“She refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring.”
“I am never bored; to be bored is an insult to one’s self.”
“Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?”
I’m always hearing how it’s only boring people who get bored. I don’t know if I entirely agree with it. I think there’s an element of truth to it but, like most cliches, it oversimplifies a complicated issue.
“I really think I write about everyday life. I don’t think I’m quite as odd as others say I am. Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that’s what makes it so boring.”
I don’t like to think of myself as a boring person but I know full well that I bore some people rigid, so they wouldn’t agree with me. I also know that sometimes I find myself quite boring. I’ll be sat doing something, or even just thinking and I’ll catch myself and realise that what I’m engaged in is so extraordinarily dull that I find myself turning off from my own internal monologue and just gawping at a wall for respite from my self inflicted, dreary tedium.
I also think some things are generally boring as well. I appreciate that there would be a certain irony in doing nothing more than reeling off an interminable list of things I find boring, but even I realise that sounds better than the reality would be. A bottom five seems reasonable.
“It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf.”
H. L. Mencken.
I’ve already written quite enough about snooker for my liking.
4. Racing of any description.
“He’s a very competitive competitor, that’s the sort of competitor he is.”
Cars, bikes, on foot, in boats, on mammals: you name the mode of transport and I won’t give a fuck about how fast it goes in relation to something comparable. My long suffering gal pal’s uncle was a Formula One driver – he’s famous if you know about that sort of thing, which I don’t. He’s very boring. To me, I mean. He’s probably the most interesting man on the planet to some.
I’d also like to include people who like to talk about road numbers and letters because, other than the M62, I don’t really know any. People talking about taking a cheeky diversion down the B584, via the B731 before rejoining the M14 at junction 26. How is that different from trainspotting? I’m sure trainspotting is pretty boring too, but at least they don’t think it’s socially acceptable to go on about it in public. These are also the people who try to subtly make boring things more exciting but who fail because they make them even more boring than they were to start with. I mean people who have instructions written all over their houses: ‘It’s wine o’ clock’, “This toilet is for dancing in”, “Our house is a happy house, laugh!”. Banal shit like that. What’s wrong with you? Do you miss road signs when you close the front door?
3. Drugz Borez.
“I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.”
There’s no bore like a drugz bore. I never really got it, maybe it’s different now, I don’t know. People would tell me that they had some Lebanese pappawappa, or whatever the hell it was, like it meant something to the likes of me. The problem with that sort of thing is that, as an illegal product, there’s not usually a large selection available. You either have what’s there or you don’t. What’s the point worrying about your preferences when all that’s going to happen is you’re likely to be disappointed because whatever’s about probably won’t be whatever it is you like best. Tough shit, isn’t it?
It’s not just that though. It’s more or less everything about it.
For instance, in my younger days, quite a few girls I went out with would roll such convoluted doobs that would consist of a lot of papers, a lot of burning bits off here and there to not a lot of difference from a basic, straightforward join. I wondered why, how and where these origami constructions emanated. I decided that it was probably from ex-boyfriends who wanted to make something straightforward look immensely complicated, presumably in order to make them look impressive.
Once, in Bristol, I was introduced to one of Clare’s exes who claimed to be called ‘Zago’, for fuck’s sake. She was a convoluted doobie roller – who disliked my calling them doobies in the first place for exactly the same reason that I did it – and when we called in at his house on the way to our holiday that went particularly badly and I saw him roll one, I knew that, in her case at least, I was probably right.
Zago had about eight feet of vinyl stacked against one wall. Always one to have a mosey through a pile of records, I asked permission and duly noted as I slowly fingered my way through the sleeves that every last one of them was a dub reggae 12″ single.
I pointed out that he had a lot of records as I failed to find anything I’d heard of. Augustus Pablo, Lee Perry, Trojan. Anything I could have started a conversation about to distract Zago from trying it on with Clare, who would not have it that he still fancied her.
