We are all back home at number 75. Mum is still unwell and fast asleep under the shelter.
Mrs. O’Keefe, our evacuee from Stepney, comes into the kitchen with a big pile of washing.
“There’s that factory hooter, it’s seven o’clock already. “Huh. Just look at your mum’s clock though, it’s a wonder it works at all, no bell, no glass and it’s never right.”
I glance at the clock, it says nine minutes past seven, and I say to her.
“Well, Mrs’O’, it was knocked about a bit in the bombing, and now it loses twelve minutes a day. So, mum sets it twelve minutes fast, so that we are never late.”
She looks over her thick glasses and sighs. “But luvvy, during the day, I never know what the real time is. Look, the seven o’clock hooter has just gone, but that silly clock says it’s nealy ten past”
This time I sigh. “Yeah, I know that, but all you have do, is knock a half minute off the twelve minutes that have been added, at every hour.
She gives me one of her looks.
“Would you like me to explain? Mrs.’O’
“Ooh, I wish you wouldn’t Alan.”
Not to be put off I say …….. “Do you see what’s happened? It started twelve minutes fast, but, has lost over three minutes since then. Half a minute per hour.”
Turning her back on me, she says “When I get the copper burning, we’ll have some toast, shall we? I’m gasping for a cup of tea.”
She puts some bread against the flames, until it’s almost burning.
She puts the hot toast on a plate, “Alan, there’s no butter, luv, only dripping. Do you still want some?”
I think she may have lost interest in clocks, because when I ask her. “Do you want me to write it down for you?”
She shrugs her shoulders and says.“No, I don’t Alan, and to tell you the truth, I’m past caring.”
She sighs. “If you don’t want this toast, I’ll have it myself.
Putting her hands over her face she says. “Bloody top me! No wonder every-one’s late in this house, if they have to do that all the time.”
“Well, you said, you never know the right time, this is how you do it. If my sister is just leaving for work, she just leave’s twenty minutes early.”
I can see I’m losing her interest, she is looking up at the ceiling. I think she is wishing she is some where else. “But, what’s the point of doing all that stuff if she leaves early anyway?”
“I like doing things like that, it’s interesting.”
She looks at me again and sighs, then leans forward on to the table, looking down at the floor and says.
“Do you know Alan? I really think I’m safer back in London.”
The old clock is not the only thing that has changed since the bomb, I’ve got a twitch, a sort of wink.
Mrs. O’Keefe is now sitting in front of the roaring copper fire, reading the tea-leaves in her cup, she shakes her head, bad news again I suppose, then she turns the wireless on.
“Thank god that blooming hooters stopped, now I can listen to the wireless, it’s got such a lovely tone, it’s a shame your dad couldn’t finish the cabinet, Bernard might though, when he’s back home.”
I go into the scullery to look in the little mirror to see if my twitch is still there.
“Alan! Just be careful, this copper’s very hot, it’ll scorch your trousers, then you’ll smell just like that dirty old army coat you’re so fond of.”
“Don says, the buttons must never be polished, shiny buttons makes targets for snipers………….. I wonder what regiment the soldier was in, and where he is now?”
She doesn’t answer.
“Oh bugger, the wireless is dying, just when I was listening to Anne Shelton. Now Alan, there is something you can do, just take the accumulator down to Mr. Hyde, he only charges tuppence. The poor man, he’s got such a bad habit, jerks his head all over the place.”
She pulls me away from the looking glass and says. “For god’s sake, come away from that looking glass. Pulling all those faces, one day you will stay like it, or even end up like poor Mr. Hyde.”
Mrs. O’Keefe said nothing about my wink, I think she thought it better not mention it.