The Meerkat Muse – 28/7/21

Do you know what time it is?

Hey y’all!

Time is a pertinent subject. The passage of time has been on my mind a lot lately, for a variety of reasons.

Going Up

On the 15th my daughter finished her time with junior school. From the moment she started nursery to the 15th of July, she has been with the same group of friends in the same place, and now that’s finished. My daughter has a tendency to take many things in her stride, and doesn’t seem the least bit fazed by by the end of her time in junior school. Then again, that kind of thing hasn’t usually bothered her. If anything, the next step, in September, is more likely to bother her, and by extension, me.

Senior school is a pretty major transition at the best of times, but after a year and a half of disrupted education thanks to covid, it’s hard to imagine how it will feel. I worry about how my daughter will adapt to all the changes that come with a fairly dramatic shift in lessons and learning. Maybe my own memories of senior school are giving me pause. I can say only that my time at senior school was mixed, and I hope my daughter’s experience is not going to be too stressful of a change.

Moving On

Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back. Harvey Mackay

Time marches onward, relentlessly. I will be forty soon(ish). If we go by typical life expectancies, that’s about half of my allotted time on this earth gone. It’s a sobering thought. As a kid, and as a teen, I yearned for adulthood, yet sometimes, wouldn’t it be nice to rewind the clock, at least a little? Especially knowing the things I know now… but then, haven’t we all had that thought?

Time links into something else. Mortality. Our time on earth is finite. Compared to the lifetime of the universe we are not even a blink. We have so little time to accomplish all we want to achieve. Am I heading for a mid-life crisis where I dissect my personal history, my highs and my lows, and wonder if I get to call myself a good person who’s used his time wisely up till now? I don’t think I’m that neurotic, at least not yet, but a few philosophical thoughts keep recurring.

For example, what waits for us after we die? Reconciling the raw facts and the observable universe leads to an uncomfortable conclusion. Is death final? Is the sum of all our experiences lost to the ether, our lives held only in the memories of those who knew us? Or is there something beyond that curtain, and if so, what?

Tied into all of that, are questions about how we even exist. Everything that has happened can be explained through logical and rational means – yet there are still unanswered notions. How did the universe come into being? How did ‘nothing’ become something? What, if anything, existed before the universe, in order to create the universe?

I know, this is all very deep for a Meerkat Muse, but these are the thoughts and questions plaguing me lately. Normal service will resume shortly.

Speaking of Normal…

As of the 14th of July the UK had a 7-day average of nearly 35,000 new covid-19 cases. Despite this, Johnson and his government are still pressing ahead with ‘Freedom Day‘ on the 19th of July, when most remaining pandemic rules will be eased. People will not be required to wear masks and large groups can start to gather again in public places. Businesses will be encouraged to end work-from-home schemes and get people back into offices. Covid cases are rising rapidly, thanks to the Delta variant (which spread like wildfire because the government failed to act in time to prevent it from doing so), and the likelihood of more variants seems high. Yes, a lot of people have been vaccinated (52% of the population have been fully vaccinated as of the 14th, and most have had at least one dose), but there are still a lot of people who are vulnerable to this disease, and mutations could render the vaccine programme useless.

‘We will rely on the judgement of the British public’. Good luck with that. For many, as soon as masks are not mandated they will be ditched. As soon as conferences, concerts, conventions and other gatherings are back on the table, people will attend in droves, without practicing any basic common sense measures. Everyone is sick to death of this pandemic and we all want to return to normal, but the virus isn’t going to get tired. Johnson and the Tories want to do this for the appearance of a big win (which after the very public slamming they’ve taken from high-profile footballers over racism and competence, they sorely need). Their ‘win’ will ultimately cost yet more lives.

Also, can we please stop calling this ‘Freedom Day’? The idea is absurd. We never lost our freedoms. We could still speak freely. We could still vote. The purpose of lockdowns and all the measures we’ve been asked to do during this pandemic has been to save lives, not to curtail our freedoms. Calling it ‘Freedom Day’ makes it sounds like the government is liberating us. They’re not. They want kudos where none is deserved. They’re desperate for good publicity, not what’s actually good for the country.


I’m acutely aware that soon, my book, The Awakening, will have been out there for a whole year. It hasn’t sold well, but I hadn’t expected it to. The new, revised version is out… now! The existing links on the site should direct you to it, if you are so inclined to check out new sci-fi. My hope is that the new version is superior to the original in virtually every way. Time will tell.

That Which Annoys…

I’ve ruminated on a few occasions how everyone should spend a year or two working in retail. Not only would everyone learn patience, they’d also learn to see the other side of the story. For example, parents might make more of an effort to control their kids when out shopping. The showroom is not a playground, yet some parents will let their children run riot, with no consideration for staff or other customers. We’re not responsible for your child’s safety, and anything your kids damage is on you.

I do understand that kids, especially younger ones, get bored easily in places like a bathroom showroom. I’m not oblivious to the challenge of keeping children entertained whilst out and about. That being said, letting my daughter freely roam a shop, without supervision, would never be an option to me.

