Now that Mervyn King has opined about the need for the economy to begin ‘the long walk back to boredom’, I fear that the Section Twos of the papers will be stuffed with ‘Ten Ways to be Boring as a Family’; ‘How to Be Boring for Under £10’; ‘Is The Queen the Patron Saint of Boredom?’; ‘Quiz: How Boring Are You?’ This is troubling for several reasons. First, it suggests that the underlying causes of these calamitous times have nothing to do with uninhibited greed, but instead stem from an excess of excitement in our lives. Second, and more misleading, it gives the impression that boredom is easily achieved. Nothing could be further from the truth. I spent quite a few turbulent decades in search of boredom.
As I’m rather lazy and scatterbrained, you might think that boredom came naturally to me, but the effort to keep myself employed, solvent and hygienic deprived me of the pleasure of boredom. It is a truth universally acknow-ledged that as long as a woman is in search of a mate she is burdened with a regimen of appearing interested and interesting. Soon after I became engaged, my future mother-in-law confided that the nicest thing about married life was that you could enjoy your dinner without the pressure of making clever conversation.
This is a secret quietly passed down the female line, although the poet Wendy Cope revealed it to a larger public in her poem Being Boring. It concludes: Someone to stay home with was all my desire And, now that I’ve found a safe mooring, I’ve just one ambition in life: I aspire To go on and on being boring. If marriage brings about the first real taste of the pleasure of being boring, motherhood is the heyday of sublime boredom. Being reproductive is contented bliss, because the world’s expectations diminish as you effort- lessly expand.
When you give birth, you are allowed to dwell on your creation, and even your nearest and dearest tend to tole-rate this long phase in which you are painfully boring. This is also when you gravitate towards other women who are reproductive so that you can be boring together. Nothing breeds contentment like communal bore-a-thons about one’s children.
A whole new world of boring topics opens up: pelvic floors, sleep deprivation, au pairs, nurseries, pre-prep. And it doesn’t end there, but continues aimlessly through Common Entrance, GCSE and A levels. By the time you have launched your offspring into their own fascinating worlds, you have become a cabbage. A contented cabbage to be sure, until a cruel Law of Nature requires that you make renewed effort to interest your mate because he is now surrounded by younger candidates in search of happy boredom (call it security), who are busily convincing him that he is fascinating and that you, well, are really rather boring. Which leads me to the main problem that Mr King may have. Boredom, be it domestic or economic, requires security and contentment. Think childhood summers, morning swims, idle afternoons. But the folks who got us in this dismal mess do not understand boredom.
They are driven, ambitious types who believe that responsible and scrupulous regulation is boring. They see boredom as a dangerous social sin that will lead us down the road to
Scandinavia, a healthy, prosperous, peaceful and clean land that isn’t all that interesting. Those of us who know how to spend long, motionless chunks of time on the sides of playing fields watching a child, those of us who know that floating on your back is better for the soul than swimming laps, in short, those of us who relish being stuck behind a sugar-beet lorry because it enables us to listen peacefully to Book of the Week we are the ones who understand the true meaning of boredom. Until we run the world, I’m afraid it will be the rocky road of boom and bust.