Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Time travel

When they were but youngsters, my children liked to watch Dr Who on the television.  The good doctor was (and still is as the programme is still running) described as a Time Lord, somebody with the ability to travel through both space and time.  I'm not sure that the children who comprise the audience either then or now actually believe in the possibility of travelling through time, but hey! nothing is impossible.  At least, that is what Napoleon said, according to a French electrician from whom I was seeking a quotation for some work.  But that's another story.

The quotation (Napoleon's, not for the work) does bring to mind one of the most interesting museum's I have visited in France.  Actually, to call it a museum is a tad inaccurate.  It is actually the house where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last years of his life, the Château du Clos Lucé at Amboise.  On one floor of the house are scale models of many of Leonardo's inventions, while in the grounds some of those inventions have been constructed in full size.  Among them are what might be described as a machine gun and a tank, while Leonardo drew plans also for a parachute and a helicopter. Remember, this was 500 years ago!

If Leonardo could "invent" things like a helicopter 500 years ago, who is to say that time travel will not be possible at some stage in the future?  In one way, time travel is already with us.  After all, the light from some distant planets and stars takes several years - even hundreds or thousands of years - to reach us.  Is it not possible that some form of sentient life on one of those distant planets could have invented a very powerful telescope and might even now be watching Custer's Last Stand or the Battle of Agincourt?

Now I come to think of it, it is already possible for us to travel backwards through time.  When we come back from France, we leave Calais at, for example, 8.00pm but as the journey takes just 35 minutes, we arrive in England at 7.25pm - before we have left France!

But if time travel were available to us, what period would I like to visit?  And should I go backwards or forwards?  I'm not at all sure that I would want to travel forwards and risk seeing what a mess my generation made of things, so perhaps my journey would be back through history.  There are most certainly some periods and events I would want to avoid: the Roman empire at its cruel height, building the pyramids in Egypt, the Black Death.  None of these seem suitable for even a short visit.  Perhaps a glimpse of California at the time of the gold rush, or the English countryside during a fine summers day in the mid-1930s?

Of course, what I would want would be modern comforts while I just observe life going on.  In that case, watching the pyramids being built would be no problem, so long as I am not one of the slave labourers!

But maybe, just maybe, I'll stick with what I know - the present day.


It's haymaking time.  Not quite the sort of thing that Constable would have seen, but this is what it looks like nowadays on the South Downs.

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