Harriet Walker: Time's always there, till you think about it; at which point, it's gone and you could have spent it more wisely

 

Share
Related Topics

On a recent trip to Paris, I noticed that the French are really quite tardy about taking down their Christmas decorations. I can't speak for the private homes of individuals, but in the streets, there they were, twinkling on against January's grey skies.

I couldn't decide whether it was incredibly bleak – the delaying of the inevitable, the stretching of Christmas cheer like so many post-yule waistbands – or a heartening indefatigability in the face of deepest winter creep. Either way, it made me think about how we're supposed to deal with time. Time passing, time standing still, time to put our heads down and get on with it. It's always there, till you think about it; at which point, it's gone and you could have spent it more wisely.

I'm neurotic about the passing of time: I remember things in terms of hours to go until the next thing to look forward to, years spent idling or efficiently, the comparison of this hour to the one before it, or to its counterpart 365 days ago.

Everyone feels vaguely "got at" when it comes to time. We feel like we should be doing more with it, or we feel it slipping through our fingers, grains of sand pulled by the waves that will drag us to our inevitable demise. Sorry. Enjoy your Sunday, won't you.

Some people think men and women see time very differently. Men view it as a straight line, they say, an arrow flying towards a target, whether it hits or misses. That's why men are scared of death and commitment, and asking for directions, because these things are simply Tube stations on the journey to nothingness.

Women, meanwhile, are said to see time in a more cyclical way, because they're the ones having children, perpetuating it all and never truly becoming dust and air.

I'm not sure I see it quite that way, although the meanderings of this column may well have persuaded you that women are incapable of thinking in a straight line.

My point is, January seems like a terrible phase, doesn't it? We're all so keen to get it over with that we cease to be, truly. We don't go out, we stop drinking or eating sugar, we pause our lives. Then February comes along and we remember that there are things worse than January and it's so much harder to get into gear again.

My mother has always told me not to wish my life away. When I was little I didn't heed her too much because even a day feels like a year when you're little. But now that I can remember what was happening to me 10 years ago (I was reading a Shakespeare play a day and not getting enough vitamin C) and even 20 years ago (I pretended I was a radio DJ by recording Annie Lennox on to loads of blank tapes and talking over it), battening down the hatches and just getting through January seems a waste.

Most people I know agree: they tried the not drinking and the not socialising, and they all failed, to a linear man and a cyclical woman. Because if they weren't out every night, they were having a beer on the sofa. And as much as they weren't chatting rubbish in the pub, they were doing it on the sofa with their nearest and dearest. Arguably, their existence – and mine – crystallised into something more real for the lack of nights out, getting dressed up. No social ephemera to take the edge off, you see.

It brings about a sort of identity crisis, thinking too hard about how you spend your time. Because you realise that the things you thought were decent ways of spending it are actually not. That half-asleep chat you had last night before you put out the light is worth more than anything you screamed over the din of a Friday-night bar before Christmas, if only because whoever you were talking to probably heard what you were saying.

There are all sorts of phases of life that you have to allow to happen to you. Like spending more than a third of your life asleep. Like the fact that the average person swallows seven spiders and ingests a cup of washing-up liquid in their lifetime. (Doing it all in one go not advised.)

So it comes down to whether you, like the French, are content to allow January to become an extension of your life before Christmas, or whether you're more keen on introducing aspects of January to your life more broadly. I'm opting for the latter. And I've spent a lot of time thinking about it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London