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Precious Time

by Victoria Garside

My Mother recently stumbled across some of my writing from around 8 or 10 years ago, which I thought I would share with you all. I wrote it once upon a time after a train journey that I took regularly between Kettering and London after visiting the family.

— * —

We’ve all been there.

The busy restaurant where everyone seems to get their food before you, while you sit there, dangerously close to running out of conversation, writhing in your seat with hunger pangs and complaining to the waitress about how famished you are.

The train that stops half way between Luton and London St Pancras and remains motionless for over an hour, with just the classic “signal failure” line to explain your delay.

The promise of an early finish on a Friday afternoon… and then the phone rings. It’s that big client from America (do they not understand time difference!?!) and they want to chew your ear off for an hour about 1001 ways to present a spreadsheet for Monday’s meeting.

Or how about the tedious 81 minutes we have all endured to watch The Blair Witch Project at the cinema? We’ve all been there, right?

“That’s an hour of my life I’m never getting back!” we tweet or post on facebook.

These days though, unlike the usual wave of sympathetic replies to lift you up out of your dark bottomless hole of self-pity, you’re now more likely to become a subject of ridicule from your mates. You’ve all heard the latest viral saying: “That’s such a First World Problem”. And oh how we love sarcasm!!

Having spent a stint of time trying to live like a local in Malawi, the first and hardest part of my initiation into African life was just to learn the art of slowing downnnn… Marching around the local village with the Londoner’s ‘Quick Step’ looked and felt more than a little bit odd. The public transport made Midland Mainline’s “signal failure” delay seem like an hour of R&R! The conversation always went the same…

“How far to the next town?”, I’d say.

“One hour. Just one hour!”, he’d say.

Seven hours later we’d arrive…

“I thought you said one hour!?”, I’d protest.

“You’re on African time now…” was always the response.

And on African time I learnt to be. And it felt great!

Obviously, I’m not suggesting that we all rock up seven hours late to work from now on. But I do highly recommend a little injection of African time into our weekend schedules. What’s our continuous hurry anyway? And really, what is an hour when you’ve still got the rest of your life?

Let’s crunch some numbers.

In the average hour, 840 children will die from poverty, hunger and preventable diseases.

3hrs is the average time spent walking everyday across Africa, just to get some clean water.

In an average day, almost half the population of the planet (over 3 billion people) will earn under £6 for a full days work.

Now to rewind… I’m back on the train, stranded between Luton and London St Pancras. In the one hour I wait, I pop to the dining cart and grab a complimentary cup of tea – don’t mind if I do! I buy a sandwich and a packet of crisps for £6.50 – barely stings my wallet, and pop to the bathroom on the way back to my seat. Still moaning to my fellow passenger next to me, I begrudgingly shove my headphones in my ears and pine away the hour listening to the latest beats, and manically updating my facebook via iPhone to keep everyone who’s anyone informed about the trials and tribulations of a day in the life of me. Robbed of an hour of my life… Seriously!?!

Was the hour really that bad??

Next time you are kicking and screaming about waiting in a queue at the supermarket for ten minutes, only for the cashier to close her station when you get to the front; or furiously lane-hopping to try and outsmart the M1 traffic on your drive home; please spare a thought for what an hour means to other people around the world. Then breathe, take a chill pill, and get over yourself!

It’s just one hour. Don’t be a First World Complainer!

V x

Photo Credit: “Whiternoise – St Pancras International, Clock” by Joshua Veitch-Michaelis from Leamington Spa, England (Flickr)

About Victoria Garside

Victoria Garside is a British ex pat who works in the event and staging industry based in Sydney. A keen writer and blogger, Victoria made her way from England to Australia by first cramming in a wealth of travel and adventure, which took her from the capitals of Europe through the jungles of South America, the recuperation of South-East Asia and the gut wrenching (but life changing) world as a volunteer in central Africa. The result has been a rich life experience and, in early 2013, Victoria founded Developing Worlds Online (DW Online).