Time Passes


At this time of year, we’re all too aware of time passing. Last weekend we were seeing many bluebells on our walks through woods and by paths alongside rivers. Now, only a week later, the bluebells are going over, the white starry flowers of wild garlic are disappearing and the yellow flag iris are taking over.

In the natural world nothing stays still, there is always change, we see aquilegias brightening the gardens with so many different shades of pink, blue and purple. As they self seed and pop up all over -among the gravel paths, trees and shrubs, nobody can guess what colour will dominate next year. A few days with strong winds and this year’s flowers will be gone. Already the clematis are past their best and we’ll only have the walls and fences graced by their cloaks of pink and white for a few more days, maybe a week or so at most.

Last week we visited one of my favourite gardens and found a new Buddha had been installed. Sitting looking across at at him in that beautiful setting, I was reminded again of the importance of valuing the now. I know that the natural world is a great teacher  – we are made aware of making the most of what we can see around us – enjoy it while it lasts. With human relationships too, we must never take them for granted.

One of my favourite quotations from TS Eliot’s Four Quartets comes to mind. It’s not always a good idea to dwell on what might have been however- better focus on what is, now.

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past,

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation.

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened.



How can we have already reached November? What happened to the second half of October?

There are some months when the days, weeks seem to pass so quickly that it seems impossible that all days have the same number of hours, minutes, seconds.

What is time? We measure it now with clocks and watches. In the days when people relied on sundials and candles, I rather suspect that they also had the same issue with time not seeming to be constant. If faced with a pile of things that needed attending to, then time would seem to pass all too quickly.

Why is it that as we get older the years seem to be shorter? A young child waiting for Christmas will feel that November and December are far longer than the months of summer holidays.

Looking back on our lives as we get older, it seems incredible that so much  happened in a relatively short space of time and yet when living through  those years there were certain periods of time that sped by while others dragged.

Does time pass more quickly when all is going well in our lives?  Those in pain or grieving may well find that the days are endless. TS Eliot often wrote about time and how we relate to the past, present and future. We see our past in the present and the future.

Time past and time future

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present,

from Eliot’s Burnt Norton – the first of his Four Quartets

By living for the ‘now’ we hope to become more aware of the world around us and more aware of what we’re doing in that world. Worrying about the future doesn’t help the present nor does it help to make it better. Dwelling on the past and ‘what ifs’ is no good either. There is a phrase that is often used – possibly too often these days – ‘we are where we are’. But perhaps accepting that fact does help us live ‘in the now’ and make the most of every minute.

Time & TS Eliot

The last ten days or so have been hectic as our small town hosted its 21st Book Festival. Bringing in thousands of visitors each year, it means that for a while our lives are transformed. The town throbs with life – people queueing for events in the large festival marquee, the County Buildings and the smaller venues.  Our days are clearly divided up into hourly events, checking tickets and general preparations for visiting speakers, authors and their audiences. Time flies – we have to remember which day it is and where we should be. But the whole place is buzzing, adrenalin flows and there is inspiration from art, music, words and conversation. Brilliant!

Now life gradually returns to normal and I’m reminded by a friend that somewhere not so many miles away there are some folk who haven’t been able to be involved, whose lives have gone on as before and their relatives will have continued to visit as always.

This poem was written a few years ago, inspired by a visit to a friend who was severely impaired after suffering from stroke. At the time I was also attending a group reading TS Eliot’s Four Quartets.

Time and the Bell

 Time and the bell have buried the day

The black cloud carries the sun away. (Burnt Norton)

 Silent figures sit comatose, waiting

chairs with backs to the wall.

Time endless,

insignificant – marked only

by meals, medicine trolleys.

Unheeded dramas play out

on a giant cyclops screen, loudly.

The clock ticks.

Lost in times of old, what can

future days, weeks, months hold?

The door bell goes, afternoon visitors

step inside leaving behind sunlight

braced for feelings of despair,

facing the long hours ahead.

Time endless …




Sixty Years On

Hearing about a school reunion prompted the following –

“Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.”

From TS Eliot’s Burnt Norton – first of the Four Quartets

The only time we can be sure of is the present – the ‘now’. Times past and times present will have some relevance to time future. Are the decisions we make now always made with thoughts to the future? How much do we bear the future in mind when we act now?

Our past experiences will have some bearing on our thoughts and plans for the future. Looking back through diaries of our ancestors are we influenced by their thoughts? Do the words of any writer, of fiction or non-fiction influence their readers? Surely the answer is yes. We can’t help but take in the thoughts and ideas of others – whether they are real or fictional characters. We can learn from characters in fiction just as we can learn from people we know, people we observe, those we hear on the radio, see online or on TV.

What did Eliot mean when he said ‘All time is unredeemable’? Once time has passed we can’t rewind it and live it again differently, but we can learn from it and, if presented by a similar situation in the future we may react differently. Is all time eternally present? Is the future contained in time past? What has happened in the past must have some bearing on future happenings – our individual futures depend on what we do and think now and what experiences, relationships and learning have shaped us as we are now and what decisions we will make in the future.

We can’t turn back the clock and change decisions made in the past; we can’t see into a crystal ball and know what we will do in future years. As we grow older time speeds up and there are moments when we would dearly love to slow down the march of time.

It seems almost irresponsible to waste time, bearing in mind we have a limited number of years left.

