Monthly Archives: February 2016

Time Flies



Unpleasant little creatures, this species lurks in The Tardis and other such inter-temporal transports, wreaking havoc with the systems and often causing Time travellers to land in the wrong era, wrong world, or even wrong Cosmos.

Of course Wikipedia does not agree with me …

Tempus fugit is a Latin phrase, usually translated into English as “time flies”. The expression comes from line 284 of book 3 of Virgil’s Georgics, where it appears as fugit inreparabile tempus: “it escapes, irretrievable time”. The phrase is used in both its Latin and English forms as a proverb that “time’s a-wasting”. Tempus fugit, however, is typically employed as an admonition against sloth and procrastination (cf. carpe diem) rather than a motto in favor of licentiousness (cf. “gather ye rosebuds while ye may”); the English form is often merely descriptive: “time flies like the wind”, “time flies when you’re having fun”.

Shakespeare, whose grasp of Quantum was far ahead of his time, had this to say in ‘As you like it’

I pray you, what is’t o’clock?
You should ask me what time o’ day: there’s no clock
in the forest.
Then there is no true lover in the forest; else
sighing every minute and groaning every hour would
detect the lazy foot of Time as well as a clock.
And why not the swift foot of Time? had not that
been as proper?
By no means, sir: Time travels in divers paces with
divers persons. I’ll tell you who Time ambles
withal, who Time trots withal, who Time gallops
withal and who he stands still withal.
I prithee, who doth he trot withal?
Marry, he trots hard with a young maid between the
contract of her marriage and the day it is
solemnized: if the interim be but a se’nnight,
Time’s pace is so hard that it seems the length of
seven year.
Who ambles Time withal?
With a priest that lacks Latin and a rich man that
hath not the gout, for the one sleeps easily because
he cannot study, and the other lives merrily because
he feels no pain, the one lacking the burden of lean
and wasteful learning, the other knowing no burden
of heavy tedious penury; these Time ambles withal.
Who doth he gallop withal?
With a thief to the gallows, for though he go as
softly as foot can fall, he thinks himself too soon there.
Who stays it still withal?
With lawyers in the vacation, for they sleep between
term and term and then they perceive not how Time moves.

Me seems Time doth gallop the more, the older I become. As long as you know where your fly-swatter is…


(‘Lost Time’ by Vanleith)

Time after Time

New earth

All the definitions online agree – this means the same as ‘Time and again’, not more, not less.

I can’t help seeing beyond that surface meaning of ‘over and over again’ to some of the beliefs about the end of time and what comes after it – not just the notion that the Big Bang and the expansion of the universe leads eventually to a collapse and a new start, but the ideas in mythology about a new creation after The End.

From Wikipedia, a brief summary of Ragnarok;

In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures (including the gods Odin, Thor, Týr, Freyr, Heimdallr, and Loki), the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water. Afterwards, the world will resurface anew and fertile, the surviving and returning gods will meet, and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors.

From Tolkien Gateway, a much longer extract about Tolkien’s version of this final battle, that draws to some extent on Ragnarok – Dagor Dagorath.

According to the prophecy, …Melkor will eventually discover how to break the Door of Night, allowing him to escape his imprisonment beyond the world. Intent on regaining his dominion over Middle-earth and avenging his previous defeat, the fallen Ainu will recreate his greatest servants (including Sauron) and destroy the Sun and the Moon. For the love of these, Eärendil will return from the sky and shall meet Tulkas, Manwë (or Eönwë his herald) and Túrin Turambar on the plains of Valinor. All the Free Peoples of Middle-earth will participate in this final battle, Elves, Men, and Dwarves alike. …Thus assembled, the forces of the Valar shall fight against Melkor. Tulkas will wrestle with him, but it will be by the hand of Túrin that finally death and utter defeat will be dealt to Melkor. Túrin will run his black sword Gurthang (Iron of Death) through Melkor’s dark heart, thus avenging the Children of Húrin, and the Pelóri Mountains will be levelled….
After the battle, the Silmarils will be recovered from the Earth, Sea, and Sky. Fëanor’s spirit shall be released from the Halls of Mandos, and he will finally surrender his prized creations to Yavanna, who will break the Simarils and use their Light to rekindle the Two Trees. With the flattening of the Pelóri, the light of the Trees will cover all of Arda. The battle will end and renew Arda’s existence: all the Elves shall awaken and the Powers will be young again. Also, according to Dwarven legends, they will help their maker Aulë recreate Arda in all its glory again.
Following this, there will be a Second Music of the Ainur. This song will sing into being a new world.

