At the weekend the clocks went forward. Time was shifted and the days suddenly seem longer. I realised that my stargazing will be pushed later and later into the spring and summer evenings. Oh well, I’ll just have to sit up longer.
Earlier today I travelled under dismal skies to North London to attend the funeral of a colleague, a man in his prime–not yet forty–for whom time has cruelly and suddenly stopped. His young family is devastated. We stood grim-faced at the church, hollowed out by the senselessness of the death. There is nothing good or redeeming about such a loss. Except. Except, I can only very grudgingly concede, that it reminds us of the preciousness of our own time. But what a horrendously expensive lesson.
Last week I gave a seminar at the London Structural Biology Club meeting at Birkbeck College. That same evening my daughter also gave a talk–and her performance was far superior to mine. For three minutes she argued in favour of nerdiness with such carefully timed invention and wit that she had the audience helpless with laughter. My fatherly heart was fit to burst with pride. I also had a sense of the torch passing. The time is coming. This sensation is reinforced by my son who is now planning his applications to university. In less than eighteen months my boy–so recently a baby it seems–will be leaving home. Even my youngest daughter is about to turn teenager.
But it is not quite time for me to shuffle off the stage. I have another grant application due. It’s been a struggle this one. I have been wrestling with it, trying to articulate a shared vision with my collaborator and cast it into an experimental plan that will sell. The deadline is imminent–just after Easter–and there is still a ton of work to do: a case for support to hack down to six sides, budgets to draft, summaries and impact statements to concoct. Not to mention the other duties haranguing my mind for attention: a paper to submit, lectures to organise, student projects to prepare, a synchrotron trip in the offing. I’m sure it will all get done but I can feel time wrapping itself around me, stretching and straining like a rubber band, tighter, tighter.
I wish to God it would snap.
But tonight the tension is unwound a little. I am in the audience again with my wife and son listening to the girls make sweet music in the school orchestra. We smile and chat with them at the interval and at the end of the evening, when they are subdued by tiredness, carry them home in the car. These are moments to be cherished.
And summer is on its way.