Upon returning from a school trip to the beach at the age of about 6, I made this comment to one of our teachers: “The journey to the beach took ages, but the journey back is going really quickly.”
“Yes,” she replied indifferently.
My teacher considered my question for a moment and then conceded that she didn’t know.
And I wondered how could she be as old as that and not know something so simple as how TIME works?
And so, lest I am ever under the gaze of a young child asking why time appears to bend and change and fly as the years go by, here is the Science bit:
So, at age 1, the previous year makes up 100% of all you have ever known. By age 2, the previous year makes up only 50% of your entire life, and by age 7, this drops significantly to 14%. By the time you are in your mid-20s, each subsequent year makes up less than 4% of your entire life. In fact, if you’re fortunate enough to live to 100, then by the time you hit 20, you have already entered the last third of your life (in terms of time perception) so it’s really no surprise that time appears to be whizzing by.
Of course, you can apply this theory to all manner of time-related activities; including why holidays go faster towards the end, why the first few minutes of a lecture appear to drag on the longest, and why such a fascinating blog entry as this comes to a very abrupt—.
Police in one of the most crime-ridden areas of Brazil have employed a new officer in their fight against crime: Batman. Local schoolchildren are understandably thrilled with their new hero, although speaking candidly to the camera, the Caped Crusader admits, “My participation will be merely playful. I will not actually battle crime.”
This brings to mind a moment from my childhood. Whilst visiting relatives in the Philippines, I was on a day out with my uncle and young cousins. We wandered through a park, passing a grand monument which held no particular interest for me as I was keen to get to the zoo. Unknown to me, the monument stood in honour of nationalist José Rizal whose execution by the Spanish in 1896 became a major factor in the Philippine Revolution. The park itself was named after Rizal and to this day he is revered as a national hero.
As we walked past the monument, my ten year old cousin turned to me in excitement and began to jabber earnestly in Filipino.
My uncle translated. “He wants to know if you have any heroes in England?”
My cousin’s jaw dropped in envy as I replied proudly, “Of course. We have Superman.”
I’m not very good at introductions. At an audition in my teens, I avoided the “Tell us about yourself,” question by replying, “Did you know that Charlie Chaplin once came third in a Charlie Chaplin lookalike competition?”
I didn’t get the part.
Another time, I had to give an interesting fact about myself and confessed to wanting a mono-brow.
It must run in the family. When he was younger, my brother had a somewhat unsightly unique tuft of long braided hair which we referred to as his ‘tail’. Upon starting high school, his English teacher asked the class to write a brief description of themselves so that she could tell them apart. He promptly completed the assignment: ‘I am small with short brown hair and a tail.’
I have always found the 29th of February a somewhat fascinating day, mysterious and ominous in its rarity. I often hope something exciting will happen and must admit to feeling fleeting envy for anyone fortunate enough to have been born on this day. I think I feel particular regret because I was born on a leap year and my own birthday was so close to the cherished date. I am fairly sure I was aiming for the 29th (I was due on the 18th) but perhaps I got far too comfortable because I overshot it a little and didn’t emerge (if I may paint my birth as gracefully as that) until the start of March.
I’m not sure why having less birthdays than everybody else is something to be coveted, but as a child I was always on the lookout for ways to enhance my sense of individuality. It was for the same reason that I looked upon my left-handed schoolmates with enthralled longing. Writing with the wrong hand! What a marvellous way to stand out from the crowd. Why hadn’t I thought of that? It didn’t matter that their work was smudged and they couldn’t use scissors properly; a small price to pay to be thought of as unique.
So, at the age of about 8 when I realised that I still hadn’t learnt how to tie shoelaces, what began as a moment of shame turned rapidly into a glorious opportunity for uniqueness. Poised over my untied laces, I made a very definite decision. I would NEVER learn. Everybody else could do it and it was average, normal and boring. I would stand out by never being able to. So I tucked my laces inside my shoes and basked in my new-found sense of individuality.
Over the years, I have been tempted to learn and have often needed to look away when others are putting their shoes on. The other day, my husband even offered to break it down step by step. I gave it a go and to my horror I thought I could do it. But to my great relief, the knot fell apart. My uniqueness remains intact.
