A Question of time

Oookay people…I have been reflecting on the construct that is time this week, a commodity which we frequently consider ourselves not to have enough of, or conversely, is also something that can drag interminably too.

What of the world before the division of time? Of course, natural divisions have always existed. In most parts of the world, night follows day and the seasons dictate when we reap and sow, and when animals migrate or mate, but it was the ancient Babylonians who gave us hours and the Greek astronomers who further simplified their system of sixty into minutes and seconds.

Time elapses according to the same measure every Twenty four hours, it never varies so why then do we say things like time flies and is that a phrase ever used by those accommodated within the walls of HMPS or does the life of an old lag drag whilst they do their time? Why is it that we can’t wait for stuff to arrive, or for things to happen when we know we have no choice but, to wait because we have no means of forcing time to quicken its pace in order to avoid having to do so?

We are inclined to complain if our food arrives late to our table in a restaurant (in the days when it wasn’t just Salmonella you were risking by attending one) but if the food arrived too soon we would immediately suspect the involvement of a microwave and refuse to eat it.

Why do we bother with timetables for trains and buses when everyone knows they are always late and smell worse than socks that haven’t been washed for an extended period of time. Aeroplanes always miss their time slot on an outward journey but are usually piloted by the air-born equivalent of Lewis Hamilton on the way back who manage to defy the clock and get you home almost before you set off in the first place.

Time can even assume a persona in its own right when described as being lovely or hard, as in Charles Dickens’ the best of times and the worst of times.

You can spend time however you wish and oh boy how we covet our free time but…is time ever free? From the cradle to the grave we are expected to expend it in various institutions which are not of our own choosing and cost in ways which go beyond the monetary. Today’s children no longer watch with mother because the moment they have notched up enough time they are shipped off to nursery, mainly to allow mum and dad to get back to work which makes them appreciate their free time when it comes as the result of being off work. The nursery owners are pretty appreciative of this approach to time management too.

Education and then employment continues to gobble up precious minutes hours and years and whilst we strive for financial security (at least those of us who still like to wash occasionally and don’t spend their time protesting during a pandemic) time marches relentlessly on.

Isaac Newton’s contention that we are merely occupying time makes a lot of sense to me. I know that at 60 years old and slowly making my way towards the departure lounge of life’s journey I am more conscious than ever that by whatever measure of time I choose to use, whether it be a sundial or a Fitbit I won’t need either indefinitely as retirement approaches.

My current preoccupation with time has, ironically, meant that I got to spend some more of it in contemplation of the way I have expended this valuable commodity thus far. I have, as a result, and to use another time-honoured phrase found myself wishing in some ways that I could have my time all over again.

By this, I don’t mean I regret the ways in which my life turned out…but at my age now and with the benefit of the hindsight that this brings, I might have made an effort to allocate a little more time for myself. As I approach retirement maybe that type of quality time will prove to be the icing on the cake of this particular slice of my life. I might actually enjoy having time on my hands if I can ignore the fact that the latter years bring physical challenges of their own. The loss of my 20/20 vision now means that I have trouble reading Google which has become an essential aid to the increasing lapses in my memory in its own right, I haven’t asked it yet for the reason I have walked into a room…but it’s getting close.

I have never conformed to a timetable in my entire life and though I am usually punctual when I have to be, I have spent most of my life being reactive rather than proactive. So today I have produced a timetable in the hope that it will help me to focus on the things I still hope to achieve in whatever time is still mine to spend.

As I look at my timetable with its neat columns which divide my time in ways that quite frankly might be impossible to follow unless I learn to say the word no in several languages I feel excited and nervous. Excited because I have never been organised and can see how the timetable will undoubtedly improve my rate of productivity, but nervous because this bloody sheet of A4 has the power to change me too. I’m not sure if I will like a super-efficient version of myself or more to the point will anyone else? I might become obsessed with time management and go back to eating foods with only P’s and Z’ds in their name as a way of saving time cooking. Add the effects of a diet like this to the lockdown pounds I have already acquired, this will probably mean that I will need to order a mobility scooter to get around. Christ, they only go 6mph…how much time will that waste?

Blimey is that the time folks? I would love to stay and chat but my timetable has other plans for me. I am allowed a vodka break in about an hour and if I chuck em down quickly enough I might summon up enough Dutch courage to wipe my arse with the timetable shortly thereafter!