Clockwise and the art of being late

BRIAN STIMPSON, headmaster of Thomas Tompion comprehensive school in the 1986 film, Clockwise. Mr Stimpson was a precise timekeeper – his punctuality was impeccable to the second; he adhered, and expected his staff and pupils to adhere, to strict, army-like, timekeeping. During the early moments of the film, Mr Stimpston sternly confesses to a member of staff that his timekeeping was not always bang-on: his timekeeping was once as slack as wristwatch that had not been wound-up. As the film progressed, Mr Stimpson’s past demons of lateness paid him a visit resulting in quite comical consequences.

Now the thing is this: Mr Stimpston changed his attitude and became obsessed about being on time, but what if he hadn’t bothered? What if he just accepted the fact that being on time was not his thing, and in fact, was rubbing against the grain of his true personality? What if he told himself ‘I’m a person of lateness, that’s who I am – if the conference starts at 9am, I’ll be there at about 9.45′?

Maybe you’re thinking this kind of attitude is not right in our society, and if it was right, tasks due for completion would be off schedule. The thing is this: I do think there is a place for this type of attitude. Now, before you start hurling your timekeeping equipment at me, I’ll explain my reasoning:

In 1986, I got a part-time job at the in-store bakery. The guy who was training me was called JP. Like myself, JP was a student. He was a few years older than me and had been working in the bakery for almost three years. JP was a legend, an expert when it came to wrapping tin loaves, rolls and French sticks – many referred to him as the main man and he was always greeted with smiles and respect. The thing is, JP never ever turned up to work on time. He was supposed to start work at 7am on a Saturday morning, but his actual time of arrival was between 7.25 and 7.45. When he arrived, everyone just smiled and greeted him as he took up his position on the wrapping machine. JP’s lateness continued until he left to take-up a position with one of the major airlines. Throughout his stint at the in-store bakery, he was never given a verbal or written warning, and more importantly, never even came close to being sacked for his perpetual lateness.

How did JP get away with this? Well, I don’t think JP put a lot of thought into trying to correct his lateness. I think he just accepted the fact that waking up too early on Saturday mornings was just not his thing. More importantly, what JP did was to set a realistic expectation for the colleagues at the bakery: they knew he would not be there for 7am – they knew he’d be at least 25 minutes late; the expectation was set and accepted. Would things have turned out differently if headmaster Brian Stimpson took this approach?

The process of setting the expectation of being late, and lateness being accepted, is nothing new: think about some of our trains – many of us expect them crawl into the station late and reach the final destination even later. And what about cinemas – have you ever been to a viewing where it starts bang-on time? With both examples, we expect and accept – there maybe the odd rant at the train operator, but in the end we put up with the late arrivals.

The art of being late: accepting the fact that your timekeeping is absolutely awful and setting the expectation that you’ll always be late. Hopefully people will accept the fact that you’re always late and calculate a timeframe on when to expect you. Once these are in place, there’s no shame, embarrassment or guilt about rocking up with your head held high at a late timeframe that works perfectly for you.

Short disclaimer: this post is intended for nostalgic fun and consideration purposes only. If you decide to act on the suggestion mentioned above, you do so at your own risk. retrohen is not responsible for loss of employment leading to financial hardship.


Like all things 70s and 80s? Get your hands on the Section N Underpass – the hardback with enough clout to send you flying back to the 80s and 70s. Click the image below to get the rundown:

Watch the Clockwise clip by clicking the image below:

2 thoughts on “Clockwise and the art of being late”

  1. It’s ages since I watched Clockwise 😀 I have a tendency to be late (kind of runs in the family!) but unfortunately, unlike your colleague, I don’t get away with it.

    1. I also have a tendency to be late. My colleague was a unique case and I look back in awe of him🙂

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