The past and the future

Published March 3, 2011

Currently, Mr C and I are working through some redecorating, organising boxes of things that have been stored away, and generally trying to make our lives a bit simpler. Simplicity is always the goal.

I stumbled across some old school books of mine. I didn’t keep many of them, but I did keep my English books, presumably because deep down I always knew I wanted to be a writer and that it would be important, even if I kept telling myself that numbers were my thing.

Anyway, I was flipping through the pages, wallowing in nostalgia, when I found a letter to myself. It’s not one of those “what would you tell yourself when you were younger” things because it was written when I was about 10. Writing to my younger self could only involve things like watching more cartoons and eating less chocolate.

I vaguely remember the task being more about writing to a future self and asking what the world is like, and then replying as if you were that future self, describing what the world is like. These days, I would love a task like that. Time travel is right up there with some of my favourite things, and I’m currently reading books like Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty Four which are great examples of dystopian worlds. Of course, when I was 10, that’s not really what I was focusing on.

Dear Future Me,

I wish to know if anything has changed. I think you will need to know what it’s like now. We go to school in a uniform and we have cars that go along the road on wheels. They need petrol or diesel. Our houses have electric lights which are turned on by switches and some houses have central heating. We have gardens that can grow plants and trees if the owner wishes.

From Past Me

A couple of things strike me about this letter. Firstly, I am quite demanding. I wish to know if anything has changed. Answer me. Secondly, I love that I can spell diesel. I like that I have made a point that only some houses have central heating, because I grew up in the countryside where we invariably didn’t. Central heating was this mythical beast that would make everything alright. It doesn’t, and now I have it, I kinda miss the open fire.

Finally, it amuses me to see that I believe an owner can simply wish plants and trees into existence. I know for a fact that it takes a bit more work than that.

Now, the reply.

Dear Past Me,

I liked your letter. I have never heard of a uniform. We go to school in our ordinary clothes. As for cars on the road, I just don’t understand. Our cars can fly in the sky and travel on any sort of land. They can also travel on water. Our cars don’t run on petrol, they just run. I’m not actually sure how.

Our house lights turn on as soon as someone walks in the front door. There are also some switches. Our houses have heat which is there all the time except when we turn it off.

We don’t have gardens. We all have a share of the moon. You see, it only takes 5 minutes to get there by the new Concorde space rocket. It takes off every hour. The plants can look like anything from elephants to a school teacher.

From The Future Me

My absolute favourite thing about this letter is that I clearly have some grand ambitions but I don’t really know enough science to explain them. “The cars, well, they… I don’t know, just run. I saw it in Back to the Future and he had this thing that took rubbish…” shrugs

I manage to describe central heating without actually saying it, as well. It’s special here in the future, the heat is always there unless we switch it off. Erm, yup.

It also seems I had a lot more faith in Concorde than anyone else.

My only complaint about this entire task is that I didn’t write when in the future I was replying from. The most fun about things set in the future is watching the specified time up and pass without any of the exciting things happening. Perhaps I was already wise to this at the tender age of ten. More likely, I just forgot.

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