Monday, 17 January 2011

the time and space train of our lives

I am a time traveller, like you. Our mode of time travel is a train called the present which goes in just one direction and, practically speaking, only stops once. All the same, I've been travelling this way for fifty-odd years, and right now you are in the same carriage. I don't know when you got on, but that's usually what happens; looking out of the window listening to your MP3 player of choice, you happen to turn your head and there in front of you is another passenger. You might talk, you might not. If you're unlucky the other person wants to talk about how precisely  Liverpool managed a 2:2 draw with Everton, or about how David Cameron has no choice but to make the people of Britain hurt a lot. If you're lucky though, the passenger opposite is an experienced time traveller.

Now, I know you may be thinking it was just as well for Kenny Dalglish that Liverpool drew, but actually more interesting is just how long this train is. Also, all your living relatives are on board, if not in this carriage then in others behind or in front. Obviously all your dead ones have got off at their station, perhaps unexpectedly or even forcibly. Some people claim the dead can be contacted by mobile or on Skype, or something akin, but as you know, mobile coverage isn't great on Exmoor, so I suspect it's nonexistent in the Valley of Death, whatever Orange or the Archbishop of Canterbury may say. I'm afraid this means that my observations are more reliable than a ouija board - or indeed, dare I say it, than Holy Writ.

The other thing is just how fast this train goes. For instance, many passengers remember when this train was pulled by steam. Now we're burning the ghosts of primordial trees, which is much more advanced, but actually no faster. And if now doesn't feel particularly fast in any case, I'm reliably informed that it will come as a surprise when they announce your station. Another thing that happened only a moment ago was the IT and telecoms we mentioned earlier. You may already live your life entirely via Facebook and Twitter, but many of us are still texting 'are you coming good'' instead of 'are you coming home'. This is not surprising as only a short distance back down the track a phone was something attached to a wall in a building. You made it ring from a distance to see if anyone was going past. Sometimes you had to enter a box like the Tardis to do this. Unlike the Tardis (I assume) it smelt of wee, and as I discovered when I tried to sleep in one in the vicinity of Carmarthen, there were fleas. The only alternatives were to send a piece of paper you had written on, or to send a photocopy of some writing by phone to a printer the size of a breeze block. You needed a similar breeze block your end for this.

Advice? You want advice on travelling on the time and space train! OK, but I don't know any more than you do. I think it's a good idea to look out of the window a) to enjoy the landscape, b) so you have some idea of where you're going. At the same time it's well worth listening to your fellow passengers and befriending them as much as possible. But don't give people credit for knowing things you don't just because they have a big beard and/or funny clothes, or they're in the government. Other than that, I suppose it's eat plenty of fruit and veg and climb trees or go skate-boarding or play football or somesuch, where possible. Another very important thing is right there in the MP3 player of your choice, or on the fold-down table in front of you: music, books, art. Oh, and flowers and birds and stuff. You may also find, sooner or later in the journey, that you have to invest in haemorrhoid cream.

As for what powers it all, now you're really asking. I don't really know, but I suspect it may be music. Next we'll be into 'What happens when the driver gets to their own station?' and 'Are we going to make our connection?' Again, I don't know. But what about you? Would you agree that Led Zepplin are the finest rock band there has ever been?

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