Most of us like to celebrate our birthdays.
My own, for example, is a national holiday in Tibet, a Day of Gladness and Rejoicing in Upper Sumatra, and, no doubt, many other parts of the world.
But how many of you have ever stopped to consider this particular riddle?
If you are born on a Monday, then next year your birthday will fall on a Tuesday. The next on a Wednesday and so on and so forth. Therefore, by the time you are seven, although your birthdate remains the same you must actually be celebrating your birthday one week later in the year.
By the time you are thirty, an entire lunar month later. Therefore, a man born in the spring must surely celebrate his ninetieth birthday in the middle of summer.
This is what you call a Cosmic Mystery. And I will return to it.
There is a great deal more to time than meets the eye, or has, in fact, ever been explained by that unprincipled scoundrel, A. Einstein, Esq.
For instance, who amongst us has not said at one time or another:
Now, I'm the last man on Earth to cry, CONSPIRACY! But I think to detect the acrid stench of it's breath in this one.
Allow me to explain
Time, as you will agree, is the most valuable commodity that we posses. And, as we know only too well, every really valuable commodity falls, sooner or later, into the hands of some unscrupulous individual, who then exploits it for their own ends. It is my contention that time is now under the control of such an individual, who manipulates it in order to do down the working man.
Allow me to explain further.
The average working man spends roughly half of his life working. This involves a lot of clock watching. The working part of a working mans life seems to last forever. Then, if he survives this and retires, one of two things happens. Either, he finds time dragging terribly and returns to work, or, he resists the urge, takes off to the seaside, wakes up one morning, say's "Twenty years retired, it seems like only five minutes", and drops dead.
There is no escape for the working man!
His time is being controlled!
Let me cite the example of Shakespeare. How could he have completed so many plays, as well as formulating the beer which bears his name and opening so many tea rooms? Remember, there were no typewriters or photocopier machines in those days.
If Shakespeare wrote a play with a cast of twenty-five, then he must have had to write a separate copy for each of the cast. I estimate that he must therefore have penned no less than five thousand words per minute, ten hours a day, for twenty years. No mean feat!
There are two possibilities here. Either, that time was substantially different in those days, let us say that a minute then, would be equivalent to an hour and a half now; or that somehow Shakespeare had time on his side. Under his control, in fact. Oh, yes? I contend that it was all down to Shakespeare's employer. He had to milk it for every ounce of potential profit.
So, I hear you cry, tell us how it's done, Hugo. And tell us who's doing it.
An so I shall.
THE POPE CONTROLS TIME ON THIS PLANET!
Come, come, I hear you cry. Surely this is sour grapes, Hugo. Because your application to become Pope has been turned down yet again. Not so, my friends, not so.
I will now explain everything.
No-one knows exactly who originally discovered the existence of time. But it was certainly the Romans who thought of splitting it up into units of measurement.
The Roman senate started off with seconds and decided that sixty of them should equal one minute. Being extremely fond of naming things after themselves, the sixty-man senate arrived at this particular figure without much in the way of heated debate. And each had a second named after themselves.
They did not, however, agree upon a uniform length for the second. And since some senators had much longer names than did others, jealousies soon arose. In no time senators were renaming themselves with longer and longer titles so that their seconds should be bigger than everyone else's.
We have the sixty-first senator to thank for the length of the second. Arriving back from his holidays to discover that his honourable companions hadn't given him a second to call his own, he took umbrage (somewhere near Troy).
And being a conniving little toady with an eye for the main chance, he proclaimed that the second should equal exactly the time it took to say "Praise Caesar". And that they shouldn't have names at all, but just be numbered from one to sixty.
This didn't go down too well with the rest of the senate, but found great favour with Caesar, who allowed the sixty-first senator to keep umbrage.
The Caesar in question was the almost forgotten Flavius the Noseless. And it was he who originally decreed that all Roman sculptures be fashioned without noses. A fact which seems to have slipped by the greybeards of the art world. The same greybeards, in fact, who still refer to Henry Moore as an abstract sculptor. I knew Moore for many years and can testify that he was a master of life-like representation. He just knocked around with some very funny looking women. But I digress.
Now, the senate, having got time divided up, named and tamed, were not happy. They had already invented the Class System (we have much to thank the Romans for). And they were saying to themselves, "Why should time be the same for everyone? Surely we, as the ruling intelligentsia, should have posher time than the slaves and the plebs?".
A whole lot of serious debating went on about this.
