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Today I imagined myself as a man who could lick time. Every nanosecond throbbing gently against my tongue in the manner of a fine, grainy liquid, not unlike a cheap protein shake. I sat there, licking, noticing only as the past and future swirled together and collided on the tip.

They say, apocryphally, that the tongue is divided into five major segments, each with its own unique taste receptor: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and the recently uncovered umami, from a Japanese word meaning savoury. When I licked time, what I tasted was death. I think that falls under salty.

Slurping away at individual hours, I felt them wash over the inside of my mouth and lips. Noon on the fourteenth of June, nineteen ninety-seven was particularly tangy. My tongue became overwhelmed with moments, like the sensation you get from a fizzy sherbet only more intense and less artificial.

Moments, devouring my tongue. Every globule of saliva encrusted with every minute of my childhood spent figuring out cheese (I did). Or the evening I rode a bicycle backwards to see if my thighs would hurt less (they didn’t). Or the weekend I did a jigsaw where every piece was identical. All of them like infinitesimal maggots crawling in the flesh of my tongue.

I imagined booths where the public could sit and lick a scientifically concentrated form of time by appointment. At first, entire calendars and diaries would be pulped and transformed into a lickable formula which would be pumped into the booths. Shortly after that, log books would be kept saying how long people licked for, and then that information would be fed back into the booths for the next person to lick, and so on. It would be the first ever self-sustaining time-based commodity.

Soon vending machines and vans would dispense time on a stick and replace ice-cream as the primary item designed for licking. The beauty of mass-produced time products, unlike ice-cream, would be that each person would take as long to lick them as the next, in accordance with the principles of relativity. Children, who have experienced almost no time at all due to not being alive for very long, would take more time to lick each fragment, while the elderly, who have experienced more time than they can handle, would spend hardly any time on their respective individual pieces of the frozen temporal substance.

Once time had been converted into a lickable state, it would be only a matter of itself that it would be used as fuel. The past is accelerating away from us at precisely the same speed as the future accelerates towards us, and so it made sense to put that in cars. As I licked and licked I imagined people driving their vehicles as the time they’d put in them would be gradually running out.

And of course, where there is fuel, there is war. At some point, The United States of America would try to invade the estate of Albert Einstein in order to gain a stranglehold on the source of our contemporary conception of time, but they would be too late.

It was all drawing me ever nearer to the realisation that change was irrevocable and inevitable and everything moves slowly forward and you can't go back and it doesn’t matter when our lives end because there will always be things you'll never do. The more I licked, the harder this epiphany flooded my mouth.

I kept it up for a while until, eventually, I looked down at my watch and saw that I had wasted yet another afternoon aimlessly pondering and also remembered my watch wasn't waterproof and so it shouldn't have been in my mouth that long. I guess that means it's time to get a new watch.

I only hope the new one tastes less salty.





Ah, winter.

The dark months. The dank moths. The cold, the shivers, the heating bills. The season of contracting diseases and metal. It’s the quarter of the year where we’re allowed to feel bad without a more reasonable excuse. “Oh, it’s winter,” we pout, “which is an unhappy time,” we pout, “therefore my unhappiness is inherently forgiven,” we pout once more, without stopping to consider the overarchingly dreary state of the other three quarters of our lives. Or maybe it’s a blood pressure thing, where the decrease in barometric pressure during winter plays havoc with your veins. I think I heard that on QI. However, chances are that you’re feeling miserable and lonely regardless of the weather. Though that could just be me.

If, like me, you are struggling to get through the wintriness of JunJulAug despite it barely having started, remind yourself that things can only get hotter (and then, again, colder). Yes, with the coldness of winter comes the dialectic counterpart of (a necessity for) heat. My favourite thing to do in winter is saw the legs off broken chairs and throw them in fireplaces, preferably burning ones. There’s nothing like the flammability of wooden furniture to instil in you a sense of your own eventual demise. At least the chair had two purposes - sitting and warmth - as opposed to you, who, meanwhile, seem to be stagnating in uselessness. Suddenly, you realise that the low temperatures of winter are just extra incentives to create your own warmth and your own energy, which are a clunky metaphor for self-fulfilment and personal meaning, and things are alright again. Then discard all that when it’s spring because it’s now irrelevant.

It’s far too easy to overromanticise the colder months. That brooding melancholy that accompanies storms and snow can too quickly be mistaken for depth when it’s really just the sky doing a piss. Winter is summer’s goth cousin - it’s not intrinsically more interesting, but at least it hides that beneath layers of darkness. But it’s important not to reject it, either. Is there really that much to dread about winter? A bit of dread can be good for your soul - it keeps you alive while wishing you weren’t. Winter is recognisably much maligned, usually by people who believe beaches are the pinnacle of modern entertainment and use tan as a form of currency. These people wish they were migratory birds, abandoning the cold to live in an eternal estival festival, forgetting that, unlike birds, we can put on more clothes and boil our own water.

Truly there is nothing better or worse about winter than there is about any other season, unless you particularly love or hate jackets. Personally, I love jackets, as they’re an easy way to make yourself look more stylish, though only if they’re not done up. Otherwise you just look cold. Of course, with fashion inevitably come fashions, which is why some jackets look nice and others are plastic and puffy. It’s also why you can still see shorter pants and ones with holes in them despite the freezing weather; I don’t know who convinced people to go round with their knees and ankles exposed during winter, but they’re surely working for Big Rheumatism. All of my pants are solid and full-length, as are my jackets. I own about seven jackets, although I think the actual amount is different. Some are thicker than others, and there’s at least three or four different colours they encompass. I realise I sound like I don’t know my own wardrobe; in fact I do, it’s just that the jackets I own are all made from chameleon skin and therefore change with my mood. Except one, which I lost in a cab ride home, and which, ironically, was made out of a car.

The one final thing I’ll say about winter is that, like summer, it’s the opposite in the other hemisphere. This can get confusing when you hear people from the other side of the world complaining about heat waves when you’re sitting there rubbing your nose on your gloves to make it feel. Until you realise they’re actually from Queensland where it’s always very hot. I think I heard that on QI. (Insert relevant local place name in that joke to make it work for where you live.)

In any case, winter shouldn’t be the time for despair. At least, not more than any other time of the year is anyway. So, then, what should it be the time for? Baths? Extra blankets? Making soup on purpose? No, you can do all of those things any other time as well. In fact, winter is the time for none of those things. Winter is the time for June, July and August. Unless you’re in the northern hemisphere, in which case it’s the time for December, January and February. And that’s pretty much all you need to know about winter.

Have fun and enjoy the cold.

— Ben