Time spent here is very special. I can move it around if you want to. I can even turn it on its head. Looking back through, how could I ever imagine this? But I suppose things never stay the same.
To begin, being a farmer and all that, my husband, Mark, was always one for keeping time. Every morning, he had me up by 4.30am to start milking the cows and all the other early morning jobs that we had to do on the farm: spreading seeds, fertilisers, watering the fields and feeding the animals. Each time a job was finished, he would note down the time it took to do it on his little note pad, which stayed with him throughout the day. He always sighed a lot, shaking his head from side to side, “tut-tut-tutting” as he did so. Then, after all the early morning jobs were done and noted down, it was time to eat.
Breakfast was a lot of work: a large bowl of thickly prepared porridge served with the farm’s finest doublecream topped with fruit of the season. This was followed by a thick slice of ham, three eggs sunny sideup, four long Cumberland sausages, several slices of bacon and two toast racks boasting eight thickly buttered slices of toasts alongside a pot of homemade strawberry jam. A tad too much for me, I must say! I preferred to be more conservative, with a bowl of cereal and a slice of buttered toast and a smear of jam.
Before starting each breakfast, my husband would always write down how long it had taken me to prepare, cook and deliver it. (God forbid if I’d taken too long!) “Mmm this time it took you several minutes longer than usual,” he would say. “What a waste of precious time! You could have been doing something else. Perhaps, next time, you should eat your cereal and toast while you’re waiting for my food to cook,” he would say disapprovingly putting away his notebook. As for me, I was so use to these reprimands; I took it all in my stride.
Unsurprisingly, he liked his lunch on time. It was always a sit down affair and was at least three courses: homemade soup followed by roast of the day with an ample serving of three to four seasonal vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots, peas, and broccoli. Pudding was compulsory. The stickier, richer sponge pudding was as much calorie concentrated custard as possible, the better! All was prepared each morning after clearing up after breakfast and washing the dishes. All perfectly timed, of course!
“NEXT TIME, YOU SHOULD EAT YOUR CEREAL AND TOAST WHILE YOU’RE WAITING FOR MY FOOD TO COOK”
Afternoons were taken up by more jobs but this time in the farm house. First, I scrubbed and cleaned all the work surfaces in the kitchen, in the readiness for preparing dinner. This was followed by brushing, swilling and mopping the floors. As they were drying, I would empty the clothes from the washing machine, which I was always used on the cheaper tariff of electricity the night before, and then hung them out. Soon, it was time to dust, polish and vacuum the carpets. Once again, all these jobs had to be timed and noted down by my husband Mark.
As the day moved on, it was dinnertime. Evening meal was much of a much – three to four coursed of rich calorie included food, which he devoured greedily, falling asleep in the large sturdy armchair that had been in the family for so long, while I prepared supper. Week after week, month after month, year after year the same ritual played out. The only exercise my husband seemed to enjoy was noting down the hours that it took for me to complete the work he allotted. Then, satisfied all was in order, he would fall contentedly asleep in the chair.
Looking back, that particular that day was a day like any other – the chores on the farm, the housework and most certainly the mealtime rituals he so loved. I suppose it must have been around 9 o’clock that I went to wake him up for his supper and he found him dead. Passed away in his sleep, he had! A heart attack, the doctor said.
You could say it was gluttony or you could say it was overfeeding. Who could be sure either way? But what we can be sure of is that my husband was a time keeper who loved measuring time. So, just to make it certain he is kept happy in the afterlife, along with his ashes, I had the notebook cremated. The remains, I have put in a large egg timer, which I now keep on the mantelpiece. I call it ‘Markin’ Time’.