There have been lots of theories about how time works. Stephen Hawking made his name with one theory, and Einstein’s ideas on the relativity of time and space continue to dazzle readers. I am not academic enough to fully understand these geniuses, let alone debate their conclusions. I still have trouble imagining that the stars we have been looking at since time began on Earth are no more than the light reflected from explosions millions of years ago. If I consider this fact for too long, I start to get a nasty headache.
However, since retiring from work, and moving to Norfolk, I have begun to develop my own theory about how time works, with particular reference to Beetley Village.
In everyday life, most of us would agree that time drags when you are working, and goes too quickly when you are enjoying yourself. A weekend of two days appears to be far shorter than the Monday and Tuesday that follow it. Doing something unpleasant, like undergoing ten minutes of treatment in a dentist’s chair, feels more like an hour. By contrast, a pleasant night out with friends, a nice meal, followed by some drinks, just whips by in a flash, so that it seems that you are home just after you left. This is of course all about perception, not actual measured time. Or is it?
Once I turned sixty, and moved to a quieter and peaceful life here, I expected that time might pass more slowly. I imagined days crying out to be filled, with the potential to read countless books, and languid afternoons spent contemplating existence. I was sure that a good twenty years were spread out before me, passing at the pace of a graceful swan in motion. My only decision would be how to fill them usefully.
The reality was completely the opposite. Days pass in moments, years fly by in what seem like hours. In six months, I will be sixty-four years old. The three and a half years in between seem to have all but vanished, passed in one or two blinks of both eyes. The face that greets me in the mirror is the only clue to time passing. Like the picture of Dorian Gray, it shows the ravages of time that I have not experienced day to day. Small children once seen cycling excitedly down the street now ride motorcycles, or drive cars. I gaze at them and wonder, ‘how can this be?’ Deciding to spend twenty minutes answering emails, or looking at blogs, I sit at the screen and peruse, as intended. After the allotted time, I rise from my chair, to discover to my amazement, that four hours have passed.
Julie usually gets home from work just after 5.30 pm. We chat about her day, then I prepare dinner, and feed Ollie. After eating the meal, we retire to the living room and chat, perhaps watching some TV, receiving the odd telephone call, or discussing something of import. After about an hour has passed, we discover that it is well past midnight, and time for bed. In that short time, six hours have slipped by, unnoticed by us. On Monday afternoons, it is my habit to drive up to the supermarket, and get the shopping for a full week. I arrive home and unload it, arranging items in cupboards, fridge, or freezer. The next thing I am aware of, it is Thursday, and two days have escaped my notice.
This is very worrying. I know that I am not going mad, and I am sure that I do not have any sort of illness affecting my perception. It has to be something strange, a break in the fabric of time and space. I need the help of a Hawking, a Sagan, or a new Einstein, to investigate the Beetley Continuum.