when we actually all manage to sit down together and talk to each other for a short while. If anything should come out of my week of quality time, then I think it is the importance of valuing what you have and when you have each other, take a few moments to be grateful for that. It may not happen so regularly with a grown up family, but when it does and we are all in the same place at the same time and absorbed in a given activity together, I’ll be content with quality over quantity.

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