Month: May 2018

Time is pure perception – how long was it for you?

I’ve written about time here before. About a year ago, I decided that time was a messy scribble. I still think that time is a messy scribble. But I’ve also come to the conclusion that time exists only in my head. It also only exists in your head, in my mum’s head, in the heads of all of my children and in the head of the lady who served me my small Americano with skimmed milk this morningĀ  (poor thing only had four hours sleep last night, her time at work was dragging).

Time as a scientific construct is meaningless. I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this. In fact, I know I’m not. Even scientists have said this. As that eminent philosopher Emmanuel Kant pointed out, time (and space) aren’t physical things, they are modes of understanding, part of our mental software that shapes sensations into something tangible. Time, in reality, is just the tool of our intuition. It isn’t real. Can you touch it? No. Can you measure it? Yes, sort of.

What is this thing called time?

I notice that when I’m happy, enjoying my time, engaged in something pleasurable, such as writing this blog, time is rapid. When I am anxious, worried, sad, down, or waiting for something to happen or for some important news, time is incredibly, painfully, tortuously slow. During those times, the gaps between meals, events, or moments between being asleep and awake seems to drag through the treacle of my mind. The thoughts race but time is slow. I hate time when I’m anxious. I truly hate it with a passion. Time is my enemy. We are opposites. It hates me. I hate it. The rational part of me will say to myself: ‘this won’t last forever’. However, the time to get to the time beyond the now seems beyond my reach. I have to keep telling myself, that cognitive oft-repeated phrase: This Too Shall Pass. It does, of course. Eventually. It isn’t just emotional pain that slows time, physical pain does as well. When I was in labour giving birth to my three babies, the time between each contraction and the times of the contraction itself seemed a lifetime (a common cliche – an exaggeration for sure but it makes sense). In actual fact, that time was seconds.

Me shortly before my first child came out – time slowed.

So conversely, when I am happy, joyous and relaxed, I forget time. It can be 11am one minute, and 1pm the next minute and I’m late (a minute, of course, in the perceptive metaphoric sense). I am late because I’ve lost track of time (another cliche which makes perfect sense). I am lazy because of happy time. Happy time skips by me, it glides effortlessly through my creative mind. It is my enemy again. I hate it because it doesn’t last long enough. I want more time but time betrays me and says ‘you must stop this now’.

Time, also, quickens as I get older. That is not an unknown phenomena. It has often been commented on that time to a small child is perceived very differently to time to a much older person. Time to animals, also, is perceived differently to time to humans. A day in the life of a fly is not the same as a day in the life of my eight year old.

So although we measure time, and we find comfort in that measurement of time, I think we should give that sort of ‘time’ a different name. Or perhaps give the sort of ‘time” of perception I’m talking about a different name. They aren’t the same thing. The time of measurement grounds us to the here and now. I think we would feel extremely anxious without this measured time. We can rely to a certain extent on the movement of the sun, the rumbles of our bellies, the yawns we start to emit late at night but we still need some precision to the measurements of our activities so that we don’t get too out of routine. People may say they hate routine but they are all lying, or kidding themselves.

As for perceived time, we both love it and hate it, depending on how old we are and how happy we are. Or perhaps we always hate it – we either want less or more of it.

Today, time for me is chugging along at a gentle speed. Ergo I must be having a relatively good day, its not my birthday so I’m not joyously happy, but equally I’m not anxious or stressed. And as I type that, I realise by looking at measured time and listening to the rumbles below that it must beĀ  lunchtime.

What I want for lunch today

Waiting rooms all over the UK (and possibly the world) are the same

Today I found myself in a waiting room. It doesn’t matter what sort. That’s a whole other story. It was just a waiting room where you arrive, announce your arrival at reception, and are instructed to sit and wait until you are called to be seen.

And while I was sat in this waiting room, I had a weird thought: waiting rooms are the same, not only all dentist waiting rooms, or even all GP waiting rooms, or even all out-patients waiting rooms, but ALL waiting rooms. They are all the same. They are the same in Bristol, Exeter, London, Shrewsbury, Telford, Aberdeen and Borth. They might even be the same in France, Germany, Japan and Nauru.

They all contain the same vital components which I will list:

1. Stiff, straight backed chairs which are probably blue.

Waiting Room Chairs

Whoever invented these chairs is very rich.

2. A pile of old, well-thumbed, magazines.

Pile of old magazines

Does anyone actually read these? Where do these come from? Is there a website where companies can buy ‘old magazines’?

3. A busy receptionist.


Where the busy receptionist sits

Don’t dare have a question to ask, or even worse, moan that you’ve been waiting ages.

4. Really awful art in really cheap frames on the wall.

I can’t find a photograph of a good example of this. I wonder why. These images are usually boats, landscapes or flowers. I think they are meant to cheer the patients / clients up. If it is a posh company, the artwork will be abstract without a frame.

5. Advice leaflets and / or posters.

Useful advice

Does anyone actually take these?

6. Something which is described as ‘carpet’ but not something you’d have in your home.

I bet it is full of fleas.

7. People on their phones, people looking sad, people bored.

Yep, I was guilty of one of these three today.

8. A box of toys that mothers tell their children not to touch in case they contain the novovirus.


9. Not all waiting rooms contain this but the ones that do, irritate me: a TV advertising products related to what you are waiting for (dentists are notorious for this).

10. I can’t think of a tenth component but nine didn’t seem enough.

If I had a job where I had to have a waiting room for people, I’d fill it with new magazines, books, chocolate, bean bags and a shag-pile carpet.