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The internet has taken away the joy of boredom

Bored, bored, bored … That’s been my coronavirus experience. Luckily, I’ve avoided the plague. But I’ve been thrown on my own inner resources – and found them woefully inadequate.

I’ve tiled the tiny floor of my boiler cupboard – badly. I’ve framed two pictures – badly – and hung them in my flat. I’ve read The Lost Diaries of Nigel Molesworth (a masterpiece but pretty short); half a dozen Penguin mini-classics, all around 80 pages or fewer; and half the letters of Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford. That isn’t much to show for two months’ worth of extra free time. Isaac Newton worked out the principles of calculus when he was in his plague lockdown.

My idleness wouldn’t matter if I didn’t mind being bored so much. During my school and university holidays, I had nothing to do – and I loved it. But that was in the days BI – Before the Internet.

In her brilliant new book about school summer holidays between 1930 and 1980, British Summer Time Begins, Ysenda Maxtone Graham describes that intense boredom – and how we were all utterly used to it then. One person she interviews was so bored as a child that she even made imaginary friends – with blades of grass. In the book, Danny Finkelstein, the Times writer, describes how he used to play football on his own and get very good at scoring goals against himself. I did exactly the same. I’d recreate famous Arsenal goals – with me playing both sides. And I’d practise keepie-uppie for hours on end.

But I can’t do that any more. My attention span has been destroyed by the bloody internet. Against that paltry list of small books I’ve read, I’d hate to see the sum total of time I’ve spent grazing the internet – the most pernicious form of time-wasting ever invented.

Read more at Catholic Herald

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