I came across my favourite kind of news story yesterday. You know the type – the quirky, yet fascinating, news nugget from the ‘And finally…’ jelly mould, which provides brief respite from being constantly kicked in the face by the steel capped boot of economic gloom.
I’m not talking about a toothless simpleton staring out from the pages of The Sun, proudly holding up a piece of toast adorned with the charred image of Pauline Quirke, like some kind of Turner Prize-winning artist. No, I’m talking about the kind of news story that blows my tiny mind.
- Someone’s found an inexplicable reference to Hollyoaks in the Book of Revelation!
- A palaeolithic cave painting has been discovered, with crude drawings of a Renault Espace and a Waitrose!
- Recently discovered journals belonging to Leonardo da Vinci contain detailed sketches of Angry Birds!
- A woman appears in a 1928 Chaplin film talking on a mobile phone!
That last one is true. Well, not ‘true’ exactly, but the only one I didn’t make up. The story goes that George Clarke, a 33-year-old Irish filmmaker, was watching the DVD extras on Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus, when he noticed something extremely odd in one of the scenes. The oddness in question, which George revealed to the world via YouTube, is an old lady walking through shot, yabbering away on what appears to be a mobile phone device. And for George, there seemed to be only one rational explanation: she simply had to be a time traveller.
Now, before I go any further, I know the old lady isn’t really a time traveller. Had she walked through shot with an iPad, or perhaps tossed a small metallic cube on the floor which then transformed into an anti-gravity hoverboard, George might’ve had a stronger case. But according to the world’s sceptics, who’ve spent days miserably debunking the story, it would seem more likely that the old lady was equipped with some kind of hearing aid device, like the Western Electric 34A ‘Audiophone’ carbon hearing aid, or this 1924 Siemens model. Still, I have to admit, I really wanted to believe.
I’ve got a bit of a thing for time travel. I used to love reading stories about ‘time slips’, in which someone would be wandering home from Lidl with their shopping one minute, then almost trampled to death by a cavalcade of 19th century horsemen the next. Unfortunately, no one ever seemed to do anything fantastic with their unexpected slip into another historical period. Usually, by the time the person’s disorientation had passed and they’d rued the unusual disappearance of their high street’s Abrakebabra and the local taxi rank, they found themselves back in the present day.
I’ve often fantasised about finding myself in another time, which always seems to prove the accusation that I love being the centre of attention (something I vigorously deny). Because in my ‘time slip’ fantasies, rather than wandering around a medieval hamlet in silent wonderment, I make sure that I’m surrounded by a throng of curious villagers who’ll hang on my every word. I then forewarn them about the future wars that are to blight the earth, and reveal the amazing developments in technology and medicine that are going to transform the way people live. (But mostly I just click my iPhone torch on and off, and watch my audience recoil in astonishment at the sorcery before them.)
In my fantasy, generations of villagers tell the story of the enigmatic ‘future man’ who visited, with his captivating tales and magic lightbox. Unfortunately, my mind is the only place I can have that kind of impact on people. And when I say “people” I obviously mean “imaginary villagers”.
Of course, if I could travel through time at will – let’s imagine Stephen Hawking and TomTom developed something that I could punch a date into, before leaping into a wormhole – I’d probably just go back into the recent past and tinker a little. I’d steer clear of major historical events, mind. I’d just tidy up a few wayward decisions in my own life. I’m selfish like that.
For instance, I’d warn New Year’s Day 1993 me that, not only am I heading for a kicking in a pub toilet, but my favourite Cure t-shirt is going to be practically ripped from my back (complete with comedy tear sound effect). Ha-ha!! Hilarious.
I could also remind the 1995 me to attend my final art exam at college, so that I don’t have to lie to my furious tutor that my reason for missing it is because my [perfectly healthy] grandma has suffered a massive stroke.
And I’d definitely prevent the year 2000 me from running to a female friend’s house in the pouring rain after a night out at the student union, mistakenly thinking that sex might be on the cards.
Unfortunately, she’d already gone to bed when I arrived, but one of her friends said that she’d go upstairs and wake her for me. I then sat through an entire episode of Airwolf, with her housemates eyeing me suspiciously, before I realised that she wasn’t going to make an appearance. I ended up politely excusing myself and wandering home in the early hours, periodically trying to shiver the shame and awkwardness from my body.
Of course, if I went back in time and changed all of the above, the second half of this blog post wouldn’t exist. Let’s just think about that for a moment. Nah, on second thoughts, it’s far too late for a headfuck. Nighty-night.