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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.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

THE DECISION ABOUT THE CHAIR




Sometimes in life there are monumental decisions, and sometimes there are simply decisions.
Faced with a huge bill for car repairs, the decision about whether or not to sell this little chair becomes more and more one of head rather than heart.

Let me tell you about the chair, because it’s more unusual than you might think. This is a Campaign Chair, Victorian in era, and it comes apart – for taking with you to the battlefield. Truly! It was lovingly restored and re-covered a few years ago, the red leather seat adding to its quality. But it’s a little worrying having something like this around. We treat it with great respect, but as such it doesn’t easily fit into our everyday lives, and we haven’t really got room for it.

Why am I hesitating? It depresses me to think that I will miss it if it goes. We have sold many and various items in the last few years, either to raise money or to create space. You have to harden your heart, and I find this difficult. At times when life is depressing, one clings on to those familiar and loved objects which have been collected over the years. And who isn’t feeling even slightly depressed at the moment? My wonderful cousin with Parkinson’s Disease strives to maintain a positive outlook, and so should I – who have so much to be grateful for. This winter, though, has stretched my optimism to its limits. Am I alone in feeling conspired against by all of those establishments who strive to control our lives? Open any newspaper, switch on a radio or television, or consult your computer or phone, and you will be attacked by all things depressing. This is not good for anyone.

How important it is in life to maintain one’s sense of humour and hopefulness, and keep a cheerful spirit. This is my philosophy, but it is being sorely tried at the moment!
If anyone reading this is feeling run down, exhausted and depressed, then you are not alone. In fact there are thousands of us struggling to keep going, to maintain some kind of equilibrium and to feel that we are needed, appreciated and respected.

So I would like you to imagine, if you will, a Victorian soldier taking his chair with him to the 
battlefield, setting it up in his tent and using it in an entirely unsafe, hostile environment – because it maintains his dignity. This chair is a little reminder, perhaps, of his home and his family. It enables him to keep up the pretence that life is normal – when all around him are the brutal sounds of battle and the smells of death and disease. The picture of peaceful civilised life embodied in this piece of furniture is what gives him hope that he will go home. We all need something to give us hope.

The more I think about it, the more difficult the decision becomes…