On the coming of spring and the existence of time
I’m constantly surprised by the existence of time.
I mean, I understand intellectually that time ticks by relentlessly in a one-way fashion, drawing us all on to our doom. But I notice that deep inside, at my core, I don’t expect time to pass. I expect it to stand still.
That means I expect the world to pick a season and stick to it, and am totally flabbergasted when, for example, winter gives way to spring. Today, it’s warm and sunny and I’m sitting outside in a budget camping chair typing on my iPad. I’ve actually been wearing a T-shirt in my kitchen. And yet not long ago, I was still clad in a thermal base-layer, my most Norwegian jumper, a tweed jacket and a scarf – all indoors. That’s been my standard writing outfit for months now – essentially the costume of an Edwardian arctic explorer. I didn’t expect that to change, and suddenly it has.
I had to wear that many clothes because I’m living in a rented house, which means that a lot of things don’t work very well and there’s no mechanism that could possibly motivate either my landlord or me to do anything about them. The heating, in particular, has very definite ideas about what’s reasonable to ask of it. From May to September, the boiler will keep the house at a fully habitable temperature. But outside that period – and especially when it’s freezing outside – the boiler thinks that my desire for room temperature is like asking for the moon on a stick.
‘Look,’ says the boiler, metaphorically taking a drag on its roll-up and scratching its filthy overalls, ‘this weather, the best I can do for you is fifteen degrees, and that’s working flat out.’
‘Oh, but…’ I say.
‘Sixteen degrees,’ says the boiler, ‘and I’m killing myself. I’m not paid to take that kind of grief.’
‘I’m sorry,’ I say, ‘I didn’t mean…’
It gives me a withering stare, so I wander off, chastened and shivering, to find more clothes. Meanwhile, the boiler sits back down, opens its paper, and starts rolling another cigarette.
To think of spring, in those circumstances, is to make everything much harder. And so life becomes a sort of permanent arctic expedition, until suddenly it’s actually springtime and I’m wearing a T-shirt, and am surprised at how long I let my beard grow.
Luckily, it will remain spring forever.