Until recently the watch I used was a very pretty thing I bought on EBay for $AUD30. It was made in the early part of the twentieth century and did not keep perfect time - but good enough, until recently, when it decided to go quite mad. Sometimes it ticked as if it was trying to win an Olympic ticking race. Other times, it stopped and would not go at all for hours.
When I am next at home in Canberra, I will take it to the man there who understands it. I hope he will be able counsel it back into a more stable frame of mind.
In the meantime, I've bought a watch from a market stall in Budapest. This is it:
There is a problem with my new watch, however. It is a huge problem, for me. It is a problem that is throwing me into psychological turmoil, eroding the foundations of my entire world view.
The problem with my new watch is a simple, but to me utterly unexpected one. The problem is that my new watch is, thus far at least, keeping perfect time.
How can this be? How is it possible that something produced at least 50 years ago, in the Soviet Union, can actually be any good? If this watch works, was I wrong to think the old Soviet system was not only despotic and cruel - nothing is going to shake my conviction on that score - but also (and as a result) inefficient, incapable of producing anything at all that could be relied on to work?
In my experience nothing and no-one in the Soviet Union did their job efficiently, except the KGB. The place reeked of a compound odour, made up of aviation fluid, the tobacco (so-called tobacco - I think it was quite often tea or shredded blankets) they put in papirosi and cabbage, cooked in greasy water. Almost everything was grubby and smudged and puddingy, and what wasn't - classical music, ballet - was so exquisite it only high-lighted the poverty of the rest.
But maybe this watch wasn't manufactured for local consumption. Perhaps it was part of an export drive to begin with, made for customers who actually might complain if something didn't work. As opposed to those who were lucky if they could actually buy anything at all and, according to the old joke, had to ask, when they ordered a refrigerator and were told that it would arrive a decade hence, "When exactly?", "Probably October", "But when in October exactly?", "Well, let's say 16th October", "Morning or evening?", "Morning or evening? Why do you want to know - we're talking about ten years away?", "Because they're delivering the new washing machine in the morning."
Oh look, is that the time? Well, my Nyeva says it is, in which case, I must fly.