Writing from Worcester


Slouch down into your seat, shoulders forward, head down, headphones in

‘The idea was that if we put a jigsaw about time in a waiting room it would complete itself, as all the bits of time of the people who come in would join together, like the pieces…’
Yes that’s a good idea, says the elderly woman who had entered the waiting room a few minutes earlier. She had looked curiously at the jigsaw puzzle laid out on a picnic table before sitting on one of the benches lining the walls. However, her eyesight isn’t what it was. She’s due to go into hospital for an eye operation next week, a routine procedure. I’m seventy-eight, she says, you have to expect that sort of thing. She unwraps a piece of cake from her bag. Elsewhere in the room a man sits reading a newspaper. A young man enters the room. Come on! She exhorts him, gesturing at the jigsaw, you can have a go… He raises an arm in plaster and replies apologetically, I would but… he can’t tackle a jigsaw one-handed. The paper-reading man remains silent. The woman asks if she might be left to eat her cake. I resume my position in the corner of the room.
On the table in front of us, the jigsaw – a 500-piece reproduction of an 18th century engraving by German artist Martin Engelbrecht depicting ‘the female clock and watch maker with clock costume and apparatus’ – remains incomplete, the pieces scattered across the table, exploded fragments of time. Most of the edges are done. In the original image the horologist’s body has become fused with the elaborate instrument of her trade, but so far only a small part of this picture has emerged in the chaotic space of the puzzle. Sections of an ornamental clock have been joined together with the woman’s facial features: Roman numerals, an eye, a hand.
Time passes. We wait.