Mention of the legacy from my marriage has put me in mind of other things that W--- introduced me to, such as Matt Munroe, Doris Day, and the Rolling Stones - or at least the Stones in their psychedelic phase, numbers like She's A Rainbow. (Although M--- was the real Stones Expert and Devoted Fan, and it was she who taught me most about them, and turned me into quite a fan as well)
But W--- did something that M--- didn't do. She gave me a late nineteenth-century pocket watch for my birthday in 1986, when I was thirty-four. I was very pleased to have this astonishing gift. The only other person I had ever come across who'd been given a pocket watch by their wife was a colleague who went by the unlikely name of Byron Blower. He was serving in Southampton 2 tax office around 1976. I'd been intrigued and impressed, and greatly lusted after a pocket watch to call my own. At some point I must have mentioned BB's watch to W---. She bought it at an Antiques Fair in Wimbledon.
Here are some photos of my watch, which I still have on display in my lounge:
As you can see, it's a thing of beauty and fascination, if you like precision-made mechanical things that make quick little movements all the time, and are actually useful.
And yet this was no celebrated marvel from the hand of Breguet or Harrison. It wasn't hand-made. It was a bog-standard watch that an ordinary citizen might purchase, made in a factory, with a movement (the clockwork innards) made by an American company, the Elgin National Watch Company; and a brass case made by another American company, J Boss. The movement can be dated to 1895.
It was then common to buy the movement and the case separately at the same shop, and simply marry them together, so that you could for instance have a showy case with an inexpensive movement inside, or a high-class movement inside a plain case. This catered for a wide range of customers, well-off or not so freespending. It was no disgrace to own a moderately-priced factory-made watch, as opposed to the very expensive bespoke handmade article from English makers such as Dent. The Americans had mastered the technique for mass-producing identical tiny parts that could be fitted together without extra finishing. They could therefore manufacture dependable and accurate timepieces in great quantity. Mine is middle-of-the-road in terms of quality, and probably gave good service up to the first world war, then got put away as wristwatches came in - and Swiss makers, prestigious or mass-market, became dominant.
I became very interested in both clocks and watches during the late 1980s, and acquired a litte library that I still possess, these books being uncommon and not to be parted from:
That's my watch at the top, on its stand. I wore it for three or four years on and off, but bought the stand in 1991, after W--- and I had split up, as by then I wanted to display it, rather than wear it:
The trouble with pocket watches was that they were designed for gentlemen with a waistcoat pocket, and any other method of wearing them - such as in a trouser pocket, on the end of a leather thong lopped around a belt - was to some degree unsuitable. I banged my watch against hard furniture more than once. Thankfully no dents resulted. But knocks of any kind weren't good for the mechanism. Apart from whatever effect those knocks had, the movement had over the years become worn out, even if it did still seem to be shiny and pristine. My watch stopped dead several times, and was professionally 'repaired' several times, but it was inevitable that I'd grow tired of those inconvenient stoppages and buy a regular wristwatch. In 1992 I got a modern plastic-strapped sports watch, by Tissot I think, with badminton and other activities in mind. (It was a ladies watch, really, but I don't think anyone noticed)
Watches represent an interest that fizzled out. Nowadays I can't seem to get enthusistic about them. The historical development of timepieces is interesting, as are the scientific theories of time itself, but it's just not 'me' any more. I'm hanging on to all my watch-related stuff just in case I ever get keen again. But I probably won't.