Just before Christmas I watched David Tennant hiking over the windswept Isle of Mull with a local historian on Who Do You Think You Are? and learning about his great-grandparents, who were evicted by one of Scotland’s many ruthless landowners from the smallholding they’d farmed for generations. David remarked that when he “did” the Clearances at school it had seemed like a million years ago, but it really wasn’t.
That thought resonated with me, and does so even louder now that we’re in 2014. A hundred years ago this year, my maternal grandparents were born. Grandad in January and Nan in April, just a few months before the First World War kicked off and our planet took an innocently routine breath before everything started speeding up like crazy.
So much has changed since then. Technological advances have transformed our world almost beyond recognition and looking back at photographs and writings from around 1914 it’s easy to assume that nothing is the same.
People are, though. People are still the same.
Yesterday was my birthday. Thank you, I had a lovely day. Today I’m 57. Which to youngsters will seem ancient, I know, but I can tell you that my life has flown past almost at the speed of light.
Two of my lifetimes ago, it was the year 1900. Queen Victoria was still on the throne here in Britain. My grandparents weren’t born yet and their parents were still children. But people were still people, just like we are now.
Twenty of my lifetimes ago, The Battle of Hastings hadn’t happened yet, and William the Conqueror-to-be was still William the Bastard over in Normandy.
Forty of my lifetimes ago, the bloody Romans weren’t even here yet.
It’s nothing. My life has flashed by in an instant, and I expect theirs did too.
People are still the same. The world has changed a lot, but people are still people. Those smelly thugs driving their speeding chariots at the legion shield walls were the same as we are now, and all that was less than forty of my lifetimes ago.
The older I get, the closer to history I feel. Closer to my family who lived before me and closer to others. And, curiously, closer to those who are still to come.
It isn’t such a big timeline, our human family history.