I bought a watch today. It’s a really nice watch and performs a very important task: it tells the time.

It doesn’t buzz with incoming emails, or berate me for not walking 10,000 steps. It won’t pay for my groceries. It sits there on my wrist, its face looking up at me, telling the time accurately and - on time.

I had succumbed to the lure of a smart watch. I had thought it would help me make better use of my time, ensure I wouldn’t miss an important email and help keep up with my numerous threads on various Whatsapps. I even thought it was the golden ticket to a fitter, healthier me. Well, after two years I am tired of the buzzing.

It sneaks into my relaxing time. I’m tired of always being “on” and checking emails, and I’m tired of tapping it to see who is saying what to whom on which Whatsapp. Oh, and it didn’t actually make me fitter. Apparently, that entails me actually doing the steps and workouts and pushing back from the table!

Time hung heavy and, living alone, I missed spending time with people just chatting, enjoying a meal together, or even a cup of tea.

There are more quotes about time than almost any other topic, and reams written about how we can save time and use our time more productively. We often bemoan the fact there are only 24 hours in a day. For two years I - and others - had too much time on our hands. Many of the activities that kept us busy disappeared overnight.

I didn’t have to spend time working out how I could get the grocery shopping done on the way home from work and still make my evening class. I didn’t have the joy of agreeing a time to meet my friend for lunch, or spend an evening at a concert with my daughter. Time hung heavy and, living alone, I missed spending time with people just chatting, enjoying a meal together, or even a cup of tea.

It took that time to remind me that spending time with family and friends is the best use of my time.

Six years ago I moved to my new home in Connemara. At that time, my four children were all living in different time zones and - while I have the app on my phone which shows the time in any given city - I wanted something more tangible. Remembering when hotel receptions had a line of clocks displaying different time zones, I decided to copy the idea and bought five wall clocks; one for each of them, and one for myself.

When I put them up on the wall, I decided that instead of setting them to cities, I would set them to people. So my clocks are set to the time where James, Ian, Niamh and Aishling are, and I change them as they move around the world. When I walk into the kitchen, I often look up and think, ‘Oh, James must be having breakfast,’ or, ‘Niamh must be on her way to a GAA match in Texas.’

It makes me feel closer to them and part of their day, regardless of where they are living.

Last August, this all went a bit mad and the clocks went ‘viral’. It was a simple Tweet of a photograph of the five clocks, all showing the same time, and it said, “This morning, for the first time in almost three years, they are all on the same time.”

I still get emotional thinking about the day they all came home and we came together to hug, chat and share after being separated due to COVID-19. While it’s not like previous generations, when emigration meant never seeing them again, we had taken hopping on a plane for granted and that disappeared overnight. No technology will ever replace the quiet chats you share with someone you love about everything and nothing.

If you’ve taken the time to read this, I hope you do so again next week and we can take a little time together as I ramble on about everything and nothing. See you next Thursday - and you might as well put the kettle on first.

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