In the days when we had the luxury of making assignations, I was compulsively early. Despite my best efforts to time myself sensibly, I could always be found hovering at the appointed place at least fifteen minutes early for any rendezvous, whether business or social. I have often wondered what it is I fear about lateness. In most cases, no harm would be done, nor catastrophe befall were I to be just a little late. I think it’s something to do with missing the boat. But what boat? Surely tardiness could not cause me to relinquish any vital lifeline, or trigger the fall of some unsuspected Sword of Damocles? After all, these days, one can always let one’s engagement know if unavoidable delay has occurred. Yet still, that faint, fluttering anxiety, the tauntingly clammy palms…

I had already arranged and completed my interview for Quintessential Listening: Poetry, an on-line radio programme broadcast from the US. I had felt honoured, since the programme was a special one in order to celebrate World Poetry Day. Living in rural West Wales, I knew my computer would, quite literally, not be up to speed and, well in advance, I had identified a marvellous ‘creative hub’ in Carmarthen where space was available and connections up to snuff. I, of course, arrived forty-five minutes ahead of schedule, so that we could ensure that microphone and headset were in order; I could even have a mug of tea and a natter to relax myself. All went well – except that it didn’t. Having recorded the hour-long programme of chat and poetry readings, it transpired the sound quality was too poor to use. Being a technological dolt, I had merely turned down the in-built microphone on the computer rather than disabling it, as I soon realised I should have done. So… nothing for it but to rearrange.

Once again, the fiddlesome hassle of making the arrangement, ensuring that everything happened at exactly the right time. Again, I thought I would arrive forty-five minutes early, settle down and relax myself. But I was almost undone by EDT. Does anyone know about EDT? I certainly didn’t. It is Eastern Daylight Time, a US version of putting the clocks forward, which came into force on March 8th – the day before my rearranged interview. We, of course, ever following our own drumbeat, do not adjust our clocks until the end of March. Horreur! – we were now four hours ahead of them across the Atlantic, and not five. So there I was, trolling about in town, doing a bit a light shopping, as one does. At about the time I judged to be forty-five minutes before the scheduled link-up, I ambled breezily up towards the aforementioned hub. There I found the lovely man who runs it agitating on the threshold, peering along the street, anxiously looking out for my arrival. “Quick!” He hustled me towards the stairs. “He’s on the line. It starts in three minutes.”

I flew up, flinging off my jacket, tearing reading material out of my folder. There were several expostulations of Oh, for f***’s sake and the like (adrenalin is marvellous for getting the Anglo-Saxon flowing) and counter-exhortations from my man to remember that the line was open and we were about to record. Anyhow, dear reader… fortunately, adrenalin is also excellent for concentrating the mind and I think the interview went well. You may judge, if you care to listen. But of course, any future attempt on my part to curb my horological fixation has been thrown entirely to the winds. But then, in the intervening weeks, our entire conception of modern life has been uprooted and tossed aside. Yes: always leave time for the unexpected. And always get there early…

Listen to the radio broadcast here.

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