Confessions of a Semi-Retired Time Traveller





A newspaper editor once told me the simple secret of a well written news article. That secret is The Five W’s – Who, What, Where, When and Why. If you answer The Five W’s you will tell the reader the whole story.


As a semi-retired time traveller I am often invited to speak at universities and colleges and to take questions from the students. In order to remain semi-retired I usually decline.

When I have accepted such invitations the questions tend to revolve around the “how” of time travel. Such curiosity is understandable but it misses the point. Time travel is not about the How. It is about the When, Where, What and Who.

Where, What and Who are obvious. Where did you go, what did you see, what did you do, who did you meet? (In one of my travels I heard a powerful song by a man known as Dylan that was based on such questions.)

When. This is the time question. The century, the year, the season, the time of day. When were you there?

Not How. But How is what they always ask.

“How do you travel through time sir?”

“Is it a natural process sir? Do you have special powers?”

“Do you use machines sir?”

“Is there an elixir involved sir?”

On it goes.

Obviously I can not reveal my methods. I will say there are some limits as to how far I can go. I am presently based in the 19th century and stay within several centuries in either direction. On rare occasion I will venture much further but it is a more difficult task and as a semi-retired time traveller I must say that I no longer have the enthusiasm or the energy for trips of that nature. Nor do I regret that fact. My attitude about centuries beyond the 28th or so and prior to the 10th is simple: Been there, done that (a splendid phrase I heard ‘round the beginning of the third millennium).

The fifth W stands for Why. This is never mentioned. Most people – at least most who would bother to come and hear me speak and certainly most young people – would trade places with me in a second. They would never ask themselves why, they would just do it if given the opportunity.

There was that one time. After being peppered with the usual How questions, a student stood up and asked the question, “Why do you travel through time sir?” “I can,“ I answered with my own How question, “so how could I not?” The young lady smiled.