Monday, February 24, 2014

Making the best of time

click photo to enlarge
"Which of us is not saying to himself -- which of us has not been saying to himself all his life: "I shall alter that when I have a little more time"? We never shall have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is."
from "How to Live on 24 Hours a Day" by Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), English novelist and writer

In 1910, Arnold Bennett, an English novelist best known for his novels such as "Anna of the Five Towns" and "Clayhanger", wrote a short, improving text called "How to Live on 24 Hours a Day"(Project Gutenberg download here). It wasn't the first such piece to come from his pen. Only the previous year he had written, "Literary Taste: How to Form It", in 1903 "How to become and Author", and  in 1898 "Journalism for Women". There were other such texts too, pieces that contemporary writers saw as "Victorian", old fashioned, not "modern". Bennett freely acknowledged that he wrote profusely and with an income in mind, and yet as more recent critics have come to acknowledge, that motivation didn't prevent him writing works that bear reading today.

In the essay quoted at the head of this piece Bennett sought to show how, though incomes varied, with some amassing much and many accumulating little, rich and poor alike share exactly the same number of hours every day. He lamented the kind of tedious work that many engaged in and tried to show how people could make better use of their time away from paid work, looking at how, for example, the journey to work could be made more productive, or how the time after the evening meal could be better utilised. Put in those terms the tract sounds mundane, and coming from someone who had made himself very comfortable through his writing, more than a little patronising. Yet, as I discovered a few years ago, taken in its entirety this piece repays reading even today.

On a recent visit to Barton upon Humber I saw the scene I captured in today's photograph and pondered the great value that can attach to unplanned conversation, wherever it takes place. As I've grown older and the pressures of work are now less, self-imposed rather than employment-imposed, I've stopped seeing this kind of socialising as something of a waste of time and started to value it as an activity that can be life-enhancing. The other, quite unrelated, thought that came to mind as I framed this scene was the patched up wall behind the sheltered seating. Graffiti had been roughly painted over and the broken render filled but not painted. The latter, when I first looked at it, appeared to be a cloud trying to put a symbolic damper on the meeting of the people below. On reviewing it on my computer it took more of the form of a heavily perspiring horse! Ah, as W.H. Davies wrote in his poem, Leisure, "What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?"

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 19.5mm (53mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/200 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On