A Whole Lot Of Time #timespast

There’s a rather lovely prompt that’s been going for a while, from the one of Irene Waters, a memoirist (is that even a thing?) from Australia, which she calls Times Past. The link to the latest prompt is here.

She is after the biggest change we have seen in our lives, asking us to tell our readers the generation from which we come. I’m a runty little baby boomer, born at the back end of the 1950s.

It would be obvious to mention technology – computers and latterly smart phones have utterly transformed the way we interact and consume information and ideas.

But for me, the biggest change I see is in our relationship with time. We have become temporally poor, especially in the developed world. Technology has exacerbated this issue but it isn’t the cause.

When I began my working life we communicated face to face, by letter or by phone. There was also this thing called the telex, a weird machine, a bit like the teleprinter at the end of the sport’s report on a  Saturday that spewed out the football scores. Then came the fax, with its waxy Izal toilet paper and fading messages, followed by word processors, email and now the plethora of social media.

But even before these innovations, the working day was extending. I left the office, routinely at 5.30 in 1979 when I started. The office building was locked shut at 6. By 1984 the building I was in shut at 8 and on several occasions I had to hurry to leave before being locked in. I did my first all-nighter in 1987, three in a week in 1992 and lost count by the millennium.

We had our first TV in 1961 when there were 2 channels, a TV capable of receiving the third channel in 1969 (it had been going for a while by then), breakfast TV in the 1980s  and a fourth in the early 1990s. And then satellite hit and the number of channels exploded; TV went around the clock. Sport that never made it on screen, became commonplace; ditto films.

By contrast I ate my first meal out (ignoring a fish and chip supper) at a pub in Lymington in January 1970; by 1984, I had enjoyed a range of international cuisine in various restaurants and to take away.

Clubs and bars opened later and later. Concerts like Glastonbury grew exponentially. I travelled more widely; my first trip abroad was to France in 1976, my first flight in 1980. By 1990 I had visited 17 countries over three continents.

I could fill my days, and nights with a constant diet of action, whether work or play.

It was the same when I had children. The number of organised events I ferried them to was enormous but when I talk to parents of school age children now I feel I got away with things lightly. Indeed, with fears about safety driving parents to oversee so much more of their children’s lives than before, there is less room for children to be without some sort of activity.

The death of boredom, that’s the biggest change. I mourn its passing. The ennui of a summer’s afternoon with nothing to do, no one to do it with and no equipment to be used in the creation of that nothing. Yet out of those longueurs came ideas, make-believe, stories and so much more.

And better still came frustration and disappointment and a sense of loss. Not a waste of time – it was only a waste if there was something that you could be doing but weren’t. No it was just time, pure, unadulterated, unspoken-for. Because those were stimulants in their own right, the stimulus to be creative.

It was dreadful, being bored. So what did you do? You went to find out ways not to be bored. Yourself. Not through parents or family, or teachers, or organisations who charged you, or even your friends.

No, it takes a village to raise a child and an imagination to overcome boredom.

Nowadays, when I have so many things I can do, I enjoy those moments when I have nothing. On a walk with Dog I stop and notice a tree that I’m sure I’ve not seen before. It’s been there 70 plus years and I’ve walked by it for 25 and yet I’ve not given us the time to get to know each other. I need to. I owe it to both of us.

People meditate, are mindful, do yoga, go on retreats and I’m sure these are good for their mental health – well, they tell me so. But that’s not the same as being bored rigid, with nothing to do that will stimulate you. The boredom that a child faces on long school holidays.

“Are we there yet?”

The classic moan from the back of a car of the bored child. Nowadays there are ipads and colouring books and interactive games and bluetoothed podcasts and heaven knows what. And if they aren’t working their oracle it’s because the over-stimulated little darling is fast asleep, catching up. Whatever happened to staring out of a window and wondering about the lives of others?

I don’t exactly miss boredom, but I’m glad I experienced it in its rawest, purest form. At least that way I know how to be grateful that I know what I’m missing… And it did take me to places I might not otherwise have gone to.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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36 Responses to A Whole Lot Of Time #timespast

  1. Ritu says:

    Loved reading this His Geoffleship!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can identify with this. My first sight of a computer was one that filled an entire room. ATMs were only just coming in, and the thought of shopping on-line was science fiction.
    I don’t adapt to change well. It frightens rather than intrigues me, too many databases and too many snoops watching. I thought my time would be my own, but it’s invaded with cookies and adverts I neither instigated or want, but I have to go with the flow.
    Walking with the dog though I do see things I would otherwise have missed. I find wonder if the smallest bird or flower, see shapes and images in the cloudy skies, and try not to take fro granted the simple beauty around me.

    Like

  3. I love your writing Geoff, always makes me stop and think, and invariably nod with that look on my face which says, “Yep, just that!” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      And then you find you’ve just bought a mobile granite urinal last used by Emperor Herraculum at the Battle of Whiz Ridge in 27AD at a peripatetic auction you hadn’t realised you’d wandered among while musing. My posts need a health warning clearly….

      Like

  4. “Whatever happened to staring out of a window and wondering about the lives of others?” Or staring up at a plane in the sky and making up stories for why all the people were on it. 🙂 Lovely post, Geoff. