I am dreaming. I am in a hurry. There are others also scurrying here and there. I look at my wrist but there is no watch there. I call out that I need to get a watch but they should carry on. I am in a car driving fast down a hill. I pass a large crowd and shout: “I have to buy a watch and time!” I wake up.
The remnant of the dream remains and disturbs. I take a few deep breaths and think how wonderful it would be if one could buy time. Every caregiver would want to be first in line.
The dream has dredged up the watch seller we met in Gibraltar. What a character he was!
His stand was in a prime location. Going or coming you had to walk by that stand. There were all kinds of watches for the amazing sum of ‘$10 dollars each or three for $30!’ he would holler.
It was a bargain and a smile in one short sentence. However, that was not all.
What drew and held a crowd entranced was the non-stop patter of the seller. He had an English accent which I thought was Cockney. I asked him if he was born within the sound of the Bow Bells to which he answered:
“The sound of the bow Bells? Darling, mi pregnant mum was at church and when the darn thing rang she jumped so high that out I popped. I tell you, love you canna get more Cock(pause)ney (wink, wink) than that.” Groans and laughter ensued. It seemed he had an endless number of jokes, sly remarks, double entendres to keep us entertained and buying his watches. Purchasing a cheap watch in Gibraltar suddenly became de rigueur
I bought three watches. My rationale was that as frequent travellers it was good to wear these cheap versions for sightseeing.
The next year we happened to be back in Gibraltar. Our watch seller was at his post. His patter was loud, persuasive and entertaining as usual. He looked out, saw us and shouted: “Aye, there’s mi customer, come back from –where you from mi darling? ‘Canada’ all the way from Canada to buy mi watches. Want another three mi love?”
We walked the main street for a bit and returned just as he was turning over the stand to his son to take a break.
“Good line you use about a returning customer,” I say. He looked at me and said:
“I do remember you. Your husband got in on my act and actually persuaded people to buy the watches telling them the spiel alone was worth the money. Then you bought three watches I am sure you really did not need and for Chrissakes, it is sorta hard for you to disguise yourselves. Stuck in my head is the fun loving, happy, odd couple. Come, have a cuppa and a beer for you my friend?” We comply. Bert won the paying the bill battle.
We are back in Gibraltar. This time I am on a mission to get a good watch. Gibraltar is a duty free port so prices are better here. I am happy with my purchase.
We stop at our favourite cheap watch seller. He hails us again, he tells people to ask us about the fabulous bargains we have made and how we come specifically to Gibraltar to buy his watches. The patter is non-stop as usual and entertaining. He beckons us over and says: “OK, which of these are you getting this year?” “This year, I am not getting any. I just bought a lovely one just down the road.” I point in the direction of the shops. He laughs, tut-tuts, shakes his head, and in a loud voice says:
“Oh, you did, did you? Let me tell you something, darling, you got snookered. I bet you paid more than ten times what my beautiful watches cost! Come here mi luv; let me tell you a little secret. That expensive watch you bought tells exactly the same time as mine.”
Amid the laughter I hear ‘true’, ‘that’s fer sure’. I think Bert and I are laughing the hardest.
It is about five years when we get back to Gibraltar. We make a beeline to our cheap watch vendor. No, I do not need a watch. We just want to say ‘hello’ and listen to the patter. His son is at the stand. Bert asks after his father. He has died. We offer our condolences. We are sad. An errant thought: He ran out of time. He would appreciate it. I bought a watch in his memory and walk on under a suddenly dimmed sky.
The Meander: A thief snatched my watch as we were walking back to our hotel in Santiago, Chile. After the anger, feeling violated and acknowledging with thanks the care of the good Samaritans who came to our aid, I turned to Bert and said: “He will be so disappointed that the ‘gold’ watch is a ten dollar Gibraltar special.” We begin to laugh hysterically.
Our good Samaritans slowly leave and I think they are still debating whether we were happy to be unharmed or that the incident had been so traumatic as to leave us unhinged.
By the way, those Gibraltar specials lasted from 18 months to over five years and kept the same time!