When the Roman poet Virgil wrote: Sed fugit interea fugit irreparabile tempus, singula dum capti circumvectamur amore, which means, “But meanwhile it flees: time flees irretrievably, while we wander around, prisoners of our love of detail”, he certainly wrote one of the truest and wisest sentences ever put to paper.
Some other unknown writer also said: ‘Time wastes our bodies and our wits, but we waste time, so we are quits’.
It was at the weekend that the point was truly driven home to me by a simple act of mine whilst at the golf club. A man and child appeared by the putting green and as I have always done, I took a coloured golf ball and handed it to the child who was aged about four. The man, whom I guessed was the boy’s father, began to laugh aloud. I asked “You don’t mind me giving it to him, do you?” He again laughed, and then amid the chuckles said “No Paddy, not at all. It is just that I can remember you giving me one when I was his age”. It was then that I recognized him from many years ago – the best part of 20 odd years. We laughed about it, and then I realised that I have been doing the same to all the young children for many, many years.
Where on earth did all those years go?
That little instance set me on a train of thought that brought back some wonderful memories.
A few years before I retired from the police service I was Custody Sergeant at my North London station. A young female officer came into the Charge Room with a prisoner. I did not recognize the officer but knew that there were some new Probationers just starting that week. I asked “What have you got officer?” She replied “Drunk and disorderly Mr. Wicklowmick”. “No officer” I smiled and replied “Not Mr.; it is Sergeant”. She blushed and replied “Sorry Mr. Wicklowmick, I mean Sergeant”. I looked at her and thought I recognized her as she was looking at me as if she knew who I was.
I asked “Do I know you officer?” She replied “Yes, I used to live close to the park at the back of your house and my sister and your daughter used to play with me”. Suddenly the years rolled back and I could clearly see a child of about four or five dragging her little fluffy toy through the long grass whilst her sister and my daughter did their best to lose her. “You know something Mr. Wicklowmick” she spoke quietly “You were the reason I became a police officer, you were always very nice to me”.
God only knows where the twenty odd years had flown since I last saw her but she was now a fine looking woman and taller than myself.
Age has a strange way of catching up on a person. I am now in my early seventies in fact but still (thank God), have a mental age of about thirty-six. At least that is most of the time. I can still walk three rounds of golf every week plus a couple of long walks in the countryside. It is different at certain times, especially if I get caught in the rain when the old bones creak and stiffen-up. It is then that I not only feel my age but think of what it must be like to be a hundred years old.
Still…I have a good brain – if I say so myself – and an excellent recall. My memory slips every now and again but when I think about it, that is nothing new. I put my health down to having given up all alcohol over thirty years ago. Had I not done so I am convinced that I would have been dead many years ago.
I still try to see beauty all around me. I love to see the daffodils begin to sprout in early spring. The arrival of the first swallow and cuckoo brings unbelievable joy to me year after year. Wild animals of the forest cheer my heart whenever I see them. I see beauty in the trees, the rivers, the lakes and all around me when I am out in the countryside. Someone once said to me that I am one of the few golfers who play on the course with my eyes open. I suppose he meant that I see the wildlife and fauna as it changes from season to season. I consider myself to be a very lucky man indeed.
That is not to say that I have not seen hunger, poverty, disaster, cruelty and such throughout my life. I have seen much more than the majority of people. I have known sadness, heartache and pain throughout those same years. However, the beauty that surrounds me from day to day brings sanity into what I know to be an insane world. Again I thank my God for such ability.
I actually feel great sadness for those who cannot do so.
So just to finish up;I now have my two grandsons to ‘teach’ what my country Grandfather taught me all those years ago. The notes of the different songbirds; the names of the various wild plants and flowers; manners; and above all else respect for others, irrespective of their race, colour or creed.
And just to think, all this was brought on by the simplest of actions over the weekend – the giving of a yellow golf ball to a small child. I wonder if he will remember it in thirty year’s time as did his father.