This week I have met with two old friends, for dinner or for walking. But our conversations have been remarkably similar. It appears that my generation are reaching the sandwich time so often spoken of in magazines and Sunday supplements.
We had our children later, although not as late as many these days. We have elderly parents and other relatives who are ailing or worse. And we are trying to hold together households which are increasingly chaotic with work and child arrangements/activities. To say nothing of the social lives of the family, the pressure to help with community stuff and the maintenance of gardens and property.
Our time is at a premium. But this is the one thing which we cannot increase or reinvent. Since, say, a hundred years ago, most human lives in the West have changed beyond recognition. Labour saving devices, phones, internet, transport and travel, the homes we live in, the list is literally endless.
One of my favourite sets of books is about a Napoleonic British spy called Roger Brook. The author, Dennis Wheatley, was unbelievably skilful at weaving Roger into historical events. (Even now, I sometimes have to remind myself, when reading history from that period, that certain events were not actually brought about with the help of Roger Brook, the character was so believable.)
However, an element of the books which has always struck me is the amount of time it takes for Roger to do anything. Be it travel or post or getting clothes made or whatever, his time is so much more stretched than ours. In order to prevent himself from being unmasked, in one book he rides flat out for three or four days from Moscow to Paris. Three or four days! And that was a mad feat of horsemanship to save his own neck - it should have taken over a week. In another, he takes months to sail from England to the Caribbean. His dispatches take weeks to get to his masters.
Would our modern mindsets cope if we had to return to these times? We think we are time poor these days. Imagine if we had to allow days at a time for a business journey. Jolting along in a carriage, twiddling our thumbs. No phones or laptops to amuse us or allow us to work.
Progress is great but maybe we should value time a bit more. Instead of wishing for more hours in the day, I for one need to get better at doing what is important. None of us know truly how much time we have.