These days it seems that we never have enough time to do everything we want. That’s why I like to get away for long periods to explore the world and also to find myself. Most of our timekeeping is defined by others: work, family, friends and daily chores such as shopping and keeping ourselves and our home clean.
It is with these constraints that I find myself having to arrive two hours before the scheduled departure time of my cross channel ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe. 30 minutes pass before they open the check in booths, then an hour waiting in line and finally another 30 minutes watching as all the cars and HGVs are loaded on before I’m finally called forward to board and the bow doors are closed noisily behind me. Despite leaving 30 minutes late, we still manage to arrive on time which just goes to show how much they pad out the timetables to avoid claims of delay.
As I start my third European Winter Tour, I pause just 15 kms from Dieppe to discover what time really means. A small museum in the centre of St Nicolas d’Aliermont is dedicated to the local clockmakers. Ever since Galileo discovered that the earth revolves around the sun, man has been absorbed in understanding and monitoring time.
From sundials, hour glasses and water clocks to the first mechanical devices at the end of the 13th century, the museum tells the story of time. There is also a wonderful collection of local, ornately decorated, grandfather clocks, ‘clocks of Paris’ mounted in exquisite statues and the more dainty carriage clocks used by 19th century travellers on a Grand Tour. Most of these were produced in the village at the numerous factories, where up to 2/3rds of the workers were women due to their skill of working with tiny, intricate parts. The Bayard Factory produced thousands of alarm clocks which gained popularity after WWII. In 1989, after 122 years of clock-making, it closed down. The site has now been decontaminated (due to the radioactive materials, chemicals and heavy metals used in production) and demolished.
I suspect that the only clockmaker employed in the village now is the person who maintains all the timepieces in the museum. The digital age has taken over and very few people actually want a handcrafted clock for their mantelpiece. In fact, very few people actually have a mantelpiece to put one on.
Time is a very precious commodity and should not be wasted, so make sure that you put some aside to use for the things and the people that you love the most.