Archive for the 'boredom' Category

It’s hard to find a friend

I realize now that the blogs I wrote in NZ in pubs and cafes were really just ways to pass the time and look less lonely when there’s no one else there. Not that I mind being on my own, more that I mind people thinking ‘look at the sad old bugger on his own in the corner’.

I have a mate living in england who occasionally frequents Thom Yorke’s pub and on a random Thursday evening you might find I’m in there ensconced in a corner with a pint and an old paperback. Maybe he doesn’t suffer the same neuroses I do.

So I write this in a snug in a pub in town waiting for two mates to turn up. I have this terrible habit of actually being on time for things, which means i always seem to end up sitting about by myself waiting for other people writing blogs to pass the time.

When I arrive it’s kind of  a slow night, there’s just a few hardened drinkers arranged by the bar who give me a slightly cursory glance and return to Crystal Palace versus Leicester on the telly.

I retire to a snug and begin to fend off my boredom by looking up obscure medical conditions on the program on my phone – this has been a lifesaver to stave off boredom in various isolated situations.

I get bored with Waldenstrom’s macrglobulinaemia (which the first prime minister of Algeria died of incidentally… Don’t ask…) and start to write the blog. Leicester score. A woman walks briefly through and leaves even more quickly. It’s that type of pub. At one point  a non white person arrives and chats comfortably with a few of the locals. I pinch myself to check I’m still in Portadown. Maybe I paint this place worse than it is.

15 minutes later Des sits down beside me having been sitting in the snug beside me for the past 10 minutes but completely oblivious to my presence. He only found me when the bar man suggested that ‘was he meeting anyone’ and that he was probably in the snug beside him.

Shane arrives another 15 minutes later with some lame excuse about baby sitting his 6 year old nephew, or getting beat up by his 6 year old nephew. I’m not sure which.

We all worked (though I use that term in the loosest possible sense) in the hospital as cleaners when we were students. Spending our weekends cleaning toilets and handing out breakfasts to the patients (often in that order).

I loved it, but then I get excited about nearly everything so maybe I’m not the one to ask.

We managed about 4 years in total. It was better than real work – which by my definition involves some kind of manual labour, probably outdoors on rainy days only. So by that definition I’ve never had a real job. And also that the only people doing real work are the roads service – which is clearly nonsense. Though I suppose it does count with Shane who was briefly (though to be fair bout 4 years…) an archaeologist before taking up a job renting property (or selling guns or something…) in Bosnia. Some people eh?

Des makes TV programmes. Which is well cool. Though I’ve never actually seen any of them. Funny where we all end up.

pub-man.jpgThe bant was good, I didn’t even see who won the match. Shane goes back to Bosnia soon so we say our goodbyes till July when Shane gets back and we do this again. Except next time I’ll just remember to bring a paper instead of blogging to fill the time.

Diamonds on the soles of her shoes


Of my many, and ever increasing number of neuroses, is my fear of boredom. Of mental, physical or spiritual inactivity. That somehow I will read, work or spiritualise my way into heaven. I’ve tried this. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t stop me trying.

So one of my many, and ever increasing list of problems, is dealing with an empty diary. I keep my appointments on my calendar function on my phone. Because I like digital order and the nerdish satisfaction I have from it. Usually this consists of work rotas, gigs, practices and meeting up with various folk. I like when each day has a little blue square of happily occupied bliss. I like it even better when one little blue square runs into the next and then the appointments get highlighted in red as a clash, like some kind of James Bond doomsday device countdown read-out.

These little things give my self-justifying soul a warm and fuzzy feeling.

The last little blue square of bliss I had was a wedding a month ago. And that was it. When I look at my phone it greets me with no ‘upcoming appointments’. A constant reminder of the uncertain mornings, afternoons and evenings that lies before me.

This no longer scares me. In fact I’ve grown to quite like the idea. Like new shoes that feel odd and uncomfortable, almost constricting compared to your beloved and smelly trainers that have finally made a final demand for holiday entitlements and a pension fund. These new and, almost brutal new shoes slowly worm their way into your life till you try on the old trainers one day when they’ve just popped back from the golf course and you realise that you’ve grown used to the new ones.

I promise to refrain from shoe metaphors for the remainder of our time together.

I’m getting used to the idea of waiting. I’m getting used to the idea of not justifying myself by what I do. I’m getting used to the idea of having nothing in the diary for the next 3 months.  I’m getting used to the idea of not being happy about it.

