It doesn’t take a genius to tell us that time is relative. Travelling to the Annual London Alumni Cross Country race in Wimbledon to support our team last weekend, I noted that the imperceptible time that it takes for someone to press the ‘open’ button on the train door as you are about to alight at a station is judged to be critical by the travelling public.

Human reaction is about one tenth of a second which is about as much time as you’re allowed to press ‘open’ before those immediately behind you start tutting. This tutting rises to a crescendo of huffing and puffing, so much so that the Three Little Pigs would stand no chance even if their house was made of the finest Yorkshire stone.

If you’re reactions are slow because you are elderly, infirm, or hungover, well I’m afraid that cuts little mustard. If you don’t press that button quick enough you end up squashed against the glass window of the door by a surging tide of humanity that is eager to alight.

I arrived at Wimbledon Common just as our team was limbering up, dressed in their smart and clean running vests. However such attire reveals the upper arm and shoulders and while the ‘girls’ understand the importance of an even tan, I’m afraid the ‘boys’ had, in the main, brown forearms, and were otherwise as white as a sheet. Just like wearing socks with no trousers this was not a good look. I suggested they take a roll in the mud to take on a more uniform appearance but as usual my advice was ignored.

Having taken the team photo the race was started and they soon disappeared into the woods. I waited by the finish line with the large digital clock ticking away. To while away the minutes I rummaged through all the wallets people had left with me for safe keeping but it proved to be a disappointing and fruitless exercise as no one uses cash anymore.

However it wasn’t long before runners started to appear in the distance. Many of the leaders were wearing an OS vest and soon members of our team were crossing the finishing line. It was Norman Berry (SH 57-62) who brought up the rear. Now in his seventies it was a sterling effort. As he approached the finish, others of our team joined him as by now his face was contorted with the agony of every step. I was greatly sorry to see him in such pain, but at the same time filled with optimism for the Inter-Alumni Gurning Competition in January.

Our team did well. The girls won the inaugural women’s race and the boys came second. We celebrated in the Green Man before heading to James Robertson’s (E 87-93) London Steakhouse where we were hosted in magnificent surroundings. The girls drank bubbly from the newly won cup, ignoring the taste of metal polish and countless unwashed hands which had handled it as it had been passed around. It was a great evening, and a great day.

As I made my way home I pondered the contrast between the second or two it takes to open a train door, and which feels like a millennia, and the day spent with kindred spirits which flew by so quickly. I thought to myself, it’s not time itself, but how we spend it, that’s important.

But that’s not quite true. It’s how we give our time that really matters. It was upon this epiphany that I was resolved to delve into my own Emporium of Time to see what I could spare for others this Christmas; my family, naturally, but also friends whom I never see because ‘life gets in the way’ or elderly relatives who long for company but never like to impose.

So I will be busy this Christmas. I hope likewise you find time to share with those who matter to you. And as always I will raise a glass to you all as I sit with my family, my long lost friends, and elderly relatives, gathered around the warmth of a Christmas table.

Cheers all, and a most Merry Christmas.

Jan van der Velde
OS Club Chairman