A dial face for John Boot and absent company

for John Boot (clockmaker/watchmaker)
Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, 1705-1767

He’s inside a glass chute, keying in
one last request. It takes him an age to work it,
taps at effaced digits that are encrusted with
manky old fingers. He’s not heard of the preference

for strong mobile networks. He gives it a tap
the only solution to a telecommunication
conundrum. ‘Am I…? This right? That the next town?’
The tourists must have got it wrong, their compass

points misguided by the earth’s magnetic drift.
‘I can hear mesen,’ says John Boot in Portland Square,
once Lower Green. ‘A watchmaker’s history
watched over by Wilko.’ He’s told to hold,

near the sorry looking sundial – no placard
to mark the largest in Europe. Instead, it’s
desecrated by cans and Cooplands wrappers,
pastries, flaking bricks and ‘’ello? Steve ’ere.’

‘Can you tell ’bout them come to see the sundial?’
‘Fink you’ve got wrong number, mate.’
‘No, they were coming but could have veered
off course, so don’t you go telling me….’

Standing proud like the grandfather clock
on King Street: eighteenth century oak, original
brass hinges, and all the trimmings that a smashed-up
payphone box affords him. The wind steals in

a sigh from Steve, ‘Don’t know owt about no sunbed, mate.’
‘Sundial!’ repeats Boot in haste, and he’s told to hold again.
Shoppers bruise the minutes from II to VIII, their shadows
stolen by the apocalypse of cumulonimbus

and the tiny pips that say
John Boot is out of time. 

John Rogers

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