The Tiger by the Tail

Yes, that's me and my Jay on the steps
of the Cannes Film Festival Hall
I've been thinking a lot about Time lately. It's funny stuff. It can unroll before us invitingly, like a red carpet to a rosy future; it can stretch out uninvitingly like dreary road through a dull landscape. It can whizz by much too fast when we are spending it doing what we like best with the people we love best; it can crawl and drag when we are spending it doing what we like least with the people we love least. It can be purposeful, planned, productive; it can be jumbled into purposeless fragments of pointless activity. One thing is for sure: it marches on and on and on until it stops = at least for each one of us one day.

How do you view time? In the abstract, it is always exactly the same, measured out in relentless segments which get added together into bigger segments. Its beat is steady, unchanging, unchangeable. Have you ever wanted to plead with it to slow down or hurry up? You're racing for an important train, you're running as fast as you can: please, please go slow, you beg. You're holding your breath for a whole minute (for a challenge), your lungs are bursting: please, please go fast, you beg. Neither plea makes any difference to the indifference of Time.

I see it as a long train that runs on a parallel track beside our lives. No deviation in direction, no change in speed. Our lives are full of deviation, fits and starts, slows and fasts. We imagine the time train sometimes rattles along, sometimes slows down; it does not. We beg it to alter in response to our needs; it does not. You know that lovely, rhythmic rattle that a train makes, the one that makes you fall asleep on a long journey? Listen carefully and you will hear what it says: I don't change, work it out; I won't change; work it out; I don't . . . 

Work it out. There it is: a clue, a key, a tool. Time is a tiger that we have to take by the tail. You know that old excuse/reason that people give for committing to doing something? I'd love to help but I just don't have the time. Well, the truth is we all have exactly the same amount of time every day. Twenty-four hours. What we choose to do with it - aye, there's the rub.

But I have to do this and that . . . and lots and lots more of this and that . . . I hear you. Loud and clear. You are talking to the woman whose diary looks like a dog's dinner and has lists of tasks planned weeks in advance. I won't bore you with the commitments, meetings, activities, responsibilities and deadlines. I have already bored myself just typing that sentence. Sure, we all have things we HAVE to do, both for ourselves and for others. But, if we are painfully honest - go on, you can do it - we probably have a lot more control over where our time goes than we care to admit.
'Procrastination is the thief of time' runs the old saw. But let's not make poor old procrastination bear all the brunt. Give him some chums.

I'm going to contribute two: not being able to say 'no' when I really should (and desperately don't want to do it); and competitive hospitality (All my desserts are always home made from the freshest ingredients - who cares? Let me introduce to M & S)

Come on, AE folks. Bring out your dead. Rattle those skeletons. What will your contribution be to the dramatis personae of that well-known play, 'The Thief of Time"?

I promised myself that I would do a detailed time-analysis, the last three moths of 2017. So I have started and may even finish. Next month, I will share the secrets of my time spreadsheet and maybe even some early indicators. The goal is to have the time-tiger by the tail when the clock strikes twelve on 31st December. Next year WILL be different. You heard it here first.

Like the title of one of my novels, the stroke of midnight on Hogmanay (as we call it here in Scotland) will be . . . a good time for miracles.


Susan Price said…
Time will only say, 'I told you so.'
Anonymous said…
So true - there are some things that take up my time I really can't help, but others I could, so not having the time to do something is a choice.

I can never think of that great aphorism 'Procrastination is the thief of time' without remembering Victoria Wood's sending up the fashion of wearing belts (or bumbags?) bearing slogans. The bigger your girth, the longer your slogan can be, hence...

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