Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Tempus Fugit

Time is never time at all, you can never ever leave without leaving a piece of youth...

Fuck you, Billy Corgan. You're a bald, arrogant tit whose best years are behind you. But then, you wrote "Tonight, Tonight" which has that opening line, and also references Chicago ("...and the embers never fade in your city by the lake, the place where you were born") so I guess I'll let you off this time. I have plenty of scathing rants set aside for you, one day...

The point is, time. I'm six hours ahead of where I want to be. Does this mean I can see the future? No, don't be stupid.

They didn't used to have time. They watched the sun rise, and set. They watched the moon wax and wane. They watched the seasons change. This makes a lot of sense. Oh, they invented candles with markers to watch the passage of the day or night burn away, and water clocks, that dripped and gave some nasty Orientals some funny ideas about how to drive people mad (there's a nice metaphor there; if I were a less lazy writer I'd tie that in to time/waiting/ Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" but I don't have it in me tonight). There were clocks, sure, but all more or less different. Then some smart alec went and invented the train, and time got standardised. You knew the time in London was the same as in Newcastle (where England's first ever sundial was erected. No laughing in the back!).

John Steinbeck (pay attention to this; my blogs will mention him at least as often as Bruce Springsteen) once wrote that "the split second has been growing more and more important to us. And as human activities become more and more intermeshed an integrated, the split tenth of a second will emerge, and then a new name must be made for the split hundredth, until one day, although I don't believe it, we'll say, 'Oh, the hell with it. What's wrong with an hour?'"

He was right, obviously. Who among us (I'm appealing to a very particular type of reader here, coincidentally just the sort who's likely to be reading this) hasn't sat at a computer, feverishly refreshing a browser from 8:55 onwards, waiting for tickets to see some band appear on sale? The split second can make the different between leaning on a rail watching your heroes go for broke, and sitting at home with a tub of ice cream and some really rubbish porn because there's nothing else to do because all your friends are at the show.

The (further) point is: time is on my mind right now. I think in terms of months ago, weeks to go, and years to come. Sometimes I spend many minutes thinking about time and I have to stop before I trap myself in a time-loop and all I can think about is time and it goes around and around and slows down to a point where it doesn't even feel like it's moving at all. Most days at work feel like this.

A month can feel like a year, and a week like an hour. Memory is cruel; mine is particularly poor. If you have a great memory you can remember all the broad-grinned reunions at arrivals, but also all the heart-wrenching departures at, um, departures. Memory is not an airport, memory is time's chum-bucket. So much of it gets thrown to the sharks, but some sticks to the sides, almost at random. I promise, this is the last of my awful aquatic-memory metaphors.

Then you've got anticipation, which distorts time because it's impossible to perceive the future. You can get lost in daydreaming about the future, but eventually come back to the present. It's kind of disorientating.

And then we have the present, which is, just to make matters more confusing, right now but also six hours ago, or six hours from now. Which is kind of the problem. We've kind of got it the wrong way around. I go to bed early, and live six hours in the future. She stays awake late, and lives in the past. We get very narrow windows when we are both awake and capable of coherent conversation.

And half the time we get to spend together in the same location one or the other of us is jetlagged. Shit, what if we're only capable of conversation when one of us is exhausted? I really didn't consider this. I must be banned from coffee in the mornings and she must be given a carefully-measured dose of bloody mary around 4pm. Reality TV must be on heavy rotation around the clock; nothing sends me to sleep like that junk. We're gonna have to get into huge picnics followed by excessive hiking. We must not be perky! We must be exhausted! We will go gentle into that good night, and we will sleep late and eat a heavy breakfast afterward!

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