Many suggestions were put forward. The plebs should have less seconds in their minutes. They should have the same number of seconds but be taxed for using them. That somehow their seconds should be made longer, so that they could do more work in a day.
It was the latter suggestion, and how it was put into practice, that has enslaved the working man to this day.
Now, there was this greek fellow called Archimedes, who had built up quite a reputation for himself. He had invented this word called EUREKA! which, if shouted under certain conditions in the bathroom, enabled him to solve any manner of obtuse conundrums.
Flavius the Noseless had booked two weeks in greece for his holidays, so whilst there he dropped in on Archimedes and sked him if he could come up with anything.
Archimedes stroked his beard and retired to cogitate.
Eventually he emerged from his bath, somewhat prunelike about the toe regions, but with an E-word once more on his lips.
"The answer lies in the soap", he told Caesar.
"Kaendly eggsplane", said the noseless one.
"Certainly. Now the way I see it, you want more upmarket time than the plebs. Now I must make this quite clear to you, you can't actually mess around with time. But, you can mess around with the perception of time. What you need is a special drug, which, when administered to the plebs, will alter the way they percieve time. It will make time appear to travel slower. Thus, whilst in this state, they will get much more work done than they would normally. Do you know anything about chemistry?"
Caesar nodded sagely.
Thought not, thought Archimedes. "Well, I happen to know of such a drug. It has a very complicated chemical formula (C11H17NO3). And I alone can manufacture it. All you have to do is introduce it into the plebs' soap. They wash with the soap and ingest the drug. And away they go."
"But whet abeet thee greet unweshed?" Caesar asked.
"Stick it in their tea. Agreed the working masses may not bath as regularly as might be wished, but they all drink tea. Listen, I'll distil you a batch. You take it back to Rome. If you're happy with the results, put in a regular order and we're in business."
Palms were spat upon and smacked together. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Caesar returned to Rome. Tested the drug. Found that it worked magically. Rome thrived. Caesar, being an astute business man, if not a terribly nice person, sacked greece, arrested Archimedes and tortured the formula out of him.
The Caesars eventually turned to christianity and became Popes. And the Vatican has held the secret to this very day.
Hang about, I hear you cry, doubting toms that you are. This doesn't ring true. Surely we all use soap and drink tea. We can't all be permanantly drugged.
No, say I. Not all.
Because not all tea and soap is infected. And, if only the Vatican were in on the conspiracy, it could never operate. The manufacturers of tea and soap are in collusion. The distributers are in collusion. Higher management is in collusion. All those who drink exotictea and smell differently from the rest of us are probably in collusion.
It is an international conspiracy. Huge and insidious and the Pope is behind it all.
I detect that some doubts still remain. That you really believe you could not really be a victim of this terribly conspiracy.
But consider this, "Time really flies when you're enjoying yourself". This is because alcohol negates the effects of the drug. Ever found time flying when you're taking a bath or drinking a cup of tea? Aha!
And let me mention this. The drug is addictive. Ever found yourself Dying for a cuppa? Aha!
Ever wondered why the Catholic Church was so keen to convert the natives of South America? You know South America. Where all that coffee comes from. Aha!
Ever wondered why the formula for Coca-Cola is such a closely guarded secret? Aha!
I could continue at great length. But I will not. I opened this piece by stating that your birthday falls upon a different day each year. But that logically it could not.
Ever heard the expression, "He's so stoned that he doesn't know what day of the week it is?"
In concluding, I would just like to say that it has been a very great honour to be invited here tonight to The William of Orange Memorial Hall, Belfast, as a guest speaker at The Independent Shopkeeper of the Year Awards.
To find myself in the company of so many eminent, discerning and open minded independent shopkeepers, affords me a pleasure beyond expression.
I trust that my revelations have amused you. I know that they will draw considerable interest from the buying public when they are revealed upon the fronot pages of certain newspapers this coming Sunday. Considerable interest.
You will otice I have before me a selection of RUNE BRAND products. For instance, EARL RUNE. Now this particular tea is guaranteed 100% C11H17NO3 free. Organically grown, packed in an ozone-friendly biodegradeable carton and marketed at a price to please both purchaser and shopkeeper alike. As with CAFE RUNE GOLDEN BLEND, HUGO-COLA, and RUNELIGHT SOAP. Now, I have to knock these out by the case, so who'll be the first one up? You, sir? The tall distinguished gentleman. Twelve cases of EARL RUNE? Certainly. Rizla, fetch twelve down from the back of the van...
Offered as exhibit A for the prosecution
in the case of Nearly Everyone versus