My father was a watchmaker, in the days when all watches were mechanical, full of tiny little cogwheels, hairsprings, jeweled escapements and so on. I’ve written about him before in a poem called ‘Tick’. He had a shop in Raeburn Place, in the Stockbridge district of Edinburgh. The front of the shop, with its display cases, cards full of watches, rings, ear-rings and brooches, was tidy enough, but the back shop was a tip, full of old clocks and clock parts. My father (Bill Will, a name to conjure with) worked in the front shop, behind a partition. Facing a blank wall, hunched over a workbench strewn with tools, watch parts and watches, he worked away, with a jeweller’s loupe in his eye, listening to the radio, kicking the power off when a customer came in.
I’ve always known we were very different in personality and outlook, indeed we became estranged at various points throughout his life. And yet I was thinking the other day: when I’m not on the road, doing workshops, attending meetings, talking to people, I’m sitting hunched over a workstation strewn with papers, facing a nearly blank wall (it’s actually got some of my photos from USA and Iceland on it), and behind me was, until the other week, a disorganised tip (it’s fairly tidy now). So maybe the similarities are there after all. It’s a funny old world.