Zago agreed with me that he had a lot of records. “Yah mon,” he said, sounding dead street and real. I assumed I was supposed to be picking up something other than the pungent sense of oleaginous gropery that appeared likely to manifest itself at any moment. He had a fang of some predator poking through a hole in one of his ears; it must have been a pretty big animal by the size of that tooth. Doubtless Zago brought it down with his bare hands in the Zambezi. “I likes my sounds, innit?” He leaned forward and engaged me in a complicated handshake cum fist bumping gesture of recognition. His tongue protruded from his mouth, between his stupid fucking gold teeth as he leered at my soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend.
“Can I ask you a question?” I asked, having given up trying to find common, yet distracting ground among Zago’s records.
“Sure you can. You can arks me whatchoo lark, man. Any friend o’ Claree’s a friend o’ marn, d’yeknoworrI’msayin’, mah man?'” Zago leaned backwards on a fraying, floral easy chair with his knees as far apart as was humanly possible. Grinning, possibly to show off his gold front teeth. He had on a baggy hat, a filthy jumper and very low slung jeans which he had to hitch up to spread his knees that little bit further. He had a look on his face like a hungry crocodile eyeing a chicken obliviously perched on his nose.
“At any point, have you had a tropical fish tank in here?”
Zago’s expression of filthy delight was replaced by a look of incredulity and astonishment. His tongue still didn’t retreat all the way inside his mouth as his grin transformed into an ‘O’.
“Howjew know dat, mon?” Zago leaned forwards through his ludicrously spread legs and craned forward into my face like a man giving birth to himself. Absently going through the motions of his stupidly complicated handshake slapping party, he searched my eyes for signs of God only knew what.
“Oh, I just thought you might have had a tropical fish tank,” I replied, blandly ignoring the ongoing fist bumping by just leaving my hand there and letting Zago get on with it.
Five million dub reggae 12″ singles; the thick, shitty, sweet odour of growing weed; the preposterous handshake and the unconventional, even by my standards, attitude towards women: there was no way that this kid hadn’t had a tropical fish tank for gouching out in front of. Probably killed them by not changing the water or sorting the filter out.
“What happened to them?” I asked him.
“They all got killed because I got burned on the filter the guy sold me, innit?” He flicked his wrist in disgust, snapping his fingers with the motion. “Facking poppy show.”
“Oh, that’s a shame,” I said sympathetically as Clare looked daggers at me and later shouted at me for being a dickhead in front of her cool mates all the way to her markedly less cool mates in Bath, in front of whom I was also a dickhead because when her friend Grace asked me whether I had a preference for organic or GM vegetables, I said I wouldn’t know the difference. I should have been a monk. I did consider it for a while but I thought it’d be alright part from the religious element, which I thought might grate on me. When I realised that the religious element was likely to be fairly significant, and that I could pretty much do everything else that monks did, without actually being a monk, I gave up in the idea.
It’s not even just the falling into being a two dimensional cartoon caricature that’s the most boring thing. The ultimate boring thing about drugz borez is when they start telling you about how mystical an experience they had whilst off their faces on whatever it was.
Mind you, anybody on coke is a nobhead so far as I can gather. So they’re the worst of the drugz borez: people on cocaine. But anybody who goes on about it? Zzz.
“Oh, to awake from dreaming!”
Virginia Woolf, “
In terms of the radically different levels of enjoyment between the person doing the talking and the person doing the listening, I think it’s difficult to find a topic as dull as hearing about someone else’s dreams. Especially considering how excited and astonished they tend to be about it. Don’t tell people what you dreamed about last night because, believe you me, they don’t give a shit and they wish you’d stop it.
When I’d just started work, I went out with a girl from school who was pretty great in pretty much most ways. Vicky Waddingham was funny – not just ha-ha, but peculiar too. Not in an unpleasant way, but she was a bit psychedelic – not in a drugz bore way – and not really in a way that I came across too often later. She wasn’t we-are-weird, she just had her own ideas, which often means the opposite of boring. She wasn’t a boring person, except when she decided that she had to tell you about last night’s dreams. In great detail, followed by her wanting to have a long, boring discussion about what it meant.
