A New Routine?

 |  June 30, 2011

“Zoom. What was that? That was your life, mate. Oh. That was quick. Do I get another? Sorry mate, that’s your lot.”

A quote from John Cleese as Basil Fawlty in the great comedy TV show, Fawlty Towers. In a moment of melancholy following another argument with his wife and an irascible guest, he pondered where his life had gone. I’m sure we all know how he feels.

Twenty years is a long time. 3,705 days in fact. As I was thinking about what to write in honour of Citylife’s platinum anniversary, I wondered whether I had made the best use of all those days. Had I done everything that I could have done? Could I have done more?

“Of course you could have done more you knob. Just look at yourself now!” I could hear Mrs. D saying in my subconscious. She has a habit of appearing in peoples’ heads, especially when a rhetorical question should be left at that, without someone actually providing an answer. Was she right?

175,320 hours ago (twenty years for the rest of us), we were living in the UK, mortgaged to the hilt, up to our eyes in debt and working as much overtime as we could to pay for the child-minding fees that allowed us to go to work in the first place. Since then, we have moved to the other side of the world, changed companies and countries a couple of times, added D2 to the mix and for the last two years, tried to exist outside of the corporate world that I was familiar with. I don’t think that’s too bad but time is certainly flying by now.

Billy Connolly, the Scots comedian who is now in his sixties, described his years as being punctuated by three songs; “Auld Lang Syne”, “Happy Birthday To You” and “Jingle Bells”, coming immediately after one another with anything in between just being a blur. Some of the last 10,518,200 minutes do seem to be just that.

Physicists will tell you that time is slowed down by the gravity of massive objects. Over the last 631,152,000 seconds, I have been conducting an experiment with my belly to see if this is true. Now much larger than it was, its increased mass (and therefore gravitational pull) should have an effect on my perception of time if I was to bend over so that my head was level with my navel.

Other than the one time Mrs. D caught me in that position and time nearly came to a stop, I can say that I have noticed no effect at all. Apart from a throbbing headache and stars in my eyes when I stand up. As its all relative, why would I anyway? So, why does time seem to fly by, particularly as we get older?

Some psychologists say that it is because as each passing year is a smaller fraction of the total time that we have been alive, it seems to go by faster. Mathematically correct but way too boring. I prefer the theory that says when we are young, everything is exciting and new and this allows the brain to burn lots of new memories that make time seem to last for ever. As we get older, routine becomes the norm; each moment is much like the last and just slips away. So, to me, the key is to always do new and exciting “stuff”.

To make sure that I got back some of the last 752,382,400 heartbeats (at an average of 72 per minute… except when Mrs. D walks past and it speeds up of course…), I decided to write a book about us moving to Singapore. Although nothing more than a light-hearted, throwaway, holiday read, the new experience of committing the story to paper is a positive memory of the last year. OK – it wasn’t sky diving but for me, it was something new, something different; a break in the routine and that is important no matter how old you are.

I thought I would try this with Mrs. D. As I stood there in the bedroom, wearing nothing but an old flying helmet, a can of WD40 in one hand and a bowl of custard in the other, I proclaimed “Let’s try something new!” as she emerged from the bathroom.

With a deft flick of her wrist, I saw the slightly damp end of her towel snaking towards my nether regions. Funnily enough, the whole thing seemed to happen in slow motion. It caught the end of my little fireman and reduced me to a gibbering wreck on the floor.

“You’re right” she said, “I’ve never done that before. That was fun!”
Neither had I. The pain burned the memory into my brain and I think I will remember it for a long time to come. If I ever can again.