I hate being late, loathe the last-minute rush, dread the prospect of uttering that well-worn phrase sorry I wasn’t here earlier. In fact, I suffer from that common complaint, a chronic punctuality infection. This particular train of thought came about as I stepped off the ladder (roofing job before the weather turns on Wednesday) and remembered that this article is due today. In fact, it ought to have been done already.
That’s one of the challenges of chronic punctuality – it doesn’t stop me being late, just makes being late very uncomfortable.
Oddly enough, many years ago, I knew a chap with punctuality issues known as The Late Mister Dale.
Since moving to Cornwall over fifteen years ago, I have tried to chill and adopt the Cornish principal of dreckly. When will this article get written? I’ll do it dreckly. It’s akin to mañana, but without the urgency. Perhaps if the industrial revolution had been confined to Cornwall, chronic punctuality would never have been invented. I can just hear the station announcements: the next train will be arriving dreckly, and the following train will be dreckly after. So much less stressful than actual schedules with times. (Although back when I commuted by train it often seemed as if the railway company had adopted the dreckly method but failed to inform us passengers.)
However, much as I have tried to adopt the dreckly mantra, that underlying punctuality infection simply won’t go away and living here has so many ways to set it off.
Firstly, there’s our livestock. They need to be attended to, daily, regardless of whatever else is happening. That’s all right though, isn’t it? A routine, easily planned for. If only we could get the livestock to cooperate.
A few weeks back we planned to go to an open garden event in support of the Cornish Wildlife Trust, so really a very difficult thing to be late for – just arrive after it opens at two and before it closes at five. Except that morning, one of the older ewes showed classic signs of meningitis, which effectively cancelled everything we had planned for the day.
I suppose I could argue that we weren’t actually late but completely absent.
After livestock come the tricky issues of travel and medical appointments. Our dentist and optician are in a nearby town about twenty minutes drive away, or forty minutes depending on the traffic, which is almost impossible to predict, except at this time of year when it’s best to add a further minute per mile.
In the summer months the Cornish roads are dominated by tractors and tourists, both of whom drive slowly because tractors aren’t generally built for speed, especially when hauling a trailer fully laden with something agricultural, and tourists get stressed by the discovery that Cornwall historically adopted a narrow-gauge road system where the difference between a major and a minor road is whether a tractor brushes against the hedge on both sides.
Oh, and a Cornish hedge is an earthen bank, or sometimes a stone-faced earthen bank. That stresses tourists as well as they try to reach their holiday cottage on time with their paintwork intact.
And no punctuality crisis would be complete without a mention of lambing, hatching, and all the other rural events that mean a new life has arrived. Lambs come five months less five days from conception and hen eggs hatch in twenty-one days. Honestly, that’s what it says in the books.
Just as soon as I have time, I’ll make an appointment to try to teach the sheep to read.
And use a clock.
The time is now late, but it’s still Monday. Don’t think of it as a deadline, but more a broad brushstroke.
OMP Admin Note: Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.
He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” (http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC ) and “The Road To Hell” (relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS ) – and is working on a third. His contribution to the One Million Project: Fantasy anthology is While We Were Sleeping.
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