9th and 10th April

Sea Day 3 of 4 – Saturday, I think. Probably 9th April? Maybe?

All I have done today is sleep, pretty much. There was some eating, at various moments, and some Sudoku, but for the most part, it was just sleep. The end.

Sea Day 4 of 4 – Sunday 10th April. The Early Hours Thereof.

Of course, when the night comes around, I can’t sleep for toffee. Mind you, I slept so soundly at first, that when I woke, I had no idea where I was or when it was, and I still find it hard to believe that that chunk of time was only around one hour after I went to bed. That was some deep sleep, that was.

This is the second waking. It is now 2am for us, but my body clock seems to know it is 9am in the UK, and I should be up and about and doing stuff. Or not, as the case may be.

On the plus side, it looks like today was the last time zone change for now, as there is no mention of one in tomorrow’s paper (which comes out at dinner time). Here’s hoping!

Another wakening. It is now 4am here. Ish.

I have passed some time reading Will Self’s latest opinion piece on the BBC website –it must be the weekend. He talks of how we are all now so regimented in our concept of time that it is impossible to really lose track of what time it is. Well, I’ve got news for you, mate. Try this life for a while.  Never mind knowing what time it is, I’d be content with the certainty as to which way is up, and that’s even with gravity helping me out.

He argues that we are all prisoners of what he calls ‘industrial time’. He may be right. The full piece can be found here, if you’re interested. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35976699 . But I found he was just starting to get interesting when he stopped.  He was suggesting that we are in the End Times of time itself. That science and religion can no longer protect us from the realisation that past, present and future are all in the Now – we don’t have to wait to become someone different, over time, for example, we can create an avatar or different online identity in moments.

So my question is this. Do we need time any more? Yes, we have to get up and go to work (yes, even I), but more and more people work flexi-hours, so that’s not rigid any more. And most sensible bosses are happy to grant you a few minutes leeway at each end of the day to cover the transport shenanigans we encounter on the way. The trains have timetables, but when was the last time you saw one complying with it?! The average minute on a Tube indicator is 96 seconds long. So why not just do what Transport for London does with the buses? The first one is 0600, the last one is 2359 and the others will be every 7-9 minutes in between. That’s literally what is written on the bus stops now. We have no need for anything more specific, do we?

We note down the time of everything – birth, death, doctor’s appointments, wedding ceremony start times – but how precise do we really need to be any more? It feels to me, in my granted somewhat addled and time-stewed state of halfwakefulness, that the more precise our clocks have become, the less we actually need that precision. When will we realise that, whilst the clocks continue to run, we only need the subdivisions for the doctor, dentist and hospital visits? The doctor will see you at 11.20. Flu jab day at my local surgery means you get a 3 minute appointment slot. Who the hell actually keeps that?! You just turn up and they slot in you in next. The ostensible time slots are more about controlling numbers and flow, rather than an actual timetable to live by. Television programmes have start times and end times, so that they don’t overlap, but when was the last time you recorded something only to find the last three minutes missing because the television channel’s definition of ten past is not the same as your DVR’s? More and more of us now stream or download what we want to watch, when we want to watch it, anyway –vis, the box set concept – so we are liberated from that tyranny now as well. I like the idea of setting aside a whole weekend to watch an entire series back to back – I just never have the time to do it!

How rigid is our use of time, and, more important to my current train of thought, how rigid do we NEED it to be? If you’re fifteen minutes late for a birthday party, no one minds. You blame it on traffic or trains and you catch up. It doesn’t matter. None of it matters.

Now, I am well aware that some of you are sitting there thinking ‘Ah, Emma is simply retrospectively constructing a background for the fact that she is quite often late for stuff’.  Possibly, in part. But that is also partly because I have never really understood the obsessive need for punctuality in the first place. This is just the first time I have written about it. I am aware that some people think it is the height of rudeness to be late for anything, and they become totally obsessed with timekeeping. They are entitled to their viewpoint, of course they are, but I have often wondered if it is simply just another psychological construct to differentiate Me from You and make Me feel better about Myself because I am Punctual and You are a lesser person because You are not. And I dislike people passing judgement on each other at the best of times, never mind over something as trivial as that.

I also wonder if such judgements are the preserve of the Well. If you are old, or infirm, or suffering from any kind of illness, from a common cold upwards (or, as currently, an attack of the time zones), it may simply not be physically possible for you to comply with the rigidity that the Punctilious require. Your body simply may not obey. Does that make you a bad person? I don’t think so. And I find it somewhat unpleasant that some people think it does.

Now, granted, this may all be my brain rebelling at the inexorable tick of the Adobe Flash counter that tells me precisely how many minutes and seconds, at 20p a minute, mind, I am wasting on the internet here (no, I have not typed this whilst connected!). Or maybe it’s the dismal arrival of yet another Sunday, which signifies the passing of another week, and the further demise of this lovely trip. I’ll be home in just over three weeks, and over 500 are getting off on Monday, so they are already talking about planes and left luggage and the opening the post and seeing the grandkids and blah blah blah.

We are all told that time is money, and as someone who is paid per hour, I can certainly see the concept. But even I don’t use minutes. My smallest increment is five minutes. Law firms work on units of six minutes, because then there are ten in an hour and they can use decimals. I can do my twelve times table, so it doesn’t matter to me. But is time really money? Is one minute of your work day ever really calculated? Or do you do it by the hour? Work a seven-hour day, a thirty-seven hour week, a 0.5 shift. Why do minutes matter? Even when people clock in and out, do they really get paid for 37 minutes? I doubt it. Clocking/swiping in and out is about registering your presence, that’s all. It doesn’t actually affect your overall pay packet. Mrs Briggs, you worked 126,122 seconds this week and you have been paid accordingly. Nah.

When was the last time you went to a comedy gig that started bang on time? Or finished on the dot? Of course not. For a start, the interval has to be a moveable feast, because it depends how many toilets there are in the venue as to how quickly it is actually possible for people to be back in their seats. Why does it matter? Does it matter massively if the play you are seeing starts two minutes late? No, not really. Granted, you may have a train home to catch afterwards, but if you’re cutting it that fine, frankly, you probably deserve to miss it anyway!

Who can put their hand on their heart and say that every single lecture and tutorial they attended at college or uni started and finished at the precise time intended? Probably not for lectures – they do tend to go on a bit – and hopefully not for tutorials, otherwise a potentially useful conversation would be cut short. The only use for the seconds and minutes to be measured in exams, is to watch them tick by while your blank mind rummages around, among the packing cases full of penguins, pandas and kittens, for something relevant to write.

A few minutes here or there really does not matter any more. I say any more, but did it ever? Really?

So why are we still bothering with minutes, or seconds, at all? Why don’t we go back to sundial time, church clock chime time? Half past the hour, quarter past the hour. Do we really need smaller increments than that? We would still have minutely accurate timepieces for car racing or quantum physics experiments, but I am really starting to wonder if the rest of us really need them. The clock in the bottom right-hand corner of my field of vision tells me it is 13:54pm. It might be where you are, but it isn’t here. It’s five to six in the morning. The only thing I can think of that would require that level of accuracy is cooking yourself an egg. Get a timer. Watch the sand run. It’s beautiful. You don’t need a clock with a minute hand for that. And as for the second hand, you don’t really need one of those at all, do you?


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