Current Essays

Arrow of Time On:2001-08-18 11:20:22

Well, England’s a thing of the past and I’m finally back in Texas. You know going back from there to here set me thinking about how it is never actually possible to go back anywhere, not with any real satisfaction anyway.

Dear old entropy (and let me add here that it pays to be really polite to Old Man Entropy since you obviously can’t ever finally beat him), he takes care of that nicely. Consider the fact that it is always easier start off with a glass and turn it into a collection of shards (preferably in a puddle of something sticky) than it is to go the other way. I am (as I’m sure you realise) refering to the arrow of time—that’s how you can tell that it’s today rather than, say, yesterday or last Thursday week: you just check on entropy and if it has increased, if there is more disorder, if things have got worse, or if Bill Gates has an even more disproportionate fraction of the world’s wealth, then you know and if you don’t then you can bet that entropy will soon come around to remind you.

Actually it wasn’t so much the from-here-to-there-ing of my return to Plano that set me off as what I did the day before I left England. I went down from London to Knockmill to visit Georgina. And that was if nothing else (and not to be too vague about it) an attempt to return to .... something or other.

Now I suppose you are asking “Who’s Georgina?” and for that matter “What’s a Knockmill?”

Ah! "The youthful Giorgione " as we used to call her, for reasons1 too obscure for even me to go into at this late date, was the great love of my life twenty-seven years ago. She was literally (and figuratively too for that matter) the girl next door, and she became in turn my model and then my girlfriend back in the heady days of the seventies when I was a photographer in Hampstead, And then ... we lost touch for many years until the mixed blessing of the internet, and now she is married with an actual husband and two children and lives in a sixteenth century house called Knockmill.

And I went to visit her and I took two of my children for the shear symmetry of it all. And I’m not sure quite what I expected, but it was a very disorienting experience, I mean entropy had taken care of turning the girl I knew into a mm.. let’s say an almost middle aged woman, but that other great determinant of the entire universe, inertia---that celestial couch potato; the tendency for things to remain the same---would quietly sneak up every so often and cause the Giorgione to get right back into the early seventies. It would be something small, a way of holding the head while sitting very straight or of moving in a certain way. And it would be as jarring as the effect on the Enterprise of Captain Kirk nipping round the sun for a bit of fun in the past. But it would always be a rather fleeting moment and almost immediately we’d be back in the less pleasant present.

Of course everyone said that I haven’t changed a bit, and I don’t think they meant it entirely as a compliment...

Cheerio for now from
Richard Howland-Bolton


1 Youthful Georgione
"... as we used to call her, for reasons too obscure" Not too obscure at all really. It's from John Betjeman's burlesque of Longfellow...
Longfellow's Visit to Venice
(To be read in a quiet New England accent)
Near the celebrated Lido where the breeze is fresh and free
Stands the ancient port of Venice called the City of the Sea.

All its streets are made of water, all its homes are brick and stone,
Yet it has a picturesqueness which is justly all its own.

Here for centuries have artists come to see the vistas quaint,
Here Bellini set his easel, here he taught his School to paint.

Here the youthful Giorgione gazed upon the domes and towers,
And interpreted his era in a way which pleases ours.

A later artist, Tintoretto, also did his paintings here,
Massive works which generations have continued to revere.

Still to-day come modern artists to portray the buildings fair
And their pictures may be purchased on San Marco's famous Square.

When the bell notes from the belfries and the campaniles chime
Still to-day we find Venetians elegantly killing time

In their gilded old palazzos, while the music in our ears
Is the distant band at Florians mixed with songs of gondoliers.

Thus the New World meets the Old World and the sentiments expressed
Are melodiously mingled in my warm New England breast.
Gerry Denn (with whom I was working at the time) and I were both somewhat ardentish about Betjeman, so I'm not sure which of us deserves the blame for this onomastical extravaganza.

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