We should live each day to the full.


Dante and Terza Rimas

Before our Exploring Literature group embarks on tackling Dante’s The Divine Comedy, I thought that I’d better do some background reading and refresh my memory about terza rimas.

TS Eliot noted that it is much easier to write a terza rima in Italian than in English.  Terza rima is Italian for `three rhyme, and is said to have been invented by Dante. It is generally iambic and has a rhyme scheme  aba,bcb,cdc,ded etc. The Italian language certainly lends itself to that rhyming scheme – much more so than English.

When Clive James translated The Divine Comedy, that was aptly described as a monumental achievement. Unlike some who have avoided rhyme in their translations, he has produced one long rhyming song. Amazing! No wonder it took decades to achieve.

I’ve borrowed a book from a friend which is giving a fascinating insight into Dante’s life . Patrick Boyde, in the preface to his book Dante Philomythes and Philosopher -Man in the Cosmos, notes how Dante was  a lover of myth as well as a lover of knowledge – a philomythes  and philospher. So, adding those attributes to poet, it’s little wonder his work has been revered for centuries.

As for writing a terza rima – I attempted to write one about twelve years ago when I set that as a task for my then writing group.  Given my interest in archaeology and the fact that we were trying to make a vegetable patch out of a new garden, my poem was based on the items being turned over by our digging. My abysmal effort is evidence of how difficult I found it (the writing not the digging).

Clay Pipe Terza Rima

 This pipe is from a world of long ago.

A time when life was simpler but so hard

with little time for leisure, and we know


the tales told often by the local bards

just showed idyllic, peaceful country life

like sentimental verse on greetings cards.


Life then tested the labourer and his wife

working long, long hours in wind and rain,

they struggled on through times of strife.


We dig the soil, to find clay pipes again

with bottles and a twisted ancient plough.

In future years, will signs of us remain?


Will future gardeners look on our life now

and wonder at the way we lived, and how?


This is the first, and almost certainly the last, terza rima I have attempted…

But I am looking forward to when our group starts studying Dante in the autumn!

Time Passing

‘…the longer I live, the more I want to know’ are the words of Vershinin in Chekov’s play Three Sisters. Many can identify with this sentiment. With knowledge comes ignorance is also a truism – the more we know the more we realise we don’t know.

When children are young they are constantly asking questions and soak up information like a sponge but, as the years go by, it becomes increasingly harder to absorb and remember facts.

With age comes an awareness of the lengthening of times in the past and the shortening of times yet to come. If it were possible to slow down the passing of time, would that be desirable? Can we, by being more aware in the present, make more of the future?

Knowledge and wisdom are not the same. There are some who carry a great deal of knowledge in their heads, but would we consider them wise?  We can strive to know more about all manner of things, but if we don’t ‘know ourselves’ and are blind to the needs of others around us, then the knowledge acquired could be described as irrelevant.

However, learning another language, acquiring new skills does keep the mind alive and we’re told that little grey cells need to be kept busy as that will help to prevent the onset of dementia. It’s good to share an interest with like-minded folk and having a focus, learning and sharing knowledge certainly makes life richer and more enjoyable.

So, as years go by, how should the ageing population focus on what is meaningful? It is easy to become very busy and fill our lives with rushing around after family or spending time being busy with all kinds of ‘stuff,’ but should we perhaps be spending more time sitting, meditating and being still? Would that perhaps lead to more peace of mind, greater insight into life?

An increasing awareness of time passing comes with age. TS Eliot’s words in Burnt Norton become more significant.

‘Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.’

James Robertson has produced a remarkable book 365 Stories. In 2013, he set himself the challenge of writing a short story on every day of the year. Each story was 365 words long. In 2014 they were published in book form.

This inspired me to try to write something – a poem, story, fact or fiction every single day in 2015. There was no way I could manage the exact target of 365 words. I would have been sitting for hours trying to trim pieces down to the right size. I did however, put a limit of 365 words. This was a much easier task, but at least it gave me some sort of restriction.

I failed to keep it up for a year – a car accident near the end of July that year caused more than a blip in the project, but I do have a bank of pieces of writing that I am now going back to and reworking. The piece above, Time Passing is one of them.



Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich was a C14th anchoress, yet her writings contain so much  that has meaning for us in the C21st.

Perhaps she is best known for the following

‘All will be well, and all will be well and all manner of thing will be well.’ The translations from Middle English vary slightly, but the message is essentially the same.

We find this quotation in numerous texts – TS Eliot used it twice in part III of Little Gidding, the last of the Four Quartets,  and again in part V

‘All shall be well, and

All manner of thing shall be well.’

In Norwich cathedral there is a statue of Julian of Norwich holding her  book Revelations of Divine Love. In chapter 86, we read ‘ …I had often wanted to know what was our Lord’s meaning … Love was his meaning.’

From another source, written in the 1960s and sung all over the world, we read ‘All you need is love.’

Father Christopher Wood, rector of St Julian’s church in Norwich which includes Julian’s cell is quoted* as saying ‘Her gift to the world is the message that things go wrong, stuff happens, that we might make mistakes and bad decisions, but there is a bigger picture, there is hope even if it is beyond the horizon.’

Sometimes ‘stuff happens’ that is not a result of our bad decision making or our mistakes made, but hope and love are essential to acceptance.

*Eastern Daily Press 13 August 2017 – (found on the web.)