Virtually no time...

Gayle bemoans the fact that her hectic lifestyle does not include time for a virtual existence.

LIVING in an imaginary world used to be a sign of madness. These days it is called virtual reality, and it seems thousands of people are spending time in cyber space, living a Second Life.

I hear that you can choose to be any kind of person (or creature) you want, build your own environment and meet other like-minded refugees from the real world.

In a development that I cannot begin to comprehend, real money is exchanged to buy goods, services and property in this imaginary world and a journalist from the real world news agency Reuters is now reporting on business news within Second Life.

Apparently, millions of dollars change hands in this virtual world, with up to $70,000 traded daily on a currency exchange which deals in real and virtual cash.

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Leaving aside my complete ignorance of how people inhabit this fictional online space, I wonder how anyone manages to find the time to live a Second Life. It's all I can do to squash my one life into sixteen waking hours a day - and that is as many as I can sustain without starting to wilt.

The working day takes up a big chunk of time, five days a week - and sometimes spills over into evenings and weekends.

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Then there are the family. Like many people in my age group, I find myself poised between two generations (parents and children) who both need attention. Although the children are now in their early twenties, they still need a certain amount of help, in the form of lifts, cash and the occasional visit home for a bit of TLC. I like to visit my mother, who lives about 40 miles away, as often as I can.

My sister and her husband live nearby and we get together quite often. I have nieces and nephews and - although I read that aunts are becoming redundant in these days of splintered step-families - I still have a bond with them.

At the moment, I am involved with two different amateur dramatic groups, so that involves rehearsals three times a week. If I wasn't doing that, I might be going to morris dancing practice once a week. as it is, I go to barn dances when I can, to the theatre sometimes, visit friends and spend time writing letters or e-mails to those who are too far away to visit.

Sometimes, I struggle with a cryptic crossword or just sit in front of the television and enjoy a couple of glasses of wine.

And occasionally (very occasionally) I even do some housework!

There is so much that I don't get time to do - so many real people, some of them with pressing problems who could do with a bit of support and don't get enough from me - that I can't imagine devoting time and energy to creating a fictional life, and another set of pretend friends to spend time with.

There certainly isn't time to lead a Second Life within this one!

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