He was gone all the night long. One drink became several. Several a party. A party a bender. A frequent occurrence in the past, now so rare I could not recall the last. Then there would have been tears, messy and unbridled. Now only this cold fury, this flinty disgust. He was lush. He was rueful. Excuses and blame seeping from him like a leaky valve. We'll talk, I said, when you've sobered up. But there were children to ferry, dinner with friends, a family occasion the next day, and when, finally, there was a moment, clear-headed, alone, the anger had ebbed, the point of it all but lost. Time had, if not dissolved, then at least diluted my rage.
Tomorrow we gain an hour. I think that's right. Yes, we fall back into winter. Spring forward into summer. Does this mean Daylight Savings is starting or ending? I am never sure. I tried to explain it to my daughter. My daughter, whose body clock intuitively seems to shift like some small forest-dwelling animal as the season draws to a close. My daughter, who sets the most precise appointments with her friend that they might walk to school together. Be at my house, she instructs, at 8.11am. She'll be here in three minutes, she tells me, checking the microwave clock. Where is she, she fusses, she should have been here one minute ago. The other morning she slipped into our bed, the night not yet dispersed. And though I feigned sleep she pressed a question upon me. In the beginning, she said. The beginning, I puzzled. Yes, you know, of the world. In the beginning what was the first hour? Oh, I said. Umm... I have no idea. Midday? Midnight?
We're all at sea together on this, she and I. On the concept of time. She fixated, fascinated. Me increasingly confounded. How with each passing year it can be rendered both more meaningful and yet meaningless. How it used to dawdle so interminably slowly, but now plunges greedily ahead. How trying to calculate when we might be able to rid our front garden of the trampoline, I realised with a deep regret that, even though I used to only acquiesce begrudgingly, I couldn't remember the last time my children had asked me to jump with them. And how no matter how early I rise, how late I am to bed, there are never enough hours to tick everything off.
On Thursday we depart on a three-week trip. And so while I do what needs to be done in the here and the now, I am forever casting my mind ahead. To what needs done in advance: columns written, Sky programmed to record season three of Fargo, books returned to the library. It should be a doddle. My whole life people have told me to be more present. To stop planning and enjoy the moment. I always assumed it was my capacity for anxiety making me this way, but out the other night I realised it's my overactive imagination, running circles around me in a way most people's don't. Sitting happily at a table with friends, I saw a man we know talking to some women at the bar, his wife nowhere in sight. Panic suddenly clutched at me. I can't look, I said. At what, asked my husband, nonplussed. What if he's about to do something? Something we won't be able to unsee? What on Earth, said my husband, are you talking about? And sure enough, after a few moments, he walked off, this man we know, back to his mates.
I didn't have the answer for my daughter to what time, time began. And I made a hash of the science behind Daylight Savings. But I'm hopeful of passing on this, that not everything needs to be said or done right there and then, that sometimes there is merit in letting things be, in giving the list a rest, in leaving the dust to settle.
Mike questioned whether I was right last week when I wrote we live in "a precarious world". That kind of apocalyptic talk, he said, is political hyperbole. He wasn't, he explained, trying to cheer me up, but urged me to watch the Danish statistician Hans Rosling, "who is convinced the future is not bleak," and remember that, "we live in paradise anyway, and our children and grandchildren are being given the keys to it."