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Bonzer Words!: I Didn't now What Time It Was

Wendy Ogbourne remembers a night when thundered boomed and lightning lashed its terrifying power.

They said afterwards that it was the most severe storm in living memory. That may be so. All I remember is that I was woken some time in the middle of the night by the sudden crash of thunder and what sounded like a tree falling onto the roof.

I turned my head automatically towards my digital clock, to see what time it was – well, you do, don’t you? – but the numbers were flashing, so obviously the power was out. I had no idea whether I had been asleep for hours or just ten minutes. I only knew it was pitch black, until the next flash of lightning found its way through my closed eyelids. Another thunderclap resounded almost instantaneously, so I knew the storm must be just about overhead.

For some reason, it seemed very important to know what the time was. We are so regulated by the rhythms of the hours, that not knowing throws our minds into disarray. Not knowing the time seemed somehow more threatening than the storm itself. The thunder rolled and boomed, and the lightning flashed its terrifying power. There’s something about an extreme event of nature that is somehow paralysing to the body as well as the mind. I felt unable to move. So I just lay there, trying not to breathe too deeply, as if my stillness could affect my safety.

I can’t say how long it all lasted, though I may even have dozed off again, for I gradually became aware that the booming sounded more distant, and there was a noticeable pause between flash and crash. My breathing became normal again, and I opened my eyes, no longer afraid that I would be instantly blinded. The numbers on the clock were still flashing off and on, but it didn’t seem to matter so much any more. Time had been defeated. Now I could hear a rushing sound, of wind in the trees, and a soft flurry of rain on the window. I sighed and surrendered to sleep once more, content that the danger had passed.

When I woke again, it was fully light. Now it was raining in earnest, solid sheets that would determine the course of my day. Mental reorientation came slowly, as I tried to sort out the impressions and memories of the night. I pressed the switch on the radio and used it to pull myself back into reality.

News of the storm was top of the bill – it had been severe, but local – there had been significant damage – emergency crews were hard at work. And now the time was 8 am. My inner time-clock had woken me as usual. I would have to get out of bed, and go through the usual routine. I would have to go outside and see what damage had been done. Had I heard a tree fall on the roof? It all felt very dreamlike. For some reason, I put off the moment of return to the everyday world. In some strange way, it felt as if I had been outside of time while the storm raged, or maybe part of some sort of timeless existence. My mind was spinning with a new insight into a philosophy that I couldn’t quite catch hold of. Perhaps all of life should be like this, without the endless days and hours and minutes ticking away at our lives. Would this be what heaven was like, without time?

This was ridiculous. All this, because of a bit of thunder and lightning, and a clock that had let me down. I did a mental shake and put my feet to the floor. It was time to face the day.


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