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Thursday, 10 March 2016

NO ACCOUNTING FOR TIME

In my other life as an accountant – now receding into the past where I am more than happy to let it remain, I was accountable for my time. In effect, time was what we sold. As each valuable minute ticked by, it had to be recorded; who was the client, what was the work done, etc. I was lucky enough to be accounting in six-minute units – in some cases single minutes were used. So if, after a day of solid grind, you had forgotten to write down exactly what you were doing and for whom, it was a question of thinking back through the hours and occasionally being inventive.

After decades of this practice, my new ‘career’ as a writer is a blissful experience where time becomes a complete irrelevance in the rush to record my ideas. I can write for hours, pausing as the view outside the window grows dark, and only then realising that hours have passed.


But… it’s hard to change the habits of a lifetime.

                “Have you phoned the garage?” my husband will ask innocently after being out for the morning. I experience a kind of panic, realising that I haven’t. 

                “I’ve been doing other things,” I snap back and begin to list them, consulting the clock in an automatic return to ‘time costing’ mode.


Luckily my husband has begun to understand my curious mindset about this, and a simple reassurance that he is not trying to find out what I’ve been doing seems to work, although it’s taken a couple of years to reach this point. I sometimes wonder if I will ever shake the habit.

I often think we are too much taken up with time in modern life. Travel back a few hundred years and people seldom knew exactly what the time was at various points in their day, neither did it concern them unduly. Seasons and weather were probably more important. Now, time ticks mercilessly on – as it always has, but it seems we do not allow ourselves to ignore it.

In contrast, one of the characters in my current work-in-progress has been dragged into a world where, as he tells a visitor, ‘…to answer one of your other questions, I really don’t know how old I am now. I’ve been here for some time, but time is… not the same here as it is where you live. As it is at home.’ This situation, at the opposite side to our daily lives, could be equally stressful. 

I think we need to be more relaxed about time. There are moments of great importance in life, where conversations or events take place which should be treasured, as we will remember them for the rest of our lives. During these we should allow time to slow down, revel in the moment and not allow ourselves to be swept away from them.

Enjoy every single moment of your life, because it only happens once.
As the poet William Henry Davies so aptly stated:
 
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

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