When you’re little and believe a tree can grow high enough to touch the moon, all time is the future.
But if life has lifted you from lightly frosted strips of paper in the backyard lavatory to luxurious bathroom quilts, most of your time is in the past.
Yes, the measurements of time are strange. As a devil-may-care, teenage obituarist on the local paper, your perambulating pensioner reckoned people who died at 70 had enjoyed a good “innings”. But I’m older than that now. And some of my pals are in their eighties, still frisking from place to place, their diaries packed with meetings, though they know their past is longer than their future.
So what is the true measure of time? I decided to pose a cunning question to my wise friend the whisky fancier, sitting, as always, on his stool at the bar of the pub by the haunted river.
“What time is it?” I asked. He smiled through the blue of his old eyes and rubbed the rim of his empty tumbler. So I rooted in my pocket for the money to recharge it. “Make it a large one,” he added.
“What time is it?” I repeated. Without looking at a watch or clock, he replied, “The time is now. Now is the only time that is always right. Now would you be having a wee drink with me yourself?”
In all my adult life in this crusty old pie of a town and elsewhere, I’ve been governed by deadlines of various kinds. Each day I check my watch hundreds of times.
But for some of us it’s different now. So I walked to Flaybrick Cemetery at the foot of Bidston Hill to see how they have been getting on.
Between the graves grass grows and the sun awakens the hibernating hedgehogs. But this is a place of eternal peace. Inscriptions on the stones tell of that. Here and there is the word “forever”. All carry the date of birth and death of those lying there. A few are decorated with new flowers. Most are naked. It’s the same at the vast Landican Cemetery and the smaller graveyards by the old sandstone churches.
I thought of all this and then looked from my window at the people below, scurrying to work or school. The phone rang. Now is the time to do this. Now is the time to do that. Go on. That’s what we’re here for. Beat that clock.