The wise man was no fool. He knew that I would buy what he had to sell - Life and Style - The Independent

The wise man was no fool. He knew that I would buy what he had to sell

"Time is elastic," said the man in the pub to me. "Time is elastic. Know what that means?"

I try to discourage people in pubs from talking to me. The method I choose is to engage them in conversation and bore them so much that they just go away.

"Yes, I know what it means," I said.

This surprised him. What I was meant to say was something like, No, I have no idea what it means, please tell me the mystery of time, o wise stranger in a pub ...

"Go on, then, tell me," he said, "tell me what it means that time is elastic."

"It means that after a while time goes hard and wrinkled instead of being supple and stretchy, and breaks when you pull at it."

His face spread into a smile when he realised that I was trying to be funny. People who are trying to be funny can always be defeated by people who are trying to be boring.

"No, what I mean by time being elastic is that people no longer live in the present. We live in the past and future simultaneously."

I said nothing, meaning that he had not got to the interesting bit yet.

"We do not think it odd to be planning for someone's birthday in two week's time and at the same time reading a history of World War I."

"These days you wouldn't be reading a history of World War I," I said. "You'd be reading a novel about it. Have you noticed that everyone from Sebastian Faulks to Pat Barker is writing novels about World War I? And nobody is writing them about World War II? Why do you suppose that is?"

For a moment, he paused, and then decided it would be more fun to go on with his own train of thought.

"Anyway, you get the point that we exist in the past and future as well as the present. For instance, the Millennium is in the future - but it celebrates the past as well! You couldn't have AD 2000 without AD 0!"

He was interrupted at this point by the landlord leaning forward, tapping him on the shoulder and pointing to a big notice behind him. It was headed "UP-TO-DATE SCHEDULE OF CONVERSATIONAL TOPICS WHICH ARE TOTALLY BARRED FROM THIS PUBS and on the list, along with Princess Diana, The Full Monty, The Eurovision Song Contest and Dame Elton John, it said The Millennium.

"Put it another way," said the man. "We are constantly preoccupied with what has not yet happened or with what is over and done with. We know that next summer will be warm and the grass will grow ..."

"Maybe, but I don't let that govern my behaviour," I said.

"You should," he said. "You should be booking your summer holiday now and putting your lawn mower in for an overhaul."

Uncanny. It was exactly what my wife had said the day before.

"Go on," I said, getting interested despite myself.

"Now, people get their mowers serviced in the winter because if they wait for summer, they will find the garden machinery people are all busy servicing mowers. So they get their mowers serviced in winter for the summer to come. Right?"

"Wrong," I said. "If everyone does that, then they'll find that the garden machinery people are all busy in winter, and free in summer."

"Nowadays we live partly in the past and partly in the future," he said, ignoring me. "We are used to TV and radio repeats. We are used to seeing sports highlights being immediately repeated in slow motion. We are used to seeing new films come out a year later as a new videos. We live in an age of deja vu. Time is becoming elastic ..."

"I have an uncanny feeling that I have heard parts of this conversation before somewhere," I said.

"Give you another example," he said. "When summer comes, we all say that it's Pimms time, but when we go to the shops to buy some Pimms, there's none there. Why not?"

"Because it's Pimms time, and people have bought it all."

"Exactly. The right time to buy Pimms is in wintertime!"

"That's the first sensible thing you've said," I said. "Next time I go into a wine shop, I'll stock up on Pimms."

"No need," he said. "I've got a case in the car. I'll let you have it at a very advantageous rate."

Somewhat bemused, I found myself the owner a few minutes later of a case of Pimms.

"It's a joy to watch him at work," said the landlord to me. "What a salesman."

As I left the pub, lugging a crate of Pimms, I overheard the man saying to a couple sitting by the fireplace, "Time is elastic, did you know that? Yes, time is elastic! Know what that means?"

I had an extraordinary feeling that I had heard this conversation somewhere before, and that I didn't want to hear it again.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Programme Test Manager

    £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

    IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush, London

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush...

    Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

    Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

    £100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Full time German Supply Teacher...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week