I am shocking at losing time. This week, I mislaid an entire day. It was as if it had fallen down the back of the sofa.
I am not certain I even understand time. It is a human construct. But it is also a physical reality – the sun rises and sets, the hours and days move on. Yet it is not set in stone. I heard a scientist talking on the radio the other day about experiments with time, which prove that it is not quite the fixed mark one might think. (I found this oddly disconcerting.)
It also has a psychological aspect. When one is engaged or challenged or enjoying oneself, time can seem to disappear. There is a word for this – it is called flow, and is often presented as a sign of ultimate happiness. The idea is that one should do something which is difficult enough to require the full attention of the human brain, but at which one is skilled enough to perform well. It was first identified when contemplating artists becoming so lost in their work that they forgot to eat or sleep.

Conversely, when a person is stuck with a bore, time can stretch gloomily to the horizon, with no end in sight, as the life force drains from the body. In my own life, I find two particular aspects of time especially startling. One is how a mere six minutes can seem like a lifetime. This happens when I am watching a three mile chase in which one of my favourite horses is running. The minutes slow and stretch, the seconds go into stop motion, as I stare between trembling fingers. At Cheltenham, with its murderous hill, a finish can seem to go on forever, as I bawl and yell, willing a brave galloper to hold on, hold on, repel all boarders, find the line.


The diametrical opposite is true when I have a huge amount to do. At the moment, I am working on a second draft of a book, with a deadline looming. I am doing voluntary work for HorseBack UK, which is virtually a second job. There are also always at least two secret projects cooking on the back burner. This is before I've even thought about the ordinary logistics of domestic life, and walking the dog, and schooling the horse. In this case, time puts its sprinting shoes on. I can almost hear the whoosh and dash as it whistles past my ears. Where did it go? The light fades and dies, mocking me, as the day motors towards its end and my To Do list still has eight forlorn items on it. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, I say to myself; tomorrow I shall sharpen up and get all the things done which must be done. It is a taunting dream.
I sometimes wish there was a practical manual for life, a handbook I could consult. There are some aspects of existence which I understand, and others which remain baffling. I should have figured it all out by now, I think, crossly, in this advanced middle age.

If there were such a manual, it should have as its first and most vital chapter: The Art of Time Management. I would love to have that encoded in my muscle memory. As it is, I muddle on, hurrying and juggling and looking over my shoulder, where those fleeting, lost hours huddle together, laughing at me. One day, I think, in a dream future, I shall have the measure of the temporal. One day.