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If we did it back in the forties or fifties and got stressed about it, we were probably said to be going through a midlife crisis. Doing it after sixty five appears more acceptable because we may be even more uncertain about the future and have more of the past to think about.  I like the quote that said, “It's bad timing, but a lot of kids become teenagers just as their parents are hitting their mid-life crisis. So everybody's miserable and confused and seeking that new sense of identity.” But I wonder how many of us are happier now that we’ve got past that, come to the end of the working life, and have time to do whatever we will, thinking “it’s high time I was given a given a chance to sit down from time to time and do things I want to do, now the time is ripe”

One thing I’ve noticed about time is that it is definitely confusing. I watched a number of people reaching retirement age (while I was still some way off) and was utterly bemused that suddenly they declared they hardly had time to catch their breath and they wondered how they survived living while they had a job!  Freedom seemed to mean they burst forth with new energy and a desire to render any diary incapable of handling their new lives, busy big time. Or does time actually change? How many of us are heard to declare, “Is it almost Christmas already? Where has the year gone?” and with a bit of encouraging will burst forth on a tirade about how time isn’t what it used to be and goes by so fast.

I know it is all about perception, this time business. You’ve heard the expression, ”How times flies”; well over the years I have noted that time appears to either pass very slowly or very quickly when you are flying. Years ago I had the opportunity to fly out to the Far East a few times. Going always seemed an easy thing but coming back it seemed to go on and on and on, and I’m sure airline timetables somehow mystically covered up this phenomena. They said it was only thirteen hours but one way it seemed like eight and the other way it seemed like twenty!   Today the plethora or films available on any good airline means in next to no time we’ve arrived at our destination.

Time and sleep are weird interacting partners. In light sleep you can be aware of time passing and the night seems to pass so slowly but after lunch, put on the news on TV and suddenly it is an hour later although you are certain only ten minutes have passed since your eyes closed! There are some programmes guaranteed, I find, to cause sleep to envelope me but the absence of a feeling of time passing means I am completely oblivious to having missed key elements of the crime drama. Who killed her?  Why was he acting like that? I only closed my eyes for two seconds, I’m sure of it, so why is so much of it missing?

Going back to the sleep at night thing, why is it so annoying when time seems to be passing so slowly in the middle of the night? Is it because it is associated with a feeling that we ought to be getting ‘the right amount’ of sleep. Why is it that 2am is bad time? Why is 9am good time? I’ve got a feeling, though I’ve never done a survey to verify this, that different people appreciate time on a Saturday more than time on a Monday. Time on Sunday can seem to drag.

There are clearly two groups of people in this world: those who think time is fixed and therefore you are limited in what you can achieve, and those (like your writer) who know it is flexible and therefore you can cram loads more into life! I mean, when someone says, “You’ve got to make the most of the time,” they are clearly people who see time as fixed. They are more likely to be the negative members of the community who you’ll hear bemoaning the fact that they haven’t “enough time”.

Wasn’t Einstein’s theory of relativity something about the faster you travel the more time slows down? If the great man said it, it must be true. It’s like that other great brain who wrote the book, ‘A Brief History of Time’. It’s a clever book that; I know people who have tried reading it and have said that it seemed to stretch time out and went on and on and on. Others have been honest enough to say that they only understood 10% of it – but it still went on for ever. My theory is that people like Hawking or Einstein are so clever that the rest of us haven’t a clue of what they are saying is right and so when it comes to time …. who knows.

Time intrudes itself all over the place in life. My wife has habit of saying, “Can you come and do the fruit for lunch?” and I reply, “I’ll be there in five minutes,” and I’m sure it is only that, despite the clock working against me and for her, declaring that twenty five minutes have passed! I’ve also noticed that people playing computer games also suffer from distortion in the space-time continuum.  There are so many imponderable that affect time. Have you ever been in a meeting or at a bad party and you feel sure you’ve been trapped there for at least three days but that lying clock says it’s only been two hours! If you’ve ever had to take exams you’ll know that the time gremlins are at work when with two questions to go the invigilator calls out, “Ten minutes to go.”  Lies! It can’t be nearly three hours already!

We build into everyday life subtle indicators of this awareness of changing time. For instance, who has never heard the expression, ‘A watched kettle never boils’. Then there’s ‘Everything comes to he who wait’. Not true!  Have you won the lottery yet? There’s that other one, ‘All good things must come to an end’. Yes, that’s especially true of Eton Mess or some other gorgeous sweet. If I could only master this time thing I would find a way of making such good things last longer and longer – and don’t say just eat smaller mouthfuls, that misses the point.  Another one of these related to time is ‘bad news travels fast’. Yes, it is, think about it. If you want another obvious one – ‘the early bird catches the worm’, that’s definitely time orientated. Then there is ‘time and tide await no man’ and ‘time is a great healer’. You can’t escape this time thing; it’s all over the place. Oh, by the way, have a guess at how many times the word ‘time’ has cropped up in this article before this sentence. Have a guess before you count them. So let’s finish with some quips about time from the great and the glorious:

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.

Albert Einstein

If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you'll never get it done.

Bruce Lee

Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.

Bil Keane

We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.

Nelson Mandela

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” 
 Mother Teresa

Number of ‘time’s? Including the title, at least 35

Additional exercise: see how many other expressions about time you can think of.