THE BLOG

We (Don't) Have All the Time in the World

07/10/2014 13:42 BST | Updated 07/12/2014 10:59 GMT

One day we'll all be the late someone. Sad as it is, there's precious little any of us can do about this inevitable and inescapable fact. It will happen to you. Your loved ones. Your friends. Your family. The famous. The rich. That poor bloke who, failing to look where he's going, is about to get knocked down by a bus. Oh, and me. Saddest of all, it will definitely happen to me.

To my considerable consternation and frustration, I'll sooner (oh, hopefully not sooner) or later

(that's more like it, I like the sound of later; much much later) be the late Paul Marshall.

"What happened to the mourners? Where are they all? Christ! I thought at least a few people liked me. And why aren't they crying? They should be weeping buckets".

Obviously, as well as striving my hardest to be more popular, during my lifetime I will continue to do my best to never be late. Moreover, I will endeavour to be bang on time at all times, be it for a medical examination, a meeting or a social shindig.

While I can't abide unpunctuality, I fear the same isn't true of everyone. The other morning I stood outside our newly bought property waiting for a plumber. I'd arranged to meet him at 8.30. It got to 8.31 and I said to myself: "Maybe he's stuck in traffic". Then it got to 8.32. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I thought: "Alright, perhaps it's a real snarl up". Another minute passed and another. Eventually, it got to 8.35. I started to question if something more serious had happened to him or whether he could actually be bothered to make it?

I'm hardly an unreasonable chap, therefore I decided that I'd hold on for a further five. Still no show. I called the office to tell them that unbelievably he hadn't yet turned up. "You've got to give them at least 20 minutes", I was told.

Soon enough 8.50 arrived, but the man I was waiting for hadn't. I glanced around. "You're not Nick, the plumber, are you?", I asked a well dressed gent who was staring in my general direction.

"Do I look like a plumber?" he replied. Considering the price I was being quoted to install gas piping and a central heating system, I would hardly have been astounded if Nick had also been wearing a Kilgour bespoke suit.

Plainly, he never arrived. What's more, despite leaving several messages, I never heard back from him, which seemed pretty damn rude.

But it did make me wonder, how late is too late? Could it be that I was totally unfair in only waiting for the length of time I did? Should I have anxiously been tapping my fingers for another

10 ,15, 30 or 60 minutes? Alternatively, should I have pitched up a tent and taken a couple of days off work anticipating his presence? What's the norm these days?

After all, we once waited several hours - or was it weeks?- for Naomi Campbell to turn up for a photographic shoot.

Are plumbers currently in such demand that they've reached the divaesque status of supermodels with half of them not getting out of bed for anything less than 10 grand to install a completely new hot water tank, combi boiler and power shower? Somehow, I knew I was in the wrong business. What next, tradesmen with agents?

"Sorry, Giorgio, he can't possibly. Next week he's in New York fitting Calvin's jacuzzi whirlpool bath. Then he's off to Milan and Paris before coming back to London to bleed Stella's radiators and unblock her flue. Honestly, I've got his itinerary in front of me and the earliest he can do anything with your water pressure is December 2015. Shall I pencil you in?"

Add together all the time you spend waiting for those who are delayed or don't show up at all and I have a sneaking suspicion you'd be unpleasantly surprised.

Half an hour here, an hour there. Once you've factored in dentists and doctors whose appointments are dreadfully overrunning, feckless blind dates and unreliable delivery men, well, it all mounts up.

Over the space of a year, the unbearable lateness of others could easily result in the equivalent of a whole day, probably more, of pointlessly hanging about. What a waste. Think of all the things you could be doing instead. Like catching up on your favourite box sets, if only the TV repair man had come as planned.

The ultimate irony is that thanks to modern technology, there's never been more ways of telling us whether we're behind schedule. Along with our ever present smartphones, we even now have the first atomic wristwatch - the Cesium 133 - that's accurate to one second in a thousand years.

Of course, in days gone by, the only thing our ancestors had was a pocket watch if they were lucky or a sun dial. Yet somehow, they were always there on the dot.

There really is no reason for being tardy. So to all those people out there who are forever late, you better have a half decent excuse. Or have just dropped dead. As excuses go, I reckon that's as good as any.