Ten years ago launched the start of the best part of my life, with an audition for Bretton Hall, a place of wonder and dreams at the heart of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.*
I’ll not lie. At the time of the audition, I was not in a happy place. Life sucked. Big time. And studying Acting at Bretton Hall was my vain hope for a lifeline.
The audition didn’t go too well, mainly because I was a rubbish actor who had never even been given a speaking part in a school show and I was competing with hundreds of leading talents from schools across the country. They all knew who Stanislavski was. I thought it was a holiday destination. As part of our audition, we had to perform a self-devised solo piece inspired by a ‘contemporary issue’. The other students in my group did theirs on drugs. Mine explored the meaninglessness of life and began, “How do you want to die?” I was also rather shy. And shy people aren’t supposed to perform.
So I went home, resigned to the unhappy fact that I didn’t really belong in such a grand institution.
But a few days later, (after a divine encounter with God no less, but that’s another story), a letter arrived with the glorious offer of a place.
And so, that September, the first three years of my (new) life began… Late night walks under the stars, a mansion of mysteries, priceless friendships, faith adventures, bearing witness to far too many nude performances, and my first kiss (whom I married).
Me and Sharon in our favourite sculpture, which played music when you jumped on the ground
* Or at least it WAS until heartless academics at Leeds University sold the campus in exchange for a hat (or so the legend goes).
The best thing I have ever made out of snow was this unicorn.*
The second best thing was a giant hippo, although that one got mistaken for a dead snowman and a pregnant woman on her back, amongst other things.
I like snow. It is illusive, mesmerising, and strange. And it makes pretty much everything look beautiful.
* With a lot of help from some friends.
I am still unable to eat a Jaffa cake without mimicking this old commercial.
I’ve been thinking about writer’s block. Mine feels a bit like this:
As a housewife with a fairly small house (and a sort-of writer but that’s another story), activities such as making my husband’s packed lunch rank rather high on my short to-do list.
In thinking about the art of a good packed lunch, I have found some inspiration from Japan where it is not just the taste or healthiness of a meal that counts, but also how it looks. Devoted parents are said to spend several hours a day on their astonishing creations which range from cartoon characters to wildlife scenes to portraits to… well, household items such as bleach.
As it happens, I have a few hours spare and consider myself moderately artistic. I think it would enhance my role as a housewife (and no doubt make John the envy of his corporate workmates) to create one of my own. So, here it is:
It’s that time of year again! No, I’m not talking about New Years resolutions, revolutions, or recessions. Rather, it is time for London Zoo’s annual stock take in which keepers face the mighty challenge of counting every beast, bird and insect at the zoo.
Many years ago, my brother and I embarked upon the equally daunting task of holding a census for our esteemed collection of cuddly toys. No less than 210 soft toys were summoned to my bedroom and arranged in alphabetical order. Each toy went through a thorough preening process where umbilical cords (or ‘unbiblical cords’ as we called them) were removed and family ties were established. Naming ceremonies were performed for those that had not yet been named (such as ‘Bump’ and ‘Knock’ for a pair of slippers, ‘Norwich man’ for a knitted green thing, and ‘Flubble’ for a bizarre homemade pom-pom).
Each toy was given a unique number, and a strict rota was put into place whereby once a week the toys in our beds would be replaced by the next five on the list. The idea was that through the course of the year every toy would have had a turn in our beds. Of course, I had no intention of sticking to the rota as I was more than happy to keep my old favourites (Old Bear and Honey) as permanent residents in my bed.
What I didn’t factor for were weekly tantrums from my brother who screamed and wailed as he exclaimed— tears streaming down his face— that if we didn’t stick to the rota then it wouldn’t be ‘fair’ on the toys. Although I was more than happy to show preferential treatment to Old Bear and Honey, I didn’t want to protest too loudly with all the toys within earshot, so I conceded. However, I can’t say I cared much for the week when I was obligated to share my bed with ‘Throw’ (a ball) and my brother’s ‘Ultimate Warrior’ wrestling doll.