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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Time and Tide Wait for No Man

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas JANUARY. 11, 2021

[163-365] 11th. January 2021- I nearly got wet knees tonight. I was kneeling on the slipway holding the camera quite low and using the flip up screen to compose this shot, so I didn't have to actually lie down on the slipway. I got so engrossed I didn't realise how fast the water was rising. The creek and slipway being very gentle slopes the water creeps up them quite fast, always faster than you realise.

There's only one little boat moored in the creek at the moment. I'm not sure what the rules are regarding water sports at the moment, during the first lockdown they were banned, but I have seen the occasional paddle board this time around. I suspect it is just people hoping nobody will notice and there are so few brave souls venturing out that it doesn't really get any official attention.

Time and tide wait for no man. This proverb seems to be so old that nobody is really sure when it originates, it also seems to have gone through subtle changes during time and tide, so to speak.

My mother used to use it when she was encouraging us (telling us off actually) to get on with something and stop hanging around. So that fits with this description.

The opportunities of life will pass you by if you delay or procrastinate in taking advantage of them.

Procrastinate is a super word. It demands two very pronounced R's. English speakers borrowed the word in the 16th century from Latin procrastinatus, which itself evolved from the prefix pro-, meaning "forward," and crastinus, meaning "of tomorrow." Like its synonyms "delay," "lag," "loiter," "dawdle," and "dally," "procrastinate" means to move or act slowly so as to fall behind. It typically implies blameworthy delay especially through laziness or apathy. (Merriam-Webster)

Just what mums are always looking out for.

The origin is uncertain, although it's clear that the phrase is ancient and that it pre-dates modern English. The earliest known record is from St. Marher, 1225:

"And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet."

But this earliest of versions actually has a different meaning. “And the tide and the time that you were born shall be blessed.”

There is also an added confusion with the old myth of King Canute. The myth related that Canute sat on his throne on the beach to see if he had the power to stop the tide coming in. It has been widely misunderstood to demonstrate that Canute was a fool and delusional as regards his power when he failed to stop the tide. However the real meaning of the tale was to describe what a wise and humble monarch he was, as he was actually demonstrating to his court that the powers of a monarch are in fact limited and that it was wrong to presume a king to be infallible.

In the story, Canute demonstrates to his flattering courtiers that he has no control over the elements (the incoming tide), explaining that secular power is vain compared to the supreme power of God. The episode is frequently alluded to in contexts where the futility of "trying to stop the tide" of an inexorable event is pointed out, but usually misrepresenting Canute as believing he had supernatural powers, when Huntingdon's story in fact relates the opposite.

In Henry of Huntingdon's account, Canute set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the incoming tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes. Yet "continuing to rise as usual [the tide] dashed over his feet and legs without respect to his royal person. Then the king leapt backwards, saying: 'Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.'" He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again "to the honour of God the almighty King"

So I can confirm to the readers of Photoblog that the same applies to kneeling photographers as to bethroned monarchs. Except when I leapt back this evening with almost wet knees my exclamation was nowhere near as poetic as Canute.

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