You can’t find lost time

We were both born in Taunton’s Canon Street Hospital, three weeks apart in the autumn of 1960. He has decided that when he reaches his 63rd birthday next year, he is going to retire.

Perhaps a financial situation that means not having the option to retire means I don’t have to explain to people that I need to make the most of the time before it is lost forever.

Those years where I lived life in a way where hours were not filled are years when life was wasted, The greatest heresy of our time is that time should be wasted, that we should pass years putting in time.

It is more than twenty-five years since the BBC television series Our Friends in the North. The North in the series was Tyneside. The series finishes with a single question, it is question that has more strength a quarter of a century later than it had on the television screen in 1996.

The four friends from thirty years previously are gathered in Nicky’s house after his mother’s funeral. Nicky had loved Mary in the 1960s and, perhaps for the sake of the past, Mary agrees to meet Nicky for lunch the next day. There is a sense that the list of lost opportunities is going to grow longer and you almost will Nicky to say something.

Mary leaves in her car and Nicky suddenly realizes that he cannot let another moment escape. He runs frantically through the streets of the housing estate, taking short cuts, and manages to intercept Mary’s car.  Mary winds down the car window and, gasping for breath, Nicky asks, “Why not today?”

Mary smiles at him and agrees.

Despite it being screened in 1996, the image of the breathless Christopher Ecclestone who played Nicky is still clear in the mind, his frantic, desperate run through the housing estate is still memorable.

When watching the programme on that distant evening, Nicky’s question seemed to redeem the previous thirty years. Time seemed to be recaptured.

Of course, it was a mistake, an illusion to imagine that time once past could ever be recovered. Life can only be lived in the present and if there has been a failure to make the most of the time that is past, then there needs to be an even greater effort to make the most of the time that is to come.

It is a long time since a hospital stood in Canon Street, there is no trace of it ever having been there. You can no more recapture time than you can find the place my friend and I were born.

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