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On boredom

July 22, 2009 ・ Blog

This is a post from my old blog, circa early 2006. It was probably its most successful in terms of readers (a modest claim, to be honest) and how pleased I was with it, and it also generated some angry responses, accusing me of petty, bourgeois narrow mindedness. That wasn’t my intention at all, of course - I just kinda thought that there was a a new generation of people that had forgotten, or had never experienced, true boredom in a world increasingly tuned to providing continuous partial attention. Self-indulgent it may be, but here it is again - now with footnotes!

We took our son to our book club yesterday evening. We all met at a bar restaurant place under the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, and we spent a glorious three hours talking about Rodinsky’s Room and uproariously deciding what book to read next1.

And all the time, little eight month old Jack2 was there, playing with bits of paper, being bounced about, smiling at people and (eventually) sleeping in his pushchair, but, naturally, marginalised from the main activity. And I got to thinking about how bored I used to get as a child, how I remember the hours of being dragged to places by my parents, made to wait as they had mystifyingly entertaining conversations with friends, or watched stuff on telly or went round National Trust properties3. In fact, an abiding memory of being a kid with my parents is of boredom4.

And I realised that I can’t really remember the last time I was truly bored. Whenever people tell me that they’re bored, I often find myself telling them that I love being bored. I’m wrong, of course. I mean that I love being aimless – fiddling about with whatever’s at hand. I don’t really know what it is to be bored any more. There’s so much to do – play a videogame, watch one of our backed up Lovefilm DVDs, read a one of my many backed up books, flick through one of my many backed up Edges5, read my backed up Bloglines feeds, write a review for Pixelsurgeon6, write a post, like now, for Rotational…

And these are just the things I like doing. Then there’s cleaning the flat7, sorting through all that paperwork that I keep putting into great, horrifying untidy piles, wash some clothes, get some bloody milk we can’t keep spooning baby milk powder into coffee8.

And before all that there’s looking after the boy.

Even on long journeys I don’t get bored – there’s DS and reading and watching Sin City on PSP and listening to music…9 Bored just doesn’t come into it any more.

I guess that’s good, but I’m not sure. Could I cope without being endlessly stimulated by something or other? What if the electricity runs out?

  1. It was Flowers For Algernon - lovely stuff, too. The book club days remain treasured memories. ↩︎

  2. Now four and about to start at school. Jeepers. ↩︎

  3. Here’s the rub: making our final descent into middle age, last year we became members. ↩︎

  4. Though the kids often get frustrated that things don’t always revolve around them, they haven’t yet experienced the drawn-out horror of a long afternoon with nothing to do. Aside from the evergreen delights of Lego and felt-tip pens, now there’s the modern impositions of all-day Cbeebies and YouTube. ↩︎

  5. Oh the irony. ↩︎

  6. Now up on blocks, it was a good illustrator/web design community. ↩︎

  7. Now a house and with one extra kid, so even more cleaning. ↩︎

  8. Yup. Still do that. ↩︎

  9. I love going on trains because they impose on you time you can’t do anything other than the things you have with you. With the advent of iPhone (or iPod Touch, in my case), though, continual distraction invades even the sanctity of First Great Western. ↩︎