Lastly, from Revelation, that same concept of a Time that shall be after Time.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

Starting again and getting it right is a recurrent thought in human belief and desire and speculative fiction – but stick to the meaning ‘over and over again’ if it’s less worrying!

Time after Time

Time and again


Most dictionaries of phrases seem to agree that this phrase means: frequently; repeatedly; over and over. Something happens once, and then again, possibly many times.

Now if you have a bee in your bonnet, as I do, about time, you may wonder why the word ‘time’ needs to appear in this context. ‘Once and again’ or ‘again and again’ express the same thing, without introducing the tricky notion (to me, anyway) of the same ‘bit’ of time coming back again.

If time does nothing, as I perceive it, then it can’t do it again.

If something happens again, it happens again. The fact is that we’ve been schooled to use ‘time’ as meaning a sort of medium in which events float, and to see those events as preceding/following each other in the same way that two vessels on a river or vehicles on a highway do.

Time doesn’t come again because it’s not going anywhere.

Cycle of seasons

Nine novels down, five to go

If, like me, you haven’t yet read enough of these to be able to assess them, this excellent blog will serve as a suggestions-for-reading list!

Planetary Defense Command

I read nine novels in my search for planetary awards nominees, so I thought I’d give you a rundown of them before I resume my magazine quest.  I’ll also lay out my plans for reading other bloggers’ nominees.

Traditionally-published, from best to worst:

#1) Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia was my nominee.

#2) The Oncoming Storm by Christopher Nuttall takes the silver medal. Nuttall was a self-published success story, but has now signed with 47 North, Amazon’s publishing arm, which I’ve decided to place in traditional publishing. The book is space opera / military sci-fi, and gets bonus points for calling a planet’s defensive citadel the PDC. There is a sequel: Falcone Strike.

#3) Armada by Ernest Cline was reviewed here.

#4)Heirs of Empire by Evan Currie (another former self-published guy who signed with 47 North) takes last place, mostly due to…

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Time out of mind

ancient time


we learn something of the possible origin of this expression.

It’s first recorded from the British Rolls of Parliament in 1414 and in 1432 in the modern form. The second example refers to a petition by the inhabitants of the little fishing port of Lymington in Hampshire and says (in modernised spelling): “That through time out of mind there were wont many diverse ships to come in to the said haven”.
It is almost identical in meaning to another phrase from time immemorial. Both may be variant versions of beyond legal memory, which refers to the year 1189, fixed by a statute in 1275 as being the oldest date that English law can take account of.
By the time Edmund Burke was writing, in 1782, the phrase had pretty well become a cliché: “Our constitution is a prescriptive constitution; it is a constitution, whose sole authority is, that it has existed time out of mind”.

In everyday use, it refers to events so far in the past that no-one can actually remember them. This is a concept that can be used to good effect in fiction, as Tolkien does many times. At Rivendell, Frodo is amazed to hear Elrond reminisce about things that to the Hobbits took place in ‘Time out of mind’:

“I was the herald of Gil-galad and marched with his host.” (LOTR Book II, Ch. 2)

This not only serves to demonstrate a major effect of the different life-spans of elves and humans, it is one of Tolkien’s many devices for inserting a sense of historical time into his works. Later we find Eomer challenging Aragorn’s claim to have visited Lorien and come out safely:

“Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?’

A man may do both,’ said Aragorn. ‘For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!” (LOTR Book III Ch 2) 

If time is a circle or a spiral, rather than an arrow, a river or an emptying hourglass, you can never be sure that the past is safely in the past – it may turn out to be organising your ‘present.’

Old_Uppsala mounds_sunset

Old Father Time



Possibly the most familiar personification of time, Old Father Time is thus described in Wikipedia;

Father Time is usually depicted as an elderly bearded man, dressed in a robe and carrying a scythe and an hourglass or other timekeeping device (which represents time’s constant one-way movement, and more generally and abstractly, entropy). This image derives from several sources, including the Grim Reaper and Chronos, the Greek Titan of human time, reaping and calendars, or the Lord of Time.

