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Edition 236 – The Watch

It was late April 1986. I’d just moved into my fourth home in less than three months, such was life in my first year of University. Precipitated by the last tenants of my share house deciding they were moving away from Sydney, I hit the Uni notice board and found my newest, new abode.

Pam was a divorced lady in her mid 50s and her flat was perfect, positioned across the road from Artarmon Railway Station. She was looking for a lodger to join her and her two Pugs, Chudley and Pandora. I was looking for somewhere that was quiet, close to transport and near my work in Chatswood. At her invitation, we met at her flat, she showed me around and, presumably as a result of me being on my best behaviour, she invited me to rent her spare bedroom. On Anzac Day 1986, I moved in and then commenced a more settled period as I devoted my life to full time university, part time work and not much else.

Whilst only one station apart, often I’d catch the train from Artarmon to Chatswood, sometimes out of laziness and sometimes out of limited time.

In those days, at the top of Chatswood Station, was a small jeweller. Late one Thursday afternoon in mid ‘86, I spotted it in the shop window. A beautiful, round, white faced and gold edged classic style watch with black Roman numerals – including, what I call, the proper Roman numeral for four – IV. I stood mesmerised by the beauty of something so simple, then ventured off to my part time job in the Delicatessen at Grace Bros in Chatswood.

At that moment, I committed to myself that with my first ever full time pay packet, I was going back to the jeweller and buying that watch. This was in the first three months of a three year full time degree, when I earned $105 per week and $55 of that went in rent. No Austudy. No Government handouts. A small bursary for textbooks that was as difficult to access as a bank vault.

Every time I walked past the jeweller, I would stop for 30 seconds, admire the beauty of the watch, then head off for my shift of working amongst an eclectic mix of, mostly, middle aged ladies and gentlemen. I learned a lot about life during those years. One of those lessons was the importance of setting long term goals. To most people, it was a watch. To me, it was to be the ultimate reward for a period in my life of hard work and dedication to staying the distance.

In late 1987, I made a big call. Part time work and full time study were proving a difficult balancing act and living on $50 per week was quite difficult. Plus, university had introduced me to a new batch of people and rejecting an offer to head out to the pub out of a supposed reason of “I have to study” when really it was “I can’t afford to” was proving difficult to keep up with. I scoped the Sydney Morning Herald, applied for a position and commenced an Assistant Accountant’s position in a company in Waterloo.

With my first full time pay packet in 1987, I took the train to Chatswood on a Saturday morning, walked into the jewellers and placed $125 cash on the counter. The watch I’d admired for 18 months was now mine. 33 years later, it is still only one of two watches I own.

With the transition from full time to part time study, my degree took a little longer than I had originally planned. However, I finished in 1990 and graduated in mid 1991. When my father offered to have the degree framed after the graduation ceremony and started heading for a cheap framer that was in the foyer at the time, I stopped him and said, that after five years of work, a cheap $30 frame was not going to be the finishing touch to my degree. Since 1986, I’d envisaged a walnut timber frame for my degree and, eventually, $200 later in mid 1991, that was what it was. Today, it rests proudly on my study wall.

Oscar Wylde is credited with the expression that “a cynic is someone that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”. I’d add to that and suggest that we only appreciate the value of something when we’ve travelled the journey, enduring the bumps and potholes along the way. We can learn a lot more from the journey, bumps, potholes and the view, than we can from the destination

Appreciate the journey for sometimes the destination we were heading for
is not where we eventually end up.