The cuckoo clock struck twelve.
Clive, who was staring into space seemed to pull himself together.
"Oh, yes." He stood up. "Happy New Year." He reluctantly kissed his wife on the cheek. Then he yawned.
"Don't know about you but I'm tired."
Clive's wife kissed him on the head as usual before sleeping. He tensed for a second and then slept.
A week had passed. Mrs Beechcroft had dozed off in the red armchair in the living room. The room was warmed by the flames of the gas fire as the central heating in this room was completely useless. Clive had asked the plumber who lived a few doors away from them about it but he had declared it to be the weakest in the system and said there was nothing he could do about it.
Mrs Beechcroft suddenly awoke as the cuckoo clock unexpectedly chimed the hour. Four o clock? Mrs Beechcroft glanced down at her wristwatch. It was a pretty one with a gold plated chain, which looked like one she had had in her childhood. According to the watch it was five. She sat up straight.
"Clive..." she called.
Footsteps hurried down the stairs and then her husband came in.
"Which is the correct time? My watch says five but the cuckoo clock four."
Clive looked at his own black wristwatch. "Four darling."
"Are you sure?"
"Oh." She put her watch back. It must have been wrong since October, but surely they would have announced on the radio that the clocks would go back an hour?"
"They did. I thought you heard it."
"It was that day we listened to Othello on the radio."
"I remember that, but I don't remember them mentioning this."
"But darling, they mentioned it before Othello started."
Mrs Beechcroft still wasn't sure but Clive seemed certain so she didn't want to contradict him.
"Oh yes, I remember now. Thanks Clive."
"Don't mention it." Clive went back upstairs.
"You're late." The tall dark haired man in the grey buisiness suit whom Mrs Beechcroft always thought looked like Norman Bates, looked at her crossly.
"But I can't be. It's only just five to nine."
"Five to ten" snapped the man. In the winter the clocks go back one hour not two."
"But, yesterday when my cuckoo clock said four and my watch said five I checked with my husband. He said It was definitely four oclock.
"Do you think I'm bothered what your watch, the cuckoo clock or your husband's watch say? I'm the manager. What would my superior think if my employee came in this late? I'm not bothered if you're late by only five or ten minutes, but an hour is ridiculous."
"But it's only nine Michael. I'm sure of it."
In answer Michael pointed to the round clock on the wall which said ten.
"Oh right. I'm sorry."
Mrs Beechcroft corrected her own watch. Seeing her slightly pathetic demeanour, Michael broke out into a broad smile for the first time.
"All right, all right. Just don't let it happen again. If anyone asks, you had a dentist appointment this morning and you cleared it with me first."
"But my dentist appointment is not till next week."
"I know that" Michael snapped irritably "But, just say it all right."
When she returned home, Mrs Beechcroft checked all the clocks in the house including the cuckoo clock. All said 6. When Clive arrived home at eight she asked him for the time and he confirmed it was eight.
"Then why did you say it was four yesterday when it was five?"
"I didn't" said Clive in surprise. "I confirmed it was five and I remember being surprised that you asked when the cuckoo clock distinctly said five and struck five too.
Mrs Beechcroft stared at him. Clive sighed. He put down his bag, took off his watch and gave it to her.
The watch clearly showed 8.10, ten minutes having passed since they started the conversation.
Mrs Beechcroft corrected her own watch and then went into the kitchen to fix dinner.