The association with the Grim Reaper, of course, shows a link between our concepts of time and our concepts of death – or DEATH for my fellow Terry Pratchett lovers.

C.S. Lewis sees it slightly differently in ‘The Silver Chair’ we read;

That is old Father Time, who was once a King in Overland. Now he has sunk down into the Deep Realm and lies dreaming of all the things that are done in the upper world. Many sink down and few return to the sunlit lands. They say he will wake at the end of the world.

This also recalls to mind the Red King in Alice;

He’s dreaming now,’ said Tweedledee: ‘and what do you think he’s dreaming about?’
Alice said ‘Nobody can guess that.’
‘Why, about you!’ Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. ‘And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?’
‘Where I am now, of course,’ said Alice.
‘Not you!’ Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. ‘You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!’
‘If that there King was to wake,’ added Tweedledum, ‘you’d go out— bang!—just like a candle!’
‘I shouldn’t!’ Alice exclaimed indignantly. ‘Besides, if I’m only a sort of thing in his dream, what are you, I should like to know?’
‘Ditto,’ said Tweedledum.
‘Ditto, ditto!’ cried Tweedledee.
He shouted this so loud that Alice couldn’t help saying ‘Hush! You’ll be waking him, I’m afraid, if you make so much noise.’
‘Well, it’s no use your talking about waking him,’ said Tweedledum, ‘when you’re only one of the things in his dream. You know very well you’re not real.’
‘I am real!’ said Alice, and began to cry.
‘You won’t make yourself a bit realer by crying,’ Tweedledee remarked: ‘there’s nothing to cry about.’
‘If I wasn’t real,’ Alice said—half laughing through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous—’I shouldn’t be able to cry.’
‘I hope you don’t suppose those are real tears?’ Tweedledum interrupted in a tone of great contempt.

So ‘all the things that are done’ may be only the dreams of some other being than oursleves, and we too may be such dreams as things are made on.

Lewis assigns another duty to Father Time, who does indeed wake ‘at the end of the world,’ in ‘The Last Battle,’ where he calls the stars down from the sky.

…they saw another patch where there were no stars: and the patch rose up higher and higher and became the shape of a man, the hugest of all giants. …Then Jill and Eustace remembered how once long ago, in the deep caves beneath those moors, they had seen a great giant asleep and been told that his name was Father Time, and that he would wake on the day the world ended.

“Yes,” said Aslan, though they had not spoken. “While he lay dreaming his name was Time. Now that he is awake he will have a new one.”

Then the great giant raised a horn to his mouth. They could see this by the change of the black shape he made against the stars. After that – quite a bit later, because sound travels so slowly – they heard the sound of the horn: high and terrible, yet of a strange, deadly beauty.

Perhaps that strange deadly beauty hangs about all our notions of Time?


Time does not tarry ever

but change and growth is not in all things and places alike. J. R. R. TOLKIEN, The Fellowship of the Ring

We do seem to harbour a desire for Time to stand still – notably when we are having a particularly happy day, and wish it might never end. One poem I recall from childhood expresses this by yet another different personification of Time.

TIME, you old gipsy man,
Will you not stay,
Put up your caravan
Just for one day?

All things I’ll give you 5
Will you be my guest,
Bells for your jennet
Of silver the best,
Goldsmiths shall beat you
A great golden ring, 10
Peacocks shall bow to you,
Little boys sing,
Oh, and sweet girls will
Festoon you with may.
Time, you old gipsy, 15
Why hasten away?

Last week in Babylon,
Last night in Rome,
Morning, and in the crush
Under Paul’s dome; 20
Under Paul’s dial
You tighten your rein—
Only a moment,
And off once again;
Off to some city 25
Now blind in the womb,
Off to another
Ere that’s in the tomb.

Time, you old gipsy man,
Will you not stay, 30
Put up your caravan
Just for one day?

( Ralph Hodgson.)

This is an altogether jollier idea of the mysterious entity called Time. Travelling about the world (although surely if time is anywhere, it is everywhere at once?) and apparently capable of enjoying the good things of human life, including friendship and rest. What would happen to everywhere else if Time settled down for a day in one location?

