Dear Russians, very little time remains to a momentous date in our history. The year 2000 is upon us, a new century, a new millennium.
We have all measured this date against ourselves, working out - first in childhood, then after we grew up - how old we would be in the year 2000, how old our mothers would be, and our children. Back then it seemed such a long way off to the extraordinary New Year. So now the day has come.
It was Boris Yeltsin who reminded me of my duty.
Nearly forty years ago, just before I crossed Cavendish Road, I wondered: would they have time machines then?
I was going the long way home from school, as usual, for a tea of tinned salmon and cucumber. My mother knew how unreliable I was and salmon and cucumber would keep.
Would I be prepared to meet my older self if “he” were to come back? Would I be able to see him, to ask him all the questions I had about the future? Would all, or some, of my dreams or visions have come true? Would he be able to tell me, or would that be impossible because of the paradox of time travel. Would a solution to the paradox have been found by then? What would I/he look like at 49? Would he be grey and balding, like my father? Would there have been another war like the one that had wounded my father and given his hands a permanent shake, or would my generation be the first to escape that experience?
I wanted to send a message to that older me, to please come back and meet me if time travel were possible then. Would I like him? Would we get on? Would we be so much alike that we would always be quarrelling, like my father and I sometimes did? There was only one way that I knew; any paper I wrote on would be lost. I had to fix that day in my memory; that was the only way of communication with myself of the future. I thought that if ever he were to come back to meet me from 2000 he would be about the same age as my father. How would we treat each other? Would we be equals? Would he be patronising or would I remind him of the saying: “the child is father to the man,” and say that he couldn’t teach me anything I wouldn’t learn by experience (because of the time-travel paradox), but I could teach him by reminding him of what he may have forgotten of his roots?
As the days went on my hopes of seeing a time machine materialise in my bedroom or in some quiet street on my way home diminished. I felt disappointed with my other self for not remembering and making the effort. But perhaps it wasn’t “his” fault. Perhaps the paradox problem was really insurmountable, or perhaps hiring a time machine would be too expensive or restricted. Or even, chilling thought, I didn’t make it and live to 2000. And what would we call that year? “twenty hundred” didn’t seem quite right. Actually, in the real world, such things as time travel didn’t happen and this was probably just a childish fantasy. But I wouldn’t give up hope.