The Big Trip – Day 11

Mostly listening to: sam’s town (the killers), neil diamond (not sure where it came from…)
Sleeping in/on: the firestation backpackers – gore (what a name for a town), on a lovely double bed in my own wee room. All very civilised
KMs: 2400
Coffees: two
Weather: sunny then cloudy
Company name of the day: beyond the fringe – hairdressers
Beard up date: itchy, could swear I saw it twitch this morning…

Woke up on a boat. I thought it was kind of cool. Morsies didn’t get to wake on the boat cause she never slept.

Spent the morning marvelling at milford sound (again) this time it was a bit damper with more waterfalls. Couldn’t turn round for waterfalls in fact. Stunning place.

Made a dash from the boat to the car to avoid the sand flies. Few casualties along the way.

Spent the morning driving back the 2 hr road to the nearest town. Managed to take 5 hours with stops every ten minutes to take photos and short walks while ruth slept in the back of the car – luxury all the way eh?

In the end we drove half way across the south island towards dunedin. In the end, we stopped in gore.

The lonely planet doesn’t have much to say about gore. Which is a bad start. It’s motto is ‘the country music capital of NZ’. Also renowned for it’s line dancing. Also famous for the 10m statue of a trout as the centrepiece – apparently the capital of NZ brown trout fishing too.

In places like this, your expectations are pretty low to begin with, so anything you find is a bonus. ‘oh look a pubic toilet, fancy that, get a photo of me beside it.’

The backpackers we’re staying in is perfectly pleasant. Though it’s for sale and we’re almost the only ones here. There’s one other foreign (by which I mean non-english speaking. I still know i’m a foreigner, I just forget) girl who arrived and seemed to cry when she couldn’t understand the questions the owner was asking her. Felt kind of bad about that, so we hid in the room and then snuck out before she saw us.

Gore is just a single street of about a few hundred metres of shops. We walked the strip, seeing all the sights (yes including the trout) in about 10 minutes. We turned and walked it back again debating the all important ‘where will we eat tonight?’ question. Found a cinema (a flippin cinema and a trout, such bounty…) still showing casino royale so we planned for it at 8.30. We only had two hours to kill. I’m not a violent man, but given a gun i’d gladly have killed them.

We settled on the clean and tidy looking thai restraunt. It was playing, naturally – country music. And it was a cd (including ‘don’t break my heart, my achy-brakey heart’) on a 15 minute loop. There was the usual disturbing photo of a Thai royal family above the counter. Though i’m not sure the thai royal family are still in place since september…

I ordered the starter of ‘battered seafood platter’ and the ‘salt and pepper squid’ for the main. The kind young waitress came back and said there was no squid, but she would substitute prawns.

The starter (remember battered seafood platter) was made up of battered prawns and battered mushrooms and brocolli – those well known sea foods. Anyway it was perfectly pleasant.

My main arrived. It appeared to be a very slightly larger version of precisely what i’d just had. Except with a sprig of salad on top. My heart sank. I confess I couldn’t finish it. I can still (and will for some time) see  the little tails of those battered prawns staring at me.

Having dragged out the prawn fest as long as we could, and even throwing in a walk round ‘the warehouse’, it was still ony 7.30. Entertianment options in gore on a thursday exhausted, we retired to the hostel.

Si and ruth entertained me with some pre-prepared line dancing moves, to the tune of weezer’s buddy holly. It makes me laugh that they dance in the house at home  by themselves. Never in public of course. Spending so much time with them has given me lots of positive and negative views on marriage (the silly dances being of course a positive). Though that was pretty much where I started on marriage so I don’t know if it’s changed much. Just reinforced a lot of what I thought already – Amazed how two human beings can ever put up with each others crazy bits.

Dancing over we hit the cinema. I won the ‘guess how many people would be in the cinema with us?’ question with a bang on 3.

Left at near 11pm and the place was so empty that I felt obliged to turn off all the lights and lock up, and I don’t just mean the cinema…


I have a fear of boredom. Some people are scared of spiders or rats. I once knew a girl who had an irrational fear of bananas, but then she had a lot of issues… come to think of it, I’m not a big fan of rats either, or avocados, but that’s just a taste thing…

But boredom, really scares me. That I mightn’t be occupied with some task, with some activity, with some mental process. I fear the empty space of inactivity. There are lots of reasons for this which I’ll not go into now, cause I started this to talk about something else.

