May 2006

I was in an internal meeting at work the other day run by John, the senior partner. I'd been out of the office for a few days and hadn't seem him or his team for awhile. There was obviously a big project on – all his movements were hurried, he needed to speak to one of the other lawyers after this meeting, he was impatient for the other attendees to arrive. But all the while, he was trying to maintain a calm, friendly air.

We were supposed to be video-linked to our regional branch office. The TV was there with the webcam and mike but the IT department had not set it up or turned it on. "This is no good," John muttered and called down to IT. Then he decided to start the meeting anyway – we were already five minutes late. The IT guy sauntered in fifteen minutes after the start time. "Too late," John said, "Thanks, we don't need you." The guy sauntered vaguely out again.

Maybe it was because I'd been away from the office. For the first time in the years I'd been there, I found myself on a different time zone from everyone else. Just as the IT guy, too, had been in his own zone. I had always presumed that the speed of time in the office was the speed of time of the rest of the world. But the lawyers are in a zone where time seems speeded up with urgency and deadlines. The IT guy was in his own continuum of leisureliness. And I had come back with my time clock adjusted to normal time in the rest of the world.

Later, I had to seek out colleagues and talk to them about various things. As I walked the floor and found them in their little cubicles or passed them in the corridor, I could see their internal time clocks racing along. It was as if their chests were wound up with tension. Sometimes in the moment as they looked up, just before they smiled, their face had a haggard – even harrowed – look. Sometimes, they didn't even smile and left that look of pain there. They spoke hurriedly, made some small talk and then churned on about the project that was bothering them.

It was as if, suddenly, I had stepped out of the looking glass. I could see myself for the first time. I had that speeded up time clock inside me, too. But because I had been away, it had gone into sleep mode. It would start up again before too long. And I would be back inside the looking glass, harried and glancing up from my papers with a look of desolation.


After complaining for weeks that she was a blog widow, Annie is now online and has a blog of her own. She's a writer and she hasn't written in ages so I persuaded her that blogging would be a way to capture the muse again. She has also seen the response I have had on my other blog and the community that I am building around it and it has been intriguing her.

It helped that as she was starting on the blog journey, she came across the Wandering Scribe, the blog of a homeless woman in the UK and she found herself reading post after post of this woman's journey from respectability to living in her car and how she has been trying to maintain her dignity during these last few months. The possibilities of sharing in other's lives and sharing one's own is one the wonders of blogging. And Annie is now hooked.

She says, though, that this is how it happens with junkies. You hook up with a junkie and you think you're in love. And the junkie tempts you to join in the addiction – just one shot, one spliff, one taste, one try, one blog. And then you're in and hooked and trapped…

My time is measured out in units of six minutes. Each unit is worth £40. For lawyers, time really is money. I have to account for at least six billable hours of my working day. I am always looking at my watch.

It has spilled over into my personal time. In the evenings, I calculate how many hours I have when I get home from work before I have to have my shower and go to bed. And then the race against time begins to fit in all the things I have to do and all the things I want to do.

Annie sees me checking the clock and it unsettles her. It is as if I am timing our conversation, timing the length of the dinner we are having. Does she have to speak faster to fit everything in before I click the stopwatch and move on to the next task? Will I be timing our intimate moments together?

The pull of time hooks into my chest and reels me along, yanks when I linger too long on one thing. Time is money and lawyers count out the money they are making. For me, I feel as if I am counting away my life.

It rained today as I came home from work. I love the smell of rain on hot pavements. Under my umbrella, I could feel a faint dampness from the drizzle on my face. The sound of the light drops on the black cloth felt comforting.

After dinner, I took the rubbish out and Annie joined me. The rain had stopped and the air was cool and fresh. We stood in the front garden and looked at the raindrops on the leaves. The sky was velvet blue.