Is that a scratching sound I hear, of fellow-fantasists jotting that down for -er- future reference?

Gypsy Vanner Horse pulling Gypsy caravan or vardo up hillside
Gypsy Vanner Horse pulling Gypsy caravan or vardo up hillside

Time! Time!


Poor Bilbo sat in the dark thinking of all the horrible names of all the giants and ogres he had ever heard told of in tales, but not one of them had done all these things. He had a feeling that the answer was quite different and that he ought to know it, but he could not think of it. He began to get frightened, and that is bad for thinking. Gollum began to get out of his boat. He flapped into the water and paddled to the bank; Bilbo could see his eyes coming towards him. His tongue seemed to stick in his mouth; he wanted to shout out: “Give me more time! Give me time!” But all that came out with a sudden squeal was:
“Time! Time!”
Bilbo was saved by pure luck. For that of course was the answer.

This is, as many of you will know, part of the Riddle game from ‘The Hobbit’ – the turning-point in Bilbo Baggins’ career. He found the answer by chance, but what was the riddle?

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountains down.
– J.R.R. Tolkien

The relentless rhythm of this alarming verse fits its personification of Time. Yet again, an abstraction becomes an entity, one that carries out such brutal destruction as to imply that it is genuinely inimical to life and to creation. Time, as depicted here, really does not like us.

However, while it may be the case that, say, you visit a beach one year, and come back 30 years later to find that all its cliffs have fallen, that does not actually represent an action of time. It demonstrates the effects of the repeated action of wind rain and sea, day by day, season by season. Time’s just been sitting there again watching it all go past. Why do we so strongly believe in the actions, willed actions, of something/someone called Time? Tolkien will assist us further in this series of reflections.



(Image taken by Italian photographer Giovanni Allievi.)

Time and Tide wait for no-one


Interesting one this; if Time, the personification, is a meaningless concept as we discussed yesterday, it can’t ‘wait’ any more than it can ‘heal’ – it can’t do anything.

Tide, however, I used vaguely to suppose was something to do with the sea – hence the illustrations. I’m sure it’s actually to do with circumstance, events, things that betide.

Those things too are surely unable to wait for us? Life, they say, is what happens while you’re making plans. And while time is just sitting there being time. Each single event that betides us grows out of such a complex of other events, plans, accidents, meetings, failures to meet, bad translations, broken-down vehicles, power-cuts – whatever.

No things and few people are actually waiting for us. We need to be thankful for those who are, and for the rest, we have to sometimes wait and see and sometimes to act. It’s knowing the difference that’s the interesting bit.


Time marches on

Time marches on

So what we seem to be doing is analysing or just exploring various different personifications of time – or ‘Time.’

Since my midnight realisation that Time was just sitting there unchanging while I had to find some way to step forward, step anywhere at all, I’ve become increasingly convinced that time doesn’t ‘do’ anything. It just is.

When we talk about it as an entity marching on, then we are saying that time moves. As I understand it, time is an artificial label to describe a feeling we have that something is happening beyond the experiences of up, down, left, right, forward and back in space.

When we feel it’s marching on, we mean something like ‘Tea-time already and I haven’t done everything I wanted to do today.’ Time becomes the reason for our non-achievement and lets us off the hook.

Time marching on leaves things behind us. We all have a sense of present, past and future, though by the time we type the word ‘present’ it isn’t any more. We have memories of things we personally did in the past or observed then. Many of us feel that the knowledge of historians, archaeologists and palaeontologists extends our own knowledge of the past.

Indeed some cultural groups believe that it’s the PAST that lies in front of us, because we have a sense that we can see it more-or-less clearly. These groups perceive the future as being behind us, sneaking up on us with who knows what evil intent.

Personally I feel the whole thing goes round in circles, like the seasons, the moon, the sun and the planets and the rest of the cosmos. Probably expanding and contracting at the same time. The old image of the Wheel of Fortune raising us up and casting us down; Eliade’s myth of the eternal return; Vico, Joyce and Finnegan’s Wake. This is all too much for one blog-post and definitely too timey-wimey for one brain!

But I don’t have any belief in ‘progress’, and I don’t think time marches anywhere. I think it’s more likely that we go marching on and leave time behind us.

Time marches round