What do you see?

The other morning my wife burst out laughing whilst sorting out breakfast. I walked into the kitchen to be confronted by… Well, say what you see!

An Ugly Underbelly

In the wake of a trio of black England players missing penalties in the shootout to decide whether England or Italy were crowned European champions, England experienced a surge in racism. I had argued passionately on sports forums that England fans had greatly improved their behaviour in recent years; the stuff witnessed in the fallout of Euro 2020 has forced me to review my own words.

Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka do not deserve the abuse they have received. Penalties are a lottery, and on a different day they’d be heroes for scoring them. Instead some truly vile trolls and miscreants have reared their ugly heads, exposing themselves for what they really are. Sadly, this appears to be a greater issue than many – myself included – would like to believe. I don’t believe we’re dealing with a majority – far from it – but the minority is larger than we’d previously considered.

This flame has been fanned by government ministers who’d previously bemoaned taking the knee as ‘virtue signalling’. Home Secretary Priti Patel went as far as to say England fans had every right to boo the gesture their own players took part in, at every single game of the tournament. After the trolling of Rashford, Sancho and Saka on social media, she and PM Johnson were quick to denounce the incidents, yet encouraging people to boo an anti-racism gesture seems counter-intuitive for someone claiming to criticise racist behaviour.

Thankfully some high-profile personalities have spoken out quite strongly against this pathetic dishonest government. Whilst I may loathe Gary Neville the ex-Manchester United player, I admire Gary Neville the man for his use of his platform. He branded Boris Johnson a liar, and rightly so, over the PM’s statements about taking the knee. England defender Tyrone Mings called out Priti Patel over her hypocrisy, following the conclusion of the tournament and her statements on racism. England’s players had been invited to meet the PM but it’s believed they collectively declined, a bold statement.

People will ask ‘why take a knee?’ People don’t like it because it makes them uncomfortable. They want a form of protesting racism and social injustice that doesn’t make them shuffle awkwardly in their seats. They want something they can overlook or gloss over, something they don’t have to confront. In other words, protests about racism should be quiet and not make waves, lest they offend the white man. That’s all the more reason to take the knee and be loud in highlighting the problem of racism. I applaud the footballers who have stood up to the trashy Tories, and we need more of that.

Bringing the Heat (and Hail)

There’s been a recent surge in hot weather, rising to some uncomfortable levels. I’ve yearned for bright sunshine and I’m grateful for it, though the pattern of work and busy afternoons hasn’t truly allowed me to appreciate it. The short-term forecast looks like slighter cooler temperatures and some cloudy, wet days, but nothing can compare to the hail of the 20th.

The squeal at the end? That’s my wife surprising me. I squeal a lot.

Cat Café Version 2

Recall from a previous Muse a trip to London to visit a cat café? Well, it turns out there is one a lot closer to home, in Southend. We took a visit on the 22nd and discovered a quaint little venue with many a friendly cat! Along the way we also found a number of hares, scattered about the town.

It was a fairly exhausting experience, given we did a great deal of walking and given the heat, but it’s always nice to have a family day out!

A sphinx cat is not something I can ever recall meeting up close before. Despite appearances the skin felt very velvety!

Home away from Home

I’m a Basildon lad, but I was raised in Stevenage. The town will always hold a special place in my heart, and returning – for whatever reason – always feels like a nice moment. When I go home it’s to Basildon, but Stevenage is the town that shaped me. It’s where I forged several important friendships and I have family there.

These are some of my old stomping grounds, places I walked as a kid. It’s always a bit surreal to see these places through adult eyes, removed from the town for several years. I will always have a home in Stevenage, no matter where I go.

To swing back to the idea of time, on Sunday we had a family lunch at a pub, The Three Horseshoes, that my Mum and Dad used to take my brother and I to quite regularly as kids. Back then the pub garden had swings, climbing frames and slides, and a big field to play football on, as well hutches for chickens, ducks, and other animals, along with a small pond. The pond remains, as seen in the pictures above, and terrapins have made it their home, but the playground is gone.

Time has moved forward and transformed the place, as it has the old family home and the town I grew up in. Then again, the town I live in has undergone changes since I started living here. I guess with Basildon it feels a little different, for witnessing the development of the town in real time makes it less jarring than it would otherwise be. In the case of Stevenage I’m catching up on things that are brand new to me but years old to the town.

Still, that’s time for you. It does not stop, or slow down, no matter how much we wish we could control it. Mastery of time is something human beings have craved since we first evolved, be it on an individual level, or a universal level. We want to halt our ageing. We want to go back and see people we’ve lost, or go forward and see what marvels potentially await. Who knows, maybe one day we will travel through time, or slow down or even reverse ageing. If we ever achieve such feats we’ll have new philosophical questions to wrestle with.

I’ve been far too thoughtful with this Muse. I’ll do better next time, I promise! Until then, stay safe, look after each other, and I will see you again soon!

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