Top tips for becoming a Time Lord


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The thing is, you have to have faith in Time.

If time acts in its old familiar way, along those well-worn rails of reality, we can get a sort of trajectory going. We can say, well, if we’re standing now, according to what I know we should be roundabout here (planting an ‘x’ firmly on the temporal events map) by lunchtime.

It’s like snooker. Which I abhor, by the way, but snooker players are jolly good at trusting Time to deliver. They line up a shot; they anticipate how the little coloured balls will behave, and then they put precisely the correct amount of energy into  a rolling ball which will collide with others and set off, in all probability, a chain of little reactions to their advantage.

Perhaps that’s why so many people watch snooker. 27.1 million people are said to have viewed the game in some form in England in 2011; 3.9 million watched the 2011 World Championship Final at The Crucible, Sheffield, in the same year. It’s an English sport based in large measure on accurate anticipation of what will happen. We are watching a series of world-class time lords knock balls across a green baize table.

“To enjoy one’s life,” writes Adam Philips, author of Flirtation (London 1994) ‘one needs a belief in Time as a promising medium to do things in’.

But I am no Time Lord.

Sainsbury’s Supermarket: and there I stand, a basket full of eatables, weighing up the odds on the queues at each checkout.

This superstore, whilst being my regular one, is very close to a naughty little rat run between the M4 and the M3. Consequently, at lunch all human life arrives to select its sandwiches, and at Rush Hour the world comes to pick up its ready meals. Were I a Time Lord, I would take note of how Time behaves at this consumer cathedral. But with monotonous regularity, I arrive when everyone else does.

There must be thirty checkouts at this place, which should theoretically increase the odds in my favour considerably. Time’s trajectories should lead to an even spread of customers, all filing in an orderly fashion through time and space to reach a state where the shopping is bagged and the bill paid, and dinner on its way.

But, no.

I unfailingly choose the queue with a problem; the one with someone who is trying to pay with a Transylvanian leu, or has picked up a tub of coleslaw from which the bottom has become detached. I choose the queue with the child who flings himself on the floor for a post-aisle tantrum, or the little old lady who is counting her £20 bill out in individual pennies. I never, never anticipate successfully what is going to happen. My head is in the clouds the majority of the time, and the price for not attending to the exact science of anticipation is more time, and energy, and not inconsiderable stress.

Because you know the secret to successful anticipation? It’s spotting the patterns. Knowing enough about the world to predict what is going to happen next. As fight Club author Chuch Palahniuk put it: “What we call chaos is just patterns we haven’t recognized. What we call random is just patterns we can’t decipher.”

Still; though I am no Time Lord, I have faith in Time. The patterns of my life have shown me it is possible to have pleasure in every day, and that Time himself lays a treasure trail to be followed. I am lucky. Not everyone’s patterns are as benign as mine.

I anticipate future events with pleasurable inaccuracy.

In the words of Dr Seuss: “Oh the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball….”

“……will make you the winning-est winner of all.”


Written for Side View’s weekend challenge, anticipation, which you can find here


53 thoughts on “Top tips for becoming a Time Lord

  1. Yeah, I’m no Time Lord either…and thanks for reminding me… I should have gotten some sleep.. it’s already morning…dang!!!
    Oh well, time is irrelevant anyway…in a hundred years or so.
    Bless You

  2. I’d love to be a Time Lord, Kate, but I’m not one either. Whenever I go to Sainsbury’s, I anticipate getting the wonky trolley, which I usually do. I’m exhausted when I reach the checkout, after pushing it around for so long, trying to keep going in a straight line!

  3. Oh well, in another 100 years, we’ll be dead and can sleep all we want. Except that I plan to start replacing various body parts as needed to live at least another 200 years. By that time, we should have cured everything and our bodies will be mostly prosthetic anyway and we won’t need to go to the grocery store.

    By the way, serious studies (defined by serious folks doing serious things) have shown that the shortest line is determined not by how many goodies are in the carts, but, by the number of folks in line. Seriously, people actually get paid to do that stuff, isn’t life a hoot? 🙂

  4. I, too, always choose the wrong line. Thankfully the advent of the smartphone has made this easier. I can respond to a few blog posts, check my email, or read a Kindle book while I wait for the person in front of me to use their 100+ coupons or count out their change or whatever the holdup may be…

    1. Mobiles have made things more bearable, Carrie. Though I used to love flicking through the magazines at the checkout to find out who was going out with who on the A list…

      1. Or those dreadful “Who’s cellulite is this?” shots taken of poor celebrity females while they vacation with their families on the beach. What is wrong with the paparazzi? (I’m happy to say I’ve never opened one of those tabloids. I do my part where I can. 😉 )

      2. Ah, I speak of the inimitable ‘Hello’ Magazine. Much more refined but just as socially voracious, but no cellulite. Bit brainless.Do you have it there?

