“I wasted time and now doth time waste me”
This quotation, which comes from Shakespeare’s “Richard 2nd”, has been one that has stayed with me for over 45 years, ever since I was introduced to it by Mr Underwood. Mr Underwood was one of my English teachers when I was at school, known to all of the students as “Beaky” because of the extraordinary size and shape of his nose. I would like to tell you that the quotation stayed with me because “Beaky” was the teacher who first kindled my love of Shakespeare through his inspirational teaching. The reality is that I have remembered the quotation so clearly because it was a favourite of his when issuing lines to students whom he believed did waste time, both theirs and his own. As a consequence, I fear that I wrote it down many hundreds of times during my formative years.
This, of course, is not the whole reason why it stays with me. Rarely these days do I reflect upon such other poetic masterpieces as, “I must improve my handwriting in order that others may be enabled to read it” or, “I must not eat Cheesy Wotsits during Chemistry lessons” (an interesting and salutary warning against blindly following technology is that the spell check for “Wotsit” offers the alternative of “Wetsuit” – any child who believes that he could get away with eating a cheesy wetsuit during a science lesson deserves careful attention.) It stays with me because, as with much of the great man’s works, the phrase encapsulates a universal truth within a single phrase.
We do, of course, all waste time, probably on a daily basis. When young, time appears to be a limitless resource, like unmetered water pouring out of a tap in a house with mains drainage. Indeed, all the current predictions relating to the suggestion that successive generations will live longer and longer only serves to reinforce the illusion of youth that everyone lives forever. It is only as the years go by that the finite nature of anyone’s lifespan begins to reveal itself and the second half of the phrase begins to resonate. In times past many people kept skulls or similar objects on their desks to remind them of what was to come and these “memento mori” were intended to encourage them to “live each day as if it were their last”.
So, why the reflection upon time in this week’s offering? Two reasons, one for each half of the phrase. The first is obvious: for all our students in the upper school deadlines are approaching like sleepers on a high speed rail track and it is vital that they take themselves out of their manyana state and develop the urgency that is required. The other reason is that I am currently only too well aware of the way in which time wastes you when you become older, having put my back out attempting some very straightforward DIY at the weekend. There are, therefore, two very important messages behind this week’s blog, the first being to make the most of every second available to you and the second being to leave home improvement to the experts; if we all lived by these codes the world would undoubtedly be a better place.