Creativity: When timing is everything

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The Independent Culture
THE TIME needed to write a pre-addressed and stamped postcard to Creativity, in the opinion of Chris Sladen and Jess Hughes, is 9.87 seconds, writes William Hartston. Here are some of the other things you can do with one Linford of time:

You can read the first and last paragraph of this column (Michael Hyde), or read 'The Collected Wit and Wisdom of John Major' (Jane Morley, oh yes), or all the interesting bits in the Sunday Times (Steve Abrahams), or lose interest in a Jilly Cooper novel (James Branch).

You can play 9.87 sixtieths of Chopin's Minute Waltz (Hanna Kynaston) or listen to highlights of John Cage's 4 mins 33 secs (Peter Heron), or wait for the next recording on Classic FM (several readers).

You can travel 3.7 miles on Concorde (Steve Abrahams), fall 477.67 metres (three students from Derby), ride 1,835,820 miles on a ray of light (Stephen Clarke) or count the next 9.87 seconds to see if they last a similar amount of time (Penny Brown). Michael McGinn says it is the precise amount of time between trying to switch off the alarm in your sleep and realising it is the front doorbell.

Sir Harold Walker believes 9.87 seconds is the length of a soundbite, and therefore the greatest time a public figure is permitted to comment on television on a matter of national importance.

Nicholas Gough points out that 9.87 seconds is enough to watch a replay of Carl Lewis's 9.86 seconds world record 100 metres run. Pat Gould says it is long enough to decide whether or not to eat a nectarine.

R Naylor, finding that it takes him slightly longer than 9.87 seconds to scratch his head, proposes leaving the time exclusively to Linford Christie until he can compress it still further. A G Innes, however, wants to give it 'to the driver who crossed double white lines yesterday to overtake me'.

The driver in question was evidently not Deborah Ponter, who uses 9.87 seconds 'to put on lipstick when changing lanes in rush-hour traffic'. Ann Ponter says it is long enough to have a blind date with an axe murderer, while Gwyneth Tweats says '9.87 seconds is just enough to . . .'.

Craig Johnson points out that if you take the figure 9.87, multiply the 7 by the 8, subtract the 9, take the 4 titles that Linford Christie holds, and subtract that too, then take away the 1, his finishing place each time, you get the highly significant answer 42.

He proposes, for next week's object, a twin-tub washing machine, which for want of any less appropriate idea, we are pleased to accept. Ideas for the creative use of such machines should be sent to: Creativity, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.