At first, I didn’t mind pretending I enjoyed it. As I say, she was ace, so fair dos, eh? When it became the first thing she wanted to talk about, for at least half a hour whenever we met up, I started to drift off a bit and let my mind wander.
The other problem was that Vicky Waddingham didn’t share my perspective about other people’s dreams because she always wanted to hear about my dreams and that was a problem for me. It was a problem because I didn’t really remember many of my dreams and I think I know why.
Freud said that dreams were the gateway to the subconscious and, if that’s true, it would answer quite a lot of questions that I would like to pose it.
My dreams – those I remember at all – are fucking boring.
The last dream I remember – and I’m talking years – was about a pile of books I had in my bedroom that wobbled a bit and looked like they might fall over, but didn’t.
If Freud was correct about the subconscious and dreams, that means that my subconscious lacks anything approaching imagination. My subconscious is a boring twat. Given ha;f the chance, I fully expect that it would be right into telling people what road numbers it took on the day there was an accident on the B8754.
It pisses me off because that’s where all your ideas and hopes and dreams come from. What it means is that my conscious brain has to compensate for my subconscious’s total and utter lack of imagination, which is a bit like having your bathroom done and washing your arse in the kitchen sink, except your bathroom’s never ever going to be ready. An egregious example perhaps, but you get the drift: a significant part of my brain apparently lacks the ability to do anything at all and the other significant part of it has to spend its time doing a job for which it’s not adapted. Nice one, brain.
In short, the creative part of my brain doesn’t actually appear to do anything by itself.
Maybe I’m not bored by others’ dream accounts, maybe I’m just jealous of them because their brains churn all sorts of entertaining shit out. Bastards. I wonder what it’s like.
Anyway, Vicky Waddingham, so I had to make up dreams to compensate for not having had any, which was a bind, but I viewed it as creative writing because it didn’t really matter. I got to quite enjoying it sometimes, and I could see the appeal of telling people what are, mainly, pointless stories.
Apart from being a bit boring about her dreams wasn’t boring to go out with. There are two particularly non boring moments that come to mind, both relating to dates we were on together.
We’d arranged to meet at the pictures in town to go and watch Heathers and not just because I was secretly in love with Winona Ryder, Vicky liked Jack Nicholson and Christian Slater had been putting a lot of spadework in on his homage, so I suppose she was checking a new model out.
In theory anyway because I’d been at college in town that evening, she was at sixth form near her house which was about two miles from mine. I’d been late getting out of what must have been English Lit. and legged it to the Cecil because I was bordering on late. When I got there, there was no sign of Vicky. I belatedly realised that the Cecil wasn’t showing Heathers with meant it must be on at the ABC, next to the bus station. I scooted the half mile there and it had started about twenty minutes previously. I asked an usherette if I could have a quick look inside to see if my date was already in and she did. She wasn’t. I went to the bus station, looking for her, but there was no sign. I caught the bus to her house and knocked on the door. Vicky answered; she’d just got her coat off and was worried about me as opposed to mad, which turned out a bit ironic.
She invited me upstairs to her room where she played “Louder Than Bombs” on compact disc, which was a big deal in 1988. Having a cd player and having Louder Than Bombs because I didn’t have either of those things. I have reached the conclusion that girls are only allowed to buy “Louder Than Bombs” on cd in shops, no matter how much they want “The Queen Is Dead”.
Kissing to The Smiths. Snogging to Mozzer. It incongruous somehow, like ham yoghurt or something. Yet it didn’t seem that wrong, either. It wasn’t the last time it happened either. That the jubilant zing of Johnny Marr’s multitudinous guitars and the improbably elasticated funk undercarriage that Andy Rourke had ended up handing out for chicken feed were nymphomaniacal neighbours of the celibate Steven Patrick. The drumming was a bit ordinary, but probably exactly what was needed. Mike Joyce might not have had chops, but at least he didn’t have pork chops as well.
