I met the weirdest plumber the other week. He came round twice to our house to do some work. I knew that there was something unusual but it took me a while to work out what it was. Eventually it dawned on me. He told me the time he was going to turn up and on both occasions he came at that time. A punctual plumber is both rare and alliterative!

This got me thinking about time. Its something that we all take for granted. After all its a natural part of life. But its also something that its best not to think about too much. It does weird things to your mind.

Let me give you an example. Last year it was ten years since I moved from High Wycombe to Wakefield. Yet it doesn't seem like anything like that length of time. As the saying goes 'time as flown'. However during those ten years there have been many times I've had to wait for things (such as plumbers to come to the house) and time really crawls at those points. How can it be that ten years containing lots of long periods waiting for things can be so short?

Furthermore if you think about ten minutes for example. Say you wake up ten minutes before your alarm is due to go off. You lay there waiting for your alarm to go off, in your warm cosy bed. It seems a really short period of time. But imagine you are at Leeds train station on an icy day with sub-zero tempratures. You look at the board and you see that its ten minutes until the train arrives. Those ten minutes seem to take forever. How can that be?

I don't know about you but I'm hopeless at estimating how long things will take. Which is kind of strange considering its a big part of all our lives. If anybody asks me how long something will take me I hopelessly underestimate it. The thing is that somebody will interrupt you or you won't quite get it right first time and have to rework it. Of course this happens every day and surely my experience would tell me that it will happen again.

To be fair it doesn't help that if you do make a more realistic assessment of how long something is going to take you then that is immediately challenged by your boss who wants you to do it sooner. But lets not get started on bosses that's a whole other column.

Apparently its thought that human beings are programmed to be optimistic. Whichever bright spark came up with that doesn't know many of my friends! But seriously its true that our whole life is a case history in the triumph of hope over experience. We all know people who fail and fail again but never seem to consider that they might need to change their approach.

Of course it must be this optimism that makes us all so bad at estimating how long it takes us to do things or to get to places. So going back to my starting point does that mean I've got myself a pessimistic punctual plumber?