I’m a big fan of science fiction, I have been since I first picked up a Ray Bradbury short story book as a child. Tales of far away places, ‘peopled’ by curious other-world races and frankly implausible machines and technology fired my imagination. Of course, none of this is new; the mysteries of the moon and stars have long captivated our ancestors and I often think, as a new day breaks over the Island, what our prehistoric ancestors must have thought of this brave new world.
If the recent ‘discovery’ of faster-than-light neutrinos is real, time travel may conceivably be achievable. So, if you were to be given the opportunity to travel through time, where would you go? Would you like to see the building of the pyramids? Witness the birth of Christ? Or travel into the distant future to see if cockroaches really do inherit the earth?
If I was a chrononaut I would travel back in time but choose to stay on the Island, with its familiar topography and landmarks. Seeing the landscape as it used to be in prehistoric times, linked to the mainland by a chalky umbilicus stretching from what is now the Needles to Old Harry Rocks in Dorset would be a stunning sight.
Or, spinning the dial forward a little, I would love to see how my home town of Ryde looked in Georgian times. The first vestiges of the town as we know it would be emerging from a small fishing hamlet. The Esplanade and Dover Street would be sand dunes and St John’s would be a rustic landscaped park with livestock grazing between young oak trees.
A few more years into the future, to when H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine and Victorian innovation was at its peak, would see further development of this resort town, including the house in which I live. With the help of Ryde Social Heritage Group, Historic Ryde Society and the online census I have discovered that a previous occupant of the house was the Honourable George Liddell, a relative of Alice Liddell who was, of course, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Alice made several trips to the Island and was photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron. Did she visit George in Ryde? It seems more than possible.
What would Alice, George and other Victorians make of our town now? Would they approve of what their successors have done? As I venture forward through time, I wonder how the Island will change in my lifetime.