We’d been further than that – all the way past that, and regularly – and I thought that was where it was headed as she motioned for me to take my t shirt off. At the point when it was over my face, I looked down to see her swinging an uppercut with irresistible force into my grillocks.
The pain was astonishing. I’d been hurt before, physically, but nothing like this. It was like an explosion between my legs. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see. My ears rang as if sharing a metallic wind tunnel with a herd of elephants who were discordantly dying of dysentery.
Frantically failing to suck in so much as an eggcup full of air, I heard Vicky shouting from somewhere far away that that was what I got for standing her up over the undulating rumble of elephantine death that was happening without my permission in my ears.
Then more pain as my head hit the floor; my t shirt rode up my back which was scorched by the carpet as she dragged me by my foot across the landing and down the stairs. My head cracked against each stair as I automatically attempted to bring my knees to my chest in response to my recent testicular injury, which was still foremost in my mind.
Feeling the night’s cold embrace through her open front door, my face was battered against the door frame and concrete of her path and I finally felt my leg drop against it and the haranguing recommenced.
She shouted that she wished she’d paid attention to everybody who’d already told her what a useless shithouse I was and didn’t she just know it now?
Then she slammed the front door and I decided to have a bit of a rest outside her front door so I just lay there, trying to remember how breathing worked. After a couple of minutes, her dad opened the door and told me to get the fuck off his drive, so I pretty much rolled myself onto the pavement and propped myself up against a tree on the grass verge, where I managed to shove my hand into a moist, warm, mammalian turd.
Wiping it off as best I could, I attempted to stagger home, which should have taken about half an hour on foot. It took me over two hours, by which time I had regain the ability to breathe, but was now more concerned about how much my head hurt and if she’d given me brain damage as well as a significantly reduced chance of breeding.
I think it was a bit over the top, really. Yes, I was a useless twat but her delayed violent response to it seemed a bit excessive. On the other hand, I probably deserved something like her uppercut to the groin in terms of other relationships, so swings and roundabouts, I suppose.
Naturally, that wasn’t our last date. Passionate was how I’d chosen to reinterpret Vicky Waddingham’s pugilistic endeavours. Feisty. And, being a bit boring about dreams aside, I liked that. You know, a bit of excitement…
Whilst I craved a bit of spark, I had no desire to have the shit kicked out of me again, so I avoided meeting up with her and to pick her up from her house. Well, near her house, because her old man would no longer let me in, what with my clattering head having disturbed Lovejoy last time.
After a couple of relatively uneventful but successful dates, I decided to aim for something a bit more grown up than just wandering around places – she hadn’t minded Feren’s art gallery – so I booked a table at what I considered a fancy Italian restaurant: Dominic’s in Anlaby.
Waiting round the corner from her house again, Vicky sauntered up, like a vision of pulchritude. Like Julie Christie with a better right hook. We walked hand in hand to the restaurant in the early summer sunshine and it seemed that, finally, things were happening to me that were both pleasant and what I assumed was normal. I could get used to this, I thought.
An hour later, having been forcibly ejected and barred from Dominic’s, I sat with my back against the wall of the newsagents next door to it, clutching a cloth napkin on the top of my head, which was bleeding quite badly from a wound caused by Vicky picking up the tall glass vinegar bottle by its neck and smashing it over my head. I don’t know if you’ve ever poured vinegar into a fresh cut on the top of your head, but by all means give it a go. You could even add bit of embedded glass in the cut if you want the full experience. Don’t forget to get a load of blood and vinegar in your eyes as well, it’s quite important that you can’t see at the same time as your eyes are in a lot of pain.
