Thursday, October 2, 2014
Could it be? Or have I been watching too much of the Big Bang Theory and Sheldon's endless theorizing about the possibility of time travel?
I have - maybe you've noticed - this little habit of making gifs out of YouTube videos - the shorter the better (which is why some of the gorgeous ones I made tonight wouldn't post - they were probably way too long). I found some stunning footage taken in London around 1900, in an era where the horse was the main mode of transportation, women wore corsets and skirts to the ground, and men were always properly attired in dark suits, overcoats and bowler hats (top hats for more formal occasions).
The uniformity of dress is one of the more remarkable aspects of these tiny visual time machines (along with the eerie three-dimensional quality of the ancient film: how did they ever achieve such an effect, or was it somehow pulled out of the depths of the antique silver nitrate by digital restoration and HD?). The aspect of the people, their facial expressions and formal bodily postures, reveal how very different these times were. Again and again I see women wearing a sort of uniform: a white blouse, often with puffy sleeves,which they called a shirtwaist, and a long dark skirt. The waist is so small that it's plain it didn't get that way on its own. Hair is piled atop the head with pins, and going without a hat is simply unthinkable.
Men are similarly hatted. Even poor blokes could afford an old battered one. A straw boater didn't cost you much, did it? To go about hatless - well, it was simply disrespectful, almost criminal. At the very least, it was suspicious.
As this three-second snippet of time on Blackfriars Bridge (first gif) endlessly repeats itself, we see carriages going by in a kind of dreamy haze, and people walking along the bridge - a woman all in black, a widow perhaps, walking in that stiff-spined way corseted women were forced to walk. Behind her is a couple so properly attired that they could have been cut out of a magazine.
But who's this out front? Who's this bloke, not very visible at first because he's walking beside the carriage (wagon?) - the one pulling his left hand out of his pocket and looking right at the camera (bloody sauce!)? He's wearing a fine enough coat, and he walks as if he owns the bridge, with a sort of swaggering stride.
Where's he going, then, that he should be walking (hatless!) with such an important air? Who does he think he is?
I'll tell you who *I* think he is.
He is not of his time.
He's from Somewhere Else. More specifically, he's from Now. Whether he projected himself into the past (meaning he's in two places at once: hey, quantum physics tells us it's a cinch, and the saints have been managing it for centuries) or just jumped, bodily, with his whole being, I KNOW this guy did not belong in Edwardian England striding, bareheaded and insouciant, across Blackfriars bloody Bridge back in 1896.
Looking more closely - and it's too bad I can't get a tight closeup of such a grainy figure - it may be that he isn't even wearing a tie. No one went without a tie unless they were in hospital - in a lunatic asylum, I mean. He just sort of flaps along without a care, so informal as to alarm the passersby.
If you plucked out any of the other figures and plunked them down in modern society, we'd think, oh, how lovely, there must be an Edwardian exhibition at the museum. Or something. If you plunked HIM down, no one would pay him any notice.
BECAUSE HE IS NOT OF HIS TIME.
He is not of 1896, he is of "now", which means that he knows things. Why do you think progress accelerated so wildly in the 20th century? Was it seeded by these blokes from the future (their future, I mean - this time shit is full of slippery concepts and paradox).
What shall we call him? Roger? How did he get back there? Is he from OUR future, when time travel really does exist? Why don't we see time travellers walking around in the here and now? The only ones I've ever met believe in conspiracy theories and wear hats made of tin foil.
Roger will ever remain a mystery, breezing along the bridge 117 years ago. Not one atom of him would remain - not in a normal time-line, I mean. In truth, Roger may be walking around right now. The other Roger, the parallel one? My brain aches - a drowsy numbness pains my sense - and it's definitely time to go to bed.
Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book
It took me years to write, will you take a look