In which The Author witnesses a Space-time Singularity at first hand
‘Time Crash’ was Steven Moffat’s contribution to the 2007 BBC Children in Need Appeal. Starring David Tennant and Peter Davison, it was a clever little Doctor Who feature in which the Fifth and Tenth Doctors collided in Space-time. Past and present came face to face for a brief interval and threatened the fabric of Reality itself.
There was also an episode in the first Matt Smith season entitled ‘The Lodger’, in which Time looped around at short intervals. Unfortunately it co-starred the huge, hugely popular and hugely unfunny James Corden. I won’t bother putting a link on here. I can’t even stand to watch it on DVD.
For several weeks I’ve felt as though Time is looping around me, and nobody else notices. At other times it simply ceases to flow. Once in a while it does both, and crashes altogether. I sometimes get the impression that I’m the only person subjectively experiencing the transition from past to future.
In No Future
I wrote about the large number of people I know who are still living in the past. Their lives consist of singing songs from the war years, discussing long-retired (or long-dead) sportsmen, and indulging in collective nostalgia trips about pubs or shops which were closed when I was a child, if not earlier. They manage to move forward from an objective point of view – ageing by any physical definition. But subjectively, their individual timelines came to an abrupt conclusion somewhere around the end of the Miners’ Strike.
There’s no doubt that alcohol plays a major part in this phenomenon. A couple of years ago I alluded to the all-day drinkers in town who spend their lives like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. The same conversations take place on schedule every day, enabling sober people to set their watches by them. New information is only retained for a couple of hours at most.
I’ve recently noticed that my brother’s short-term memory is becoming worse. Phil’s been a self-confessed alcoholic for twenty years (although his ex-girlfriend, a nurse, reckons he’s just ‘alcohol-dependent’; I think she’s splitting hairs, personally). Within half or hour or so on Saturday, he told me exactly the same story twice. He simply couldn’t remember it the first time. Mother’s been doing the same thing for ages, but I’ve been blaming it on her advancing years. Dad used to do it all the time. I attributed that to his age as well. But surely the phenomenon shouldn’t be noticeable in a man of only 42.
Although I’d had a few beers, the feeling of déjà vu was unmistakable. I’ve noticed him doing it more frequently recently. And he’s not alone.
One of Phil’s near-contemporaries is the right-wing plumber I mentioned in Insights into the Mind of a Working Man
. He’s another functioning alcoholic who enters Time Loops without any advance warning. Jeff thinks
he’s got a great deal of Declarative Knowledge, which he likes to proclaim in a loud voice without prompting. His ‘facts’ are usually rather garbled, largely based on his recollections of History Channel documentaries which he’s watched while pissed. Here’s an example:
At least four times in the last month (to my knowledge) he’s told the whole pub about the exemplary service record of Sergeant Alfred Henry ‘Harry’ Hook VC, 24th Regiment of Foot, Royal Fusiliers (1850-1905.) Or, as Jeff always calls him, ‘James Henry Hook.’ Sgt Hook was famously portrayed in the film Zulu as a insubordinate drunkard, which is why Jeff leaps to his defence every time. However, I’d have more faith in his argument if he’d get the man’s name right; James Hook is a regular and versatile member of the current Welsh rugby squad.
Jeff’s also presented other spurious arguments about such topics as the Gunfight at the OK Corral, the Battle of Stalingrad and the time zones of Canada, amongst others. At least three times I’ve challenged him, proven him wrong, and won a pint for my trouble. In fact, I could probably do it regularly if I was minded to, because he wouldn’t remember it happening. He may be a neo-fascist idiot, but unlike the Senior Lecturer in Alcohol Consumption and Applied Crap at the Pickled Pepper, he honours his bets. He’s a gentleman, if barely a scholar.
By far the worst offender is an old guy named Tony A., who drinks terrifying amounts every day. His long-term memory is phenomenal. He can call to mind old shops, pubs, and drinking buddies that nobody else can think of. But his short-term memory would be rivalled by that of a goldfish. After his fifth can of lager, he somehow manages to drag the clientele into a localised Singularity from which there’s only one possibility of escape – leaving the pub entirely.
There’s absolute zero possibility of his acquiring any new knowledge, either. I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s asked people questions and failed to even try remembering the answers. There must be some sort of event horizon surrounding him, through which not even Information can penetrate. He even asked me a couple of days ago where the nearest branch of Woolworth was, since there isn’t one in Aberdare any more. The three-year interval since the entire UK chain collapsed has somehow passed him by.
Paradoxically, his own subjective timeline seems to continue unhindered. If I take Stella out, he can tell me exactly long we’ve been gone. But from the point of view of the external observer, the duration of the loop shortens progressively as the evening wears on. It starts off by looping at about ten-to-fifteen minute intervals. By the end of the evening, it’s down to a maximum of thirty seconds or so.
It’s already started to diminish since I’ve been in here. Now his partner-in-crime – a repulsive little twat named Dai – has come in. No doubt the Singularity will reach the so-called Carling-Worthington Limit within a few minutes, and they’ll start arguing the same argument that they have every night. It’s almost as tedious as watching Little Britain. Maybe I should work on my Tom Baker impersonation and add a surreal commentary. It would be the only comic element in what is ultimately a bleak, unfunny and pointlessly repetitive experience.
[Stop Press: 1721 It’s started!]
Mind you, there are the odd light-hearted moments. Tony asked me a few weeks ago if there was any way of finding out when a particular shop in Aberdare had closed down. He’s one of those people who believe the myth that ‘you can look up anything on your machine’ (my Netbook), even though I’ve tried explaining to him that it’s not as easy as that. After all, when new shops open they take out advertorials in the local papers. In the old days, they even used to get minor celebrities to perform the opening ceremony. On the other hand, I don’t remember many shops having a closing ceremony.
‘You know the one – it used to be where the Halifax is now,’ he insisted for what seemed like (and from a different frame of reference might well have been) weeks.
Eventually, I said, ‘Tony, if you really think I’m going to type into Google the words “Leather Stores”, you can think again!’
It went over his head, of course. But it made some of us laugh. That’s a rare sound in the Time Loop, believe me!