Passing Time

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.

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8 Responses to Passing Time

  1. Brian Clegg says:

    If MT4 had a little ‘like’ button, as Facebook does, I would click it.

  2. Lee Turnpenny says:

    Very nice, and certainly strikes some chords with me.

  3. Benoit Bruneau says:

    Time has certainly compressed since I was a child. Now I’m in a perpetual panic mode realizing that the next deadline is only a month away, and there’s always another one looming just behind it. Nicely written.

  4. Richard Wintle says:

    Nicely written, Stephen. Those “rubber band” periods swamp all of us at times… just have to remember that the calm times, like your school concert, come along eventually. I was just remembering yesterday a period in February where I felt like I had a huge weight on my chest, there was so much to do. Today I can barely remember what it all was, and Easter weekend’s on the way. 🙂

  5. Kausik Datta says:

    Very touching, Stephen!
    This one’s for you.
    It is amazing – how time does fly,
    Leaving behind just trails – memories.
    Days arrive and days pass by;
    Seasons change and scenery varies,
    From dull, dark, grey to vibrant, bright,
    In different shades of color and hue.
    Life moves on with scant respite –
    Old order yields its place to the new.
    Be they however precious and dear,
    Moments, articles, emotions too –
    Nothing remains, nothing is forever.
    Only change is constant, change is true.

  6. Stephen Curry says:

    My thanks to those who have commented here and elsewhere. Monday was a funny day so I didn’t feel like entering much of a conversation. But please be assured your remarks are appreciated.

  7. Jennifer Rohn says:

    Thank you for the lovely post, Stephen.
    (I am dying of curiosity to know what the USPs of nerdiness are according to your daughter…)

  8. Stephen Curry says:

    Thanks Jenny. I should eventually be able to assuage your curiosity: I videoed her speech. But since there is another round to come and she may have to give it again, we’re keeping that under wraps for now. Actually I haven’t watched it back myself yet and am a bit fearful the soundtrack may be dominated my me and the Mrs laughing.

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