In the same way, I fear silence. I think it’s part of the boredom thing. That if there’s silence then maybe I’m not doing something and then I must be bored. Noise, music, recorded speech – occupies all my waking moments. I love to multi-task (I knew I should have been born a woman – oops, did I just say that… darn backspace key is broke… araghhh…). I cannot just read, or write, or study, I must do all at the same time, preferably with some ryan adams in the background.

Part of this is from society. We have ‘musack’ everywhere. Everything must be accompanied by some form of melody, however terrible it might be. There is an entire industry producing CDs for stores and supermarkets. In NZ they all seem to have to contain at least 2 Crowded House songs (usually ‘don’t dream it’s over’ and ‘fall at your feet’) and a selection of terrible 80s twaddle that I hate but end up singing along to as I wander round Woolworths buying my cheap noodles. Today I was singing bloomin well Eurythmics. My parents told me coming here would all end in tears…

And there’s of course elevator music. Which is kind of good in a way, cause I’ve never been more awkward places than elevators. There’s just you and the random punter, and you’re in the elevator, and it’s got mirrored walls and you don’t know where to look. And it opens at a floor where no one gets on and no one gets off, and there’s just the painful silence, like a scene from ‘the office’, and I feel I have to say something but I just can’t seem to put a rational sentence together. You then realise you have one of those pseudo-sneezes going on, and you do a few rapid inhales like you’re going to sneeze but you don’t – I know you’re all with me here, we’ve all been there. At that moment ‘Weather with you’ (flippin Kiwis and their crowded house everywhere…) comes on in the elevator, and we all breathe a silent sigh of relief and the guy beside you relaxes and feels able to clear his throat in confidence.

So, after that disproportionately long paragraph, then maybe I’m not completely against ‘musack’.

I do wish I could content myself with silence a bit more often. When I go for a cycle, or a walk, I make sure I have music with me. If only for the reason that young men walking by themselves look less pyschopathical (?) than young men walking by themselves with headphones. I’d probably be better with a dog though not sure if the dog would. Funny, that when I’m cycling (with music or a John Piper sermon or two) I’m actually less distracted than usual and can use the cycling to focus on what I’m listening to. If I just listen to something without actually doing something else, then I tend to drift and go ‘oh look a fluffy cloud’ and then I’m gone…

The flat where I’m living, while not especially small, is easily big enough for sound to travel throughout the whole place. And I have the computer wired to some cheap (but flippin lovely) speakers and i always have iTunes on or Radio 4, or as I have most recently found, video clips from Newsline 6.30 from the BBC website (how cool is that!). All I need is Angie…

So wherever I go, and whatever I do in the flat, then I can always multi-task. I find it hard to eat a meal in the flat in silence. I always have the music on, or I’m reading the paper at the same time as eating. When I go to the loo or have a shower then there’s always background noise, there’s always something to occupy my mind. Though you probably didn’t need to know the loo bit. Though while I’m here (wherever that is, there is a strong family –well me and Simon – tradition of prolonged, well occupied toilet breaks. Be it a newspaper a book, or as I used to do, take in a whole box of lego and play pirates with them. Beginnning to wonder if this needs censorship. Or at least editorial review…

The fear of silence is roughly speaking the fear of boredom. The fear of the cold harsh reality of who I am, that there’s all types of appalling stuff still going on in my head and my heart. And the fear that if I stop, then I might need to face up to some of it. That GOD might be speaking to me about some of it.

In the silence right now, all I can hear is the hum of the speakers (I told you they were cheap) and the noise of my fingers on the keyboard. And there’s fifty people living beside and above me and I can’t hear anything from them. And I’m not scared. And I’m not lonely. And I’m not bored.

It takes time, but the ‘tinnitus’ of the ‘musack’ and the ‘80s twaddle’ of my life slowly begins to die down. And I can hear my internal carotid pulsing as it angles past my middle ear. And slowly, following that, there rises the cacophony of my own soul. With the thousand images of who I think I am, and who I want to be, the movie-script ending. And the faces of all the people I love, like headshots in black and white. And all my fantasies and dreams. And all the patients I’ve ever treated and all the people I’ve watched die. And the history of GOD’s word and his people and his overpowering grace to me, a sinner.

And I’m not bored. I’m not scared. I’m alive.

There was a Paul Simon song, I believe there still is a Paul Simon song, if we’re talking tenses. Unlike ‘there was an old woman who lived in a shoe’, I presume she doesn’t live there any more, I presume she got benefits or DLA and moved out.

Anyhow, the song goes:

‘I’m heading for a time of quiet, of peace without illusion
When I can lie down on my blanket
And release my fists at last’


July 2022