Vicky was standing over me, shouting about how it was my own fault; if I didn’t say and do such stupid things all the time, she wouldn’t have to beat the shit out of me so much. I don’t recall exactly what I’d said to her to piss her off so much, but whatever it was must have done the trick. I think the concussion prevented any lasting memory forming.
I stared at her knees, which were nice knees, but all I could think about them was how she’d probably use them in future to further reduce my chances of reproducing.
I left it after that because I thought she’d probably end up killing me, but I have periodically wondered if sticking with Vicky Waddingham wouldn’t have bee a better idea than running away again. I mean, yes, I lost quite a lot of blood and my knackers took a bit of a pasting from time to time, but maybe it was for my own good. You know, a bit of operant conditioning in order to turn me into a tolerably adequate human being.
Still, I was too chicken for that. Even though I’d actually started to enjoy sex for the first time and even though she was really funny, I dumped her. I didn’t tell her I dumped her, I just buggered off. It wasn’t too hard as I wasn’t allowed on her drive by that point.
Apart from the dreams thing, she wasn’t boring. But maybe there’s something to be said for boring. Apart from…
“Our labour preserves us from three great evils — weariness, vice, and want.”
I love Voltaire, especially ‘Candide’, but it’s important to remember that particularly in that book, he was taking the piss.
I was born without a work ethic and I have to thank many people throughout the years who have tirelessly intervened on my behalf, valiantly doing their best to install one in me.
People in my line of work often talk about how they love it because no two days are ever the same. My experience has been pretty much the opposite of that because pretty much every day is exactly the same.
I suppose that it’s my expectations that are unreasonable, rather than having a radically different experience to most of my fellow professionals. It depends what you’re prepared to accept as different, really.
To be fair, it’s not so much Groundhog Day as Groundhog year. Every year for the past 20-odd years has been more or less identical. I’ve done the job in several places, even with different specialisms, but nothing really changes. My colleagues might look mildly different to one another, but they tend to variations on a couple of stereotypical themes, most of which I don’t find terribly appealing. I suppose you have to get your kicks where you can.
There have been times when, disappointingly, I have quite enjoyed work for a bit. Usually because it’s been a bit of a break from a turbulent home life at various points, but that’s a distraction. It might be boring for me quite a lot – doing the same things year in, year out – but maybe there’s an element of consistency and safety in that.
People at my work often talk about work while they’re at work, which I like to avoid. Often, they talk about their work when they’re not at work, which I would object to even more if I spent any of my free time around them. When they’re not talking about work, they’re talking about cake. When they’re not talking about cake, they’re talking about Ant and Dec or something and I just don’t give a shit about that sort of thing. Some of them tell everyone how busy they are and how nobody fills the kettle and how they’ve not sat down for a week. I don’t want to listen to that either. There’s no respite from it at break or dinnertime either.
Lack of respite of a given thing in itself is probably as good a definition of what boredom is and Algerian goalkeeper turned existential supraman, Albert Camus spent a lot of time writing about it, making far more pertinent points about it than I have.
Personally, I don’t subscribe to most of the points of view I quoted at the top of this page, but I do agree with Albert. And, oddly enough, I think he inadvertently – perhaps -identified the modern attitude towards staving off boredom in The Fall.
“The truth is that everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits.”
In other words, there’s no escape from boredom apart from finding things to occupy your mind and even those will probably bore other people.
“He had been bored, that’s all, bored like most people. Hence he had made himself out of whole cloth a life full of complications and drama. Something must happen – and that explains most human commitments. Something must happen, even loveless slavery, even war or death. Hurray then for funerals!”
Which is basically the same thing, more or less, except with an added element of hysteria and melodrama. And that’s what I meant about the modern way, which appears to consist of people making a drama out of nothing much, as long as there’s something to squeal and flap about, no matter how facile or dull.
Boredom, eh? It’s a boring topic that allows boring people to bore each other. Like Edward Gorey, I was hoping that the floor might open up. Which, of course, it didn’t.