February 3, 2008
Need a new watch battery? A trip to Watches To Go will cheer up your timeless self no end. I only recently found out it was called Watches To Go. Hitherto it’s been known as “the watch man in Piccadilly Circus underground station”. The owner, Sean, operates out of a tiny booth built into the commercial crescent underneath Eros. I’ve always gotten my watch battery from him for two reasons: (a) he’s cheaper than anyone else (half the price of Timpsons); and (b) he’s a real character. As you approach, you see him behind the glass, magnifying lens in eye, utterly engrossed in repairing the most expensive-looking timepiece. And he doesn’t acknowledge you. Die-hard Brits will find it hard-going. But hey, if you live in London, you’ve had worse! Wait it out, then he’s all yours. Banter-tastic! I said:
“I always get my battery from you. I came along at 12:20 this lunchtime, and your booth was shut, with a note saying ‘Back at 12.30 – really!’. There was already a queue of three people. They say ‘time waits for no man’, but three men were biding their time. I thought I’d call back later.”
He replied: “I was ‘avin a cappuccino. People come along and offer to go outside and buy me one, but I say ‘no ta’. I look forward to my little walk.”
I said: “I say I always get my battery from you, but I was touring Germany last time it ran out, so I had to get a new one over there”.
He retorted: “Charming! There’s loyalty for yer! So you’re an actor then?”
I said: “I do voiceovers.”
He replied: “I used to get Patrick Allen in here. Lovely man.”
I concurred: “He’s the king of voiceovers. Well…was.”
He shifted: “My daughter wants to go to performing arts college. I’m not so sure.”
I added: “It’s a slippery slope.”
He said: “But what do I know? I work in a cupboard for a living!”
By this time, a queue had built up behind me. Yet, despite it being London, despite it being in the dismal echo that is the underground, the simmering resentment carried in so many of this capital’s residents’ souls seems quelled by this man with the magnified eye. People actually enjoy listening to the human interaction. Perhaps it reminds them of bygone days when proprietor and patron had time for each other. And I don’t blame him taking his time. After all, unless I need a repair, I only see him once every two years for a new battery. These exchanges are to be savoured. Time stands still when you talk to the watch guy; like a chronological gift, and we all know there’s no time like the present.