Time and Motion

I’ve noticed more and more as time goes by – the past materialising and dematerialising. On every street corner, in shops long unvisited and parks half-forgotten, driving late at night or in the brightest sunlight – ghosts are starting to appear.

It’s a function of growing older. The world – or at least our world – is not that big, and we pass and repass over the same territory. There used to be a time-and-motion study for housewives, I remember. The housewife had some kind of light bulb attached and her movements – from fridge to cooker, from cooker to sink etcetera – were recorded as a trail of light. I believe that’s how cooker-sink-fridge came to be known as the kitchen work triangle. In idle moments wondered what the entire track my life would look like if I had had a lightbulb attached. What a job that would be to untangle!

Today I drove past a street corner in the same town I chugged through very slowly on the train yesterday. It’s a grimy, unremarkable corner opposite a kind of mini traffic island, and looking out onto a sea of moving cars is small, shabby taxi-cab office. It was a small, shabby taxi-cab office in 1971 too, and outside it I suddenly see me and Clive, leaning against the even-then flaking paintwork, kissing. We were at college together and rambled down through the back streets every afternoon , I to wait for a bus (outside the taxi office) and he to catch a train to the seaside. He was the only handsome man I ever went out with – dark, dapper, beautiful – and I knew, of course, that he was not for me. Indeed, he was engaged to a girl called Jean back home at the seaside, but that didn’t seem to bother either of us.

We snogged, desultorily, every evening until my bus arrived. I don’t think he even found me particularly attractive but we were together, temporarily, we were friends and I was willing, so he felt he might as well. Young people did that sort of thing in those days. Probably still do.

But it isn’t just Clive. I walk along the street I grew up on. Now I am looking down at my feet, watching out for the dropped kerbs with which it is now infested, though not quite as careful as my Mum, who was convinced she was going to fall over at any minute. But at the same time the child ‘me’ is running along the street. I pass her sometimes, sat on the edge of the pavement, her feet in the road. It has recently rained (so her dress will be getting wet, but she won’t notice) and she is watching twigs careering down the gutter towards the drain.

In two days time I will drive down the lane we lived in when we were married. I will no doubt be surprised at how much the house has changed since either of us was in it. I will remember the cat buried under the blue hydrangea. Unless they’ve dug them up – the bush, the cat, or both. I will remember how you cried for that little cat – the only time I ever saw you cry about anything. I will remember trying to take your arm, another day, and how you shook me off after a few paces, embarrassed even to be touched. I will remember hurrying down that lane to meet my lover, and how my heart was beating and the blood rushing in my ears.

As I get older I sometimes get inklings of the pattern behind things. That sounds so pretentious – and I really don’t like the word inklings – and it’s only for split seconds; nothing ever sticks. I don’t think any of us are ever allowed to discover the meaning of life – but as we progress we get these little glimpses, so that we know there might be a meaning. Sometimes it has seemed to me like a carpet we are weaving, with a pattern we can’t see because we are too close. But at the end – of each individual life, maybe, we get to see the overall pattern.

But recently – since I have been blogging (in earnest) in fact – I have begun to think that it’s more intricate and complicated even than that. It’s like the past and the present are not separated as we imagine, but linked one to the other at many points – linked and interlinked. And maybe I mean that the past – all the pasts – and the present – all the presents – exist in one plane. It is only made to seem that ‘the past is another country’. So, a life is more like a blog long worked on, and richly, richly supplied with links – links between past and present and here and there, and her and me, but also links with other people’s pasts and presents, their heres and theres.

And then I wonder, if I’m a character in the blog that is my life – who – or what version of me – is doing the blogging? What giant hands are hammering out each fresh instalment of my life at 80 wpm?

9 thoughts on “Time and Motion

  1. ‘My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue…’ Always loved that Carole King song, and this post made me think of it again.
    Yes, life does feel like many interlinked narratives all drifting into and beside one another. In fact that’s probably exactly what it is.

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  2. My son had an amazing inspirational moment a few months ago. He was talking about his Nanna who passed away in 2013. He said something about Nanna still existing in the same house.. she doesn’t know anything different…to her nothing has changed…I can’t remember really what it was he said but he was very serious and when he finished talking his eyes had tears in them. He referred to how he understood how Jesus healed. I hope he remembers but I was struck by the intensity of his emotion.

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    1. I think maybe he was right. Children are closer to where we have come from – ‘trailing clouds of glory’, as the poem says – and don’t censor their ideas the way adults do. Soon after my Grandad died I had to go back to his house with my Mum to do some clearing up. That night I had a dream, that I was standing in the kitchen and he walked right past me, muttering to himself. It was as if he was – as your son says – still there, and unaware that anything had changed. It was almost as if I had removed myself from his world – moved into another dimension – rather than the other way round.

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      1. Amazing. I asked my son if he remembered and he said he did, so must write it down asap. I love your post…got me thinking about all those intricate threads in our lives that lead us here and there. I live in the same house I grew up in and I know what you mean about seeing ghosts…or memories…sometimes I feel I am morphing into my mother. Lots to think about!

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  3. I somehow missed this one! Now, then” “hurrying down that lane to meet my lover”… Seriously? You’re just going to say that and stroll off from me?? Or were you referring to your ex prior to taking his arm that day?

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      1. LOL! O, those heady days… nice to remember when the heart all but leaped out of one’s chest. Now, more fun to be ambushed/woken by creatures who purr. One doesn’t need to get all made up and decked out for that. 🙂 Damn, I miss cats!!

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