In the temperate climate, time and season is closely interlocked with the ever-changing tapestry of our life. The times for sunset and sunrise change from week to week, month to month and season to season and that of course affects our prayer times. The duration of day and night undergoes the same variation. Our levels of energy and activity change accordingly. The longer days of summer give us more hours for work and play - rather more of the latter. Shorter autumn and winter days make me mellow and restful - turning into hibernation mode.
Forgive me if I seem to extol the joy of living in the temperate zone - it is a privilege to be able to savour this experience and also to be part of the tropics.
When I settled down in Leicester in the mid-1980s I found myself in the company of Frank Moule, the spouse's student. He was a painter and decorator who left school at 14 and had a lifelong dream to go to University. He finally made it as a mature student when he was in his mid-40s. The late Frank was one of the most remarkable men I've met and I have to write a special posting of him some day.
Because he had a family (with 3 children) to look after, Frank supplemented his student's grant with jobs during the long university summer vacation. This time Iain got him to do some work in our house. For his break, he would join me in the kitchen for a cup of tea and my home-made flapjack. As usual in England, people love to talk about the weather and with Frank he went on to explain the four seasons to me -to someone from the tropics.
I didn't want to tell him that 'Night and Day', and the 'Seasons" were part of the Physical Geography syllabus for the GCE in Singapore. I can't remember learning that at Crescent Girls School but teaching those topics was a right old headache for me and especially for my students. I know of some of my colleagues who simply circumvented that part of the syllabus.
The tilting of the earth's axis, the two movements of the rotation of the the earth on its axis (which causes night and day) and the revolution of the the earth around the sun (which takes up a year) were concepts that were too complex to digest. And when I tell my students that summer in the Northern Hemisphere happens when the sun is overhead at the Tropic of Cancer, winter is when the sun is at the Tropic of Capricorn they start to turn purple. They become cross-eyed when they learn about the Spring and Autumn Equinox when the whole world has equal nights and days. By the time we got to drawing the diagrams to illustrate all these happenings - remember you get more marks when you attach diagrams to your answer - they almost go berserk!
But dear Frank gave me a beautiful and philosophical interpretation to that clinical study of the seasons in the Geography syllabus. He saw the changing seasons as a vehicle of hope and inspiration. For Frank, in the depth of winter you can look forward to the light and colours of spring and summer. The arrival of the snowdrop in winter says you have just made it for the next change. When the body tires from the long days of summer you know that autumn will appear when life will be mellow and restful, and come winter you can wind down and put your feet up. Thank you Frank.
Time is the essence of our days and nights and seasons. Clocks serve to remind us of our time, to regulate our activities and duties on earth.
|My mother's clock|
|Mak sewing at my Anggerek Desa Flat|
There was another special clock in my life. Heaven knows where it had gone to. It was my father's clock, a wind-up brass ship's clock. He faithfully wound it every other day.
He passed away in 1974. I rushed back home from my studies in London knowing full well I wouldn't be in time for the funeral.
As I settled down with the family Abah's clock stopped ticking at 9.30 pm. It was the time of his passing the night before! I was in time, after all.
And now at 67 I do ponder about my life's ticking clock albeit sometimes only.
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep. (Robert Frost)