  5. Sounds like every trip to any store with a cash register somewhere in the premises. And now I can down rate the English love of queues from “love” to “tolerate”. My kind of people! 😀

      1. Stiff upper lips, keep your head down and don’t rock the boat? My life would be much if easier if I could pull that off. 😀

  6. Dr. Who, Seuss, Palahniuk? All in one? Wowzers. And this: “I unfailingly choose the queue with a problem; the one with someone who is trying to pay with a Transylvanian leu, or has picked up a tub of coleslaw from which the bottom has become detached.” Exactly that.

    I’ll leave you with perhaps my favorite Dr. Who quote, which, if you don’t already know it, may at least make you laugh in the wonky queue at Sainsbury’s: “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.”

      1. Maybe my favorite freestanding episode of the entire franchise. Adorable, sad secondary story. Super scary, great soundtrack, Carey Mulligan… And yes, Tennant is a treasure. I’m a bit of a fangirl, there.

  7. Yes, which supermarket line to pick is always the biggest, most frustrating choice to make — and I, like you, unerringly always choose the ‘wrong’ one. But, it does give me an opportunity to read the trashy magazines that I’m too snobby to buy — so I guess that’s where time is on my side. Have a great weekend, Kate.

  8. Haha! I’m always in the wrong line here, Kate, no matter the size of the line, the amount of goods in the cart, the speed of the checker. Of course, there was that time I used the self check and managed to over ring one melon and was yelled at my the self check boy! $2,000 in cantaloupe. It was pretty funny. Fun post, but, must run. Time is getting away from me.

  9. Over time, I’ve found that the more “wrong” the line . . . the more interesting its characters. It fills me with gratitude to watch, for example, a toddler having a tantrum, all the time KNOWING that we will soon be parting ways. :mrgreen:

  10. Great stuff, Kate.
    At my infant school, I was allowed to play some drums. I was going to set the world alight.
    In the event I curled into a corner

  11. but maybe the ‘well worn rails of reality’ is not reality at all 😉 I have an uncanny knack for observing and predicting what people will do next – used to drive my friends nuts – hahaha – it’s all in the observation.

  12. Heh, not only do I always choose the wrong line, but if I switch to the one that moving faster, it immediately slows down. I suspect that happens to everyone, but it always feels like I’ve been singled out for punishment.

  13. I feel your pain, i go to the supermarket so seldom that i canNOT read the patterns at all, and I always choose the wrong checkout, in fact i am so bad that the matriarch will watch me, ask which one i should join then immediately choose another..i am that bad… oh dear.. no lording it over time for me! c

    1. Ha! I love the idea of watching you to see where NOT to go 😀 I have a feeling I could give you a run for your money and choose an even worse queue than yours….but thankfully, life at the Farmy doesn’t require too much of that sort of thing…

  14. I am not a fan of queues and never choose the right one either. Thankfully my favourite shop has one queue for all the checkouts 🙂

  15. Ah, the letting go is one of the hardest lessons Kate and it appears that you’re born with the ability to let things unfold – very, very wise.

  16. This is delicious, Kate! I am a very strategic thinker, rather quick to see patterns and anticipate movement. I think of it as one strength that comes into play somehow miraculously overtaking the fact that I can also be so caught up in my own thoughts I miss the obvious. I don’t exactly know how both can be so true, but I have my own patterns, I suppose. But when it comes to time, I am a Time Lord! I would love to find a way to carry myself with the same imperious expression as the gentleman in your photo! I am going to embrace this new moniker and have some great fun with it. One secret, a very good Time Lord takes her own lunch and doesn’t bother with lines! LOL!

  17. Being somewhat fortunate (or mostly unemployed at the moment), I am able to visit places during off-times.

    Yet, I STILL choose the wrong line. The grumpy postal clerk. (That was Friday.) The traffic lane with the wreck. (Also Friday.) The faulty gas tank. (Again, Friday. What was it about Friday?)

    Maybe the lesson is that we should both avoid doing anything whatsoever on Friday……….

  18. Brilliant Kate!
    My time-lord skills are limited to avoiding crowds at tourist sites. Never works at the supermarket 🙂 And ‘Not everyone’s patterns are as benign as mine’….that IS a lot to be grateful for.

  19. And here I thought I’d be reading a Doctor Who post. I think we all need a TARDIS, frankly, so we can go back and choose the correct queue, and make up for the time I’ve frittered away doing things other than what I should be doing. And I love this line: “I anticipate future events with pleasurable inaccuracy.” That’s a beauty, Kate.

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