It’s a strange phenomenon of time that it seems to conspire against us. When you think you have oodles of the stuff, something will crop up to rob you of it. Similarly, if time is tight, lights change to red, keys mysteriously disappear, the road is strewn with obstacles.
I am a purist so I love there to be a plan for everything and for things to run to plan. There is nothing better than a plan, an agenda.
And nothing more pointless.
Take this morning. I work a few miles away. I had an early meeting so I set the alarm slightly earlier, got smartly out of the house only to crawl along behind a tanker lorry and then meet a closed lane on the A46, and a long snake of traffic merging into a narrow space. Hot and sweaty, doing a strange half-walk, half-jog across the car park I arrive with moments to spare, only to find myself sitting in a claustrophobic room, twiddling my thumbs. Having kept my side of the bargain, it seems that others, who are less fastidious about these things, can amble in when they wish, stealing minutes of my life for no reason. Given this, I questioned my desire to leave early. So the next time, I left as normal…and stole the minutes from everyone else.
Potentially, there are volumes we could write around time, around temporal conspiracies and how, far from being totally destructive, they can actually work in our favour. For example, some years ago (you will deduce the actual date), my eldest daughter Emma was booked on a school trip to London to see the Willie Russell play Blood Brothers. Now Emma is as fastidious about timekeeping as me yet on this occasion, she was a few minutes out and missed the Redditch train into Birmingham. Thinking on my feet I judged that, if I drove like the proverbial Hadean bat and managed to get her to Birmingham, we could still make the connection. And sure enough, with a call ahead, her teacher met us at the entrance and I breathed a sigh of relief.
What a hero dad was! Anything for you, darling…
Unfortunately, this was 7/7 when a number of individuals took the opportunity to blow up a Tube train and a bus. As it happened, the train before Emma’s would have disgorged the schoolchildren into London, and the Tube network, at just the right moment to be involved in the mayhem, possibly on the same train. As it was, they were turned back at Watford. They could have been marooned in London.
Incidentally, Emma has never seen Blood Brothers.
Then there is the lack of time, the four score and ten we are allotted and how it never seems long enough. I am sure there are many of you who can empathise that whilst death is inevitable, one wishes there were things that could have been said and done before time ran out. So it is that my father will never see my published novels, nor the wonderful girls my two daughters have grown to be.
So, as a writer, time can be a great device. I have an idea knocking about in my head as follows:
On the pier at Xxxxbury-on-Sea, there is a clock by the bandstand. Old Joe religeously visits the clock and keeps it wound and maintained, a focal point of the pier. Over the years, tourists photograph the clock and stand under it to be photographed.
But what happens if the time on the clock is your alibi on the very day, Old Joe has a lie-in instead of switchingt from GMT to BST?
As a villain this can be your undoing; as an innocent this could put you in the frame.
Let’s just take some time to think about that…