Grandpa Webb's blog

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Time to synchronise your watches – it’s Easter

Find out more about Grandpa WebbWhen is Easter? People start asking this about the end of January. Unlike Christmas, Easter doesn’t stand still, it moves about, because it is linked to the phases of the moon. So Easter Sunday can be any time from somewhere around the end of March to three quarters through April.

Not that you’ll miss it. Easter has become the first retail extravaganza of the New Year. The days are getting longer and with a bit of luck the weather is getting warmer. So now’s the time, the shops tell us, to buy chocolate eggs, garden compost, a tin of paint, a new spring outfit or anything else you need to make you feel optimistic about the year ahead.

This year, Easter Sunday is on 31 March, which means it has a double significance. It’s the day when the Christian church celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and on a more mundane level, it’s the day the clocks go forward – an event that affects all denominations.

I’ve just counted, and not including those on the TVs, phones and computers, which I think adjust themselves, our household has 18 clocks. They include a 100 year-old grandfather clock, a timer on the central heating thermostat, digital clocks on the cooker, microwave and two radios, and an assortment of other timepieces, most of them inherited or received as gifts.

Clocks with hands I can handle. Find the knob at the back and wind the hands forward an hour. With the grandfather clock, you actually turn the minute hand with your fingers, and, depending on where you start, you must let it chime the hour before finally setting it.

At the press of a ballpoint our boiler timer hops an hourThe easiest of the digital clocks to reset is the boiler thermostat. It has a small hole in the casing. Insert a pointy instrument such as a ballpoint pen and press, and the reading hops forward or back an hour.

But because I only change them every six months, I can never remember how to set the cooker and microwave timers. The cooker clock has two knobs underneath the timer. The instructions tell me to press the left one four times. A little clock illuminates and the reading flashes on and off. Turn the right hand knob to set the desired time – simples. 

The microwave and I do not understand each otherI’ve lost the instructions so I’ve never fathomed the microwave. The clock is set using the cooking timer settings, which are labelled 10sec, 1 min and 10min. Press the 10 sec button and the clock jumps forward 10 minutes. I rest my case. I usually spend about half an hour pressing buttons in various combinations, and eventually get there.

Easter is a time for treats. Grandma’s treat when she was a little girl was being taken to tea in Sopers, a fairly posh store in Harrow, north London, which regrettably closed many years ago. They had a palm court orchestra and, urged on by her grandma, she went up and asked them to play Easter Bonnet, which they did. Grandmas in those days knew how to turn an occasion into an unforgettable event.

My earliest Easter recollection (I think it was Easter) was in a play at my primary school. I was about five and was playing the part of a duck. With a girl called Bridget, I was to walk on and we would both say the line: “We are the ducks who live in the wood,” before exiting stage right.

I was quite small for my age, and Bridget, a fine girl, towered about 12 inches above me. My mother, keen to help my stage career, had made a duck costume which consisted of a grey knitted balaclava, with a huge beak, cut from the back of a cornflakes packet and painted yellow, sewn on above the face – hole.

Clocks with hands I can manageBridget’s outfit was different. She was wearing a green French-style beret to which her mother had attached, at the front, a small life-size duck’s beak painted yellow.

The appearance on stage of such an odd couple was greeted with howls of laughter from all the assembled parents and teachers, possibly with the exception of our mothers. We said our line and shuffled off as quickly as we could. It was the beginning and the end of my stage career.

Nowadays, things are different. A lot of people go away for Easter. My granddaughters and their mum and dad are being taken to Disneyland, Paris, by their other grandparents.

Which I suppose is progress. It’s certainly a step up from the palm court orchestra’s rendition of Easter Bonnet or dressing up in a balaclava and pretending to be duck...

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