We were in the kitchen having breakfast on a Saturday morning. The night before I had been out painting the town, ending up in Whites Barn dancing to Jack and the Jackpots, with the interior of my mouth coated in grease from the Chicken and Chips that came with the ticket. It was a way around the late night drinking laws in Ireland, bars were obligated by law to close at 11pm, but if a club supplied dinner, they could serve alcohol until 1am in the morning. My Father rolled back his shirt sleeve and pulled the expanding strap of his watch over his hand, he had been out the night before too, at his usual Friday haunt called Stones but was actually Jack Fane’s for several years now. He would’ve had a good few pints of Guinness and probably a few short ones of Powers Whiskey, he and his best friend Harry Doyle would’ve been in the smoke filled back room dealing cards, playing poker for small change, cheating in plain sight, and roaring with laughter. Now he was hung over and observing his traditional behavior, he had cooked a fry for anyone who would have it, sausages, rashers, eggs and tomatoes fried in hot lard. I was tucking in to mine when he pulled off the watch. I have no idea what make it was, it was probably just an ordinary watch, it had large hands and apparently kept good time, it had come from a time when a watch was a watch, an instrument of value. The gold coloured strap was still sturdy after decades of use, expanding and springing back with certainty, the normal size watch had a golden tint to it also, he had taken care of it, the glass still appeared scratch free, maybe there was trace of a nicotine hue.
‘Here! I don’t know if you want this or not?” seeming to reply before I had a chance to respond.
He was handing it to me like it had been pre-arranged almost. I found it bewildering, and didn’t comprehend any deeper motivation other than the plain act of giving me his watch. I had a perfectly good watch, and didn’t want to take his away from him, how would he keep his own time?
“I don’t want your watch” I replied softly with ineffectual bewilderment.
“Aye, bates all you don’t want my watch”
He pulled it back on to his wrist and went back to eating breakfast. We were the first ones up; the kitchen was quiet other than the thin sound of the transistor in the back kitchen playing “Oh to be in Doonerie” I was home from New York for Christmas, and as usual my Father was reminding me of his mortality. Year in year out, it was always the same sentiment “I probably won’t be here when you get back the nixt time” and the usual refutation by myself. Now he was offering me his watch, this was a new and surprising twist. He wasn’t a wealthy man, he had worked his whole life in a foundry called Pierce’s, where they made Agricultural machinery and was prudent with the money he earned, always keeping a nest egg in the Credit Union. Believing in the rainy day, he was ready for it. He had enough he believed, he was a Union man, a shop steward and was a devout unimposing Catholic as well as believing in socialist values. If my Mother ever wanted to go on a holiday at the behest of one of my older siblings, he had the money to pay for it. The nest egg was for those occasions, and of course the covering of their funeral costs. I couldn’t imagine that the watch was of much financial value, but that didn’t matter to me, I didn’t want it regardless.
Later, when I found myself evaluating my response. I knew that I didn’t want to think of my Parents mortality, or my own for that matter, taking his watch felt like taking his time perhaps; yes I have never been a person who cares that much about “things” – never wanted a fancy car, or a fancy watch. But this was neither of those things; this, I realize now, was a leaf from the book of tradition that his generation observed. He wanted to live on in my life after his death, every day I would look at the watch and remember him, perhaps, or was he just trying to do the best that he could do? I wouldn’t be inheriting any money after he died, in the pecking order I was at the bottom of the list anyhow (being the youngest) his watch was the most valued possession that he could give me, he wanted his sons to have something. But he had given me enough, he owed me nothing, we were equally non-materialistic as people, I had gone off to America to play music, not to become rich, I hadn’t earned a fortune to show my parents big things, no trip to Italy to see Pavarotti, no palatial apartment in Manhattan to peruse the skyline or East River, I had inherited his modest ambition, I already had a watch.
And I am watching it right now, and a little worried about taking this pledge campaign on for my next album without the help of a major site. We are off to a good start though, almost reaching 12% of the goal this week. I have found an amazing rhythm section and would like to get them into the studio asap, before someone steals them away for a tour. Initially, we need to reach three and a half grand to capture them. They are so bloody good! I have to capture them. This is going to be a bright summery album to go with the seaside and country drives.
Thank you my Record Co of the Street, you are the ones who decide if I can make an album, and I love every single last one of you, thank you for your time. And yes, I do wish that I had taken Jem’s watch.
I Love your little cotton socks. Pierce xxx