Thursday, 15 October 2009


Once you've got enough life under your belt to have a personal "history", it's sometimes very enlightening to work out some simple timelines. If nothing else, it gives you a real sense of the way subjective time differs from objective time, and personal time differs from historical time. It may be a well-worn cliché to say that time goes faster as you get older, but it is also simply true. This may be due to the fact that five years is half of a ten year old's life but a mere tenth of a 50 year old's life, but the sweet carelessness of our youthful years also makes for more intense experiences compared to the routine and anxiety of later life.

An acute sense of time passing and time wasted can be panic-inducing, though. This is perfectly expressed in Pink Floyd's superlative piece "Time", on Dark Side of the Moon:
Tired of lying in the sunshine
Staying home to watch the rain
And you are young and life is long
And there is time to kill today
And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun...
I had a jolt of this kind recently, when I realised that not only had I lived in our current house longer than anywhere else in my entire life -- twenty years -- but also that this was two years longer than I had kicked around in my "home" town, and that the whole stretch I had done in this town -- twenty five years -- was not far short of half of my age. What had started out as a young man's temporary, career-oriented move to a city I didn't especially want to live in, has become my life.

More strangely, there can sometimes be a slippage in the relationship between relative time and objective time in the opposite direction. I remember a few years ago going into one of the Games Workshop stores, where black-clad youths were hunched over tables, painting tiny models of trolls and dragons, heads bobbing simultaneously to the in-house heavy metal muzak. Hang on, I thought, I know this, this is Black Sabbath ... And the penny dropped: these kids are listening to music that is thirty five years old! It was as if I and my 16-year old chums might have been sitting around in 1970 listening, without irony, to 1930s big-band swing, rather than something newly-minted that year like, well, Black Sabbath. Somehow, rock has torn a hole in the fabric of the fashion-time continuum, through which anyone is now free to pass back and forth.*

Talking of which, I listened to Dark Side of the Moon again recently for the first time in a very long time, and stepped straight back in time to 1973. I'm happy to report that part of me is still there, staying home to watch the rain, with time to kill.

Every year is getting shorter,
Never seem to find the time

Plans that either come to naught or
Half a page of scribbled lines

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I'd something more to say...

Very 1973... The "monocle" is the lenscap of a Fed 3

* Afterthought at 5:30: It suddenly struck me that, of course, that is exactly what some of us, at least, were doing, in our enthusiasm for the Blues -- Robert Johnson was recorded in 1936, though obviously most people came to Johnson via Clapton...


Frank Harkin said...


That's almost exactly what I was thinking recently. Nicely put

Martin H. said...

Nice post Mike. Like Frank, my thoughts tend to run along similar lines. Must go with the territory.

Seeing the beard reminds me of something I was asked recently. A close friend wondered if I'd considered losing the whiskers. As I haven't used a razor since 1973, I was tempted to ask her if she was quite mad.

Mike C. said...

Shaving! Shaving hurts...

It's a perverse practice, when you think about it, like piercings and various other unspeakable self-mutilations. I suppose at some point in prehistory one very weird cave-guy thought it up (or, more probably, his cave-partner thought it up on his behalf), and suddenly found himself unaccountably attractive to women. The other cave-guys all immediately followed suit...

Tim said...

I did a lot of sitting around listening to Big Band swing in the 1950's. And, oh my, has the passage of time accelerated since those golden days. But now, I have all those years of memories to contemplate, most of them also golden.

Terrific post. Thanks, again.