There’s noth­ing wrong with rose-coloured glasses

‘Fam­ily leg­end has it that one Christ­mas my present to my sis­ter con­sisted of a soli­tary pen­cil. Fam­ily leg­end also has it that she pulled me off a bunk bed and broke my arm’

Cotswold Life - - NEWS - EMMA SAMMS

They say: “If age teaches you any­thing, it’s that days are long and years are short”. I par­tic­u­larly agree with this when I’m clean­ing the house, sit­ting on a train or do­ing my taxes. But when I’m do­ing some­thing fun, like paint­ing a pic­ture or read­ing a good book, then days are short too, which is an­noy­ing.

Why is it that time whizzes by faster and faster as we get older? Just when we’re in a po­si­tion to ap­pre­ci­ate things more, when we fi­nally know our­selves well enough to iden­tify the things we ac­tu­ally like and not feel obliged to do the things we feel we should like, then there’s barely time to do them.

Fifty years ago, when this mag­a­zine was launched, I was seven years old. Just one les­son at school seemed to last for­ever. A year was an unimag­in­able pe­riod of time. Lives could be trans­formed in a year. My sib­lings and I seemed to prove this point as there’s noth­ing like los­ing the last of your baby teeth and grow­ing two inches in height to mark the pas­sage of another year.

I was the sec­ond of five chil­dren. Six­teen months younger than my sis­ter Louise, she and I shared a room for more than 10 years. Now, be­fore I tell you the fol­low­ing sto­ries, I must re­as­sure you that Louise and I are and al­ways have been each other’s most loyal sup­port­ers. Even when we were at dif­fer­ent board­ing schools we would keep in touch by post and to this day I still have many of the funny, en­cour­ag­ing and beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated let­ters she wrote to me. But fam­ily leg­end has it that one Christ­mas my present to her con­sisted of a soli­tary pen­cil. Fam­ily leg­end also has it that she pulled me off a bunk bed and broke my arm. She also gave me a hair­cut, when we were aged three and four that in­volved cut­ting off my bunches at the rib­bon and my fringe at my scalp. I liked my new look, I re­mem­ber. My mother, of course, not so much.

We all know that the pas­sage of time can skew our rec­ol­lec­tions, so sto­ries of an al­leged sib­ling ri­valry, whilst much en­joyed (more by me than by my sis­ter, no doubt) were all taken with a pinch of salt un­til just last week when we sat down to watch some pre­vi­ously un­seen fam­ily films. In the space of 15 min­utes there was grainy, cel­lu­loid ev­i­dence of a slap and a hearty poke, both from my sis­ter to me. I an­nounced that I could hereby rest my case. I still con­test the ‘Pen­cil for Christ­mas’ claim though, which re­mains un­proven.

My fam­ily ac­tu­ally has a name for sto­ries that morph through time. Any story that has been ex­ag­ger­ated or added to for dra­matic ef­fect has been ‘Wool-shopped’. This goes back to the shop that my grand­mother had for many years in Shore­ham-by-sea. It was pre­dom­i­nantly a wool shop but I have very strong mem­o­ries of some of the other stock that she car­ried: hang­ing from the ceil­ing was a selec­tion of unimag­in­ably large bras. To this day, I have never seen such enor­mous, util­i­tar­ian and frankly fright­en­ing un­der­wear. But it was my grand­mother’s skill at telling a story that stays with me the most. Be­fore her shop-keep­ing days she had been a suc­cess­ful ac­tress in si­lent films and had a lot of good sto­ries to tell about that. But even the most mun­dane tale could be funny or dra­matic in her hands and would ac­tu­ally get more so with each telling.

But we all do it. It’s hu­man na­ture to ‘wool-shop’ a story. Like­wise we con­struct rose­c­oloured glasses to help soothe trou­ble­some mem­o­ries, but what is the ex­pla­na­tion for the feel­ing of time ac­cel­er­at­ing as we get older? There aren’t any ob­vi­ous ad­van­tages to that, surely? Sci­en­tists say it’s sim­ply a mat­ter of per­cent­ages. A year feels like a long time when we’re five years old as that amounts to 20% of our life so far. At the age of 50 it’s only 2% and our per­cep­tions ad­just ac­cord­ingly.

So we shouldn’t worry about reach­ing an age where time whizzes by. We should just feel pleased with our­selves for get­ting that far. As this mag­a­zine should too. Bravo Cotswold Life! It’s been my priv­i­lege to write one of your col­umns for 4% of your 50 years. And I’ll try to keep the ‘wool-shop­ping’ to a min­i­mum, I prom­ise.

Above: Emma and Louise

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