Do you ever think about Time? I don’t mean from the sense of is it 1 o’clock or 2 o’clock, but in its broader meaning.

The young feel they have all the time in the world, but as we get older it seems to speed up, and we want to cram as much as possible into our bucket list, just when health or mobility issues are slowing us down.

In various ways, the virus has had quite an impact on many people’s daily lives. For some, without having to rush to catch the 8 o’clock train to work, or fret about being late if the bus was delayed, the days have dragged. For others, being confined to home with children or family members demanding attention and interrupting their usual routine, has made it seem as if the hours are flying by. If we are looking forward to a holiday or other important event, time appears to slow down, then all of a sudden the big day arrives, and before you can blink it’s all over.

Modern life is dictated by time, even if to a certain extent we retain the inbred clocks of our ancestors. The seasons would dictate that they rose with daylight, and went to bed as darkness fell. It must be a difficult adjustment for people living in areas such as Norway or parts of Alaska, where it’s basically six months of days, followed by six months of night. With modern communication, it’s necessary to bear in mind various time zones for countries in different parts of the world. What is Tuesday evening for you, might be Wednesday morning somewhere else.

Even more confusing is America with its plethora (told you I loved that word) 😀 of time zones, and even in Europe there can be an hour’s difference between countries not that many miles from each other. Daylight Saving Time (DST) was introduced by William Willet who lived close to where I was brought up, and had a local pub ‘The Daylight Inn’ named after him. As if losing an hour and waiting for it to be repaid wasn’t enough, last year member countries of the EU were given the option of removing DST permanently, which might make things even more confusing. Throw in an extra day every four years, and I wonder if it wouldn’t make more sense for everyone in the world to have the same time. We could soon get used to 4 a.m. meaning late afternoon instead of the early hours of the morning.

Time travel is a popular genre in writing, especially for dystopian novels. It’s a fascinating concept and allows the imagination free reign. Given the option, would you travel backwards or forwards? If you were in Medieval times, can you imagine the panic during an eclipse? It would be easy to believe the world was going to end, whereas I remember standing on the village green, armed with suitable eye protection, watching with interest what was happening, and understanding why. The feeling during the great Plague must have been similar to how people are coping with Covid. Supposing you time-travelled forward from a year or so ago to 2020; would you have been more prepared, even if only by stock-piling toilet rolls and masks?

With the chance to alter your future, would you have married the same person, taken the same risks, tried to do things differently? What if your actions had resulted in something happening to your ancestors so you were never born? Our knowledge of stars and planets is still minimal. What if each one is an alternative world similar to ours, but where we turned a different corner and selected an alternative option? Could it be that time is not a straight line, but a circle with tributaries branching off and returning to a different spot further along the path? I read once of a cave millions of years old, where paintings on the walls depicted space craft. Could it be, as some scientists suggested, that we went from caveman to discovering nuclear energy, blowing ourselves up, and starting all over again as cavemen?

In more recent times, people were concerned the increasing number of horses on the road would make travel impossible because of the amount of dung. Then the motor car came along!

It was many years ago that I became a first-time visitor to the Mediterranean island of Malta. Until then I only had a vague idea of where it was situated, although I had been a frequent visitor to Spain and parts of Italy. The first thing I learned was the Maltese SHOUT. Listening to two men having a heated argument in their own language, I later discovered it was a friendly discussion about a new car one of them had just bought.

Despite that inauspicious start, I learnt to love the country, and incorporated many of the foibles from my early visits into my first book ‘Changes.’ Even the cover was based on an actual building which was once a hotel and restaurant. Several years later, after the original publishing contract expired, I updated the book and republished it under the new title ‘Summer Changes, Winter Tears.’


Reading the original book again brought back so many memories, and I was transported to the time and place as if it was yesterday. The original book was set in the 70s, and as a writer you need to be on your guard against making mistakes with the passage of time. It wouldn’t have been appropriate for a character in that book to use a mobile, as they weren’t in common use in the UK until the mid-1980s.

There was a church in Malta (actually there were 365 churches -one for each day of the year) which had clocks showing different times. This was deliberate with the aim of confusing the devil.

This has reminded me I’ve already spent too much time on this blog post, so see you next week, or in seven days time, whichever you prefer.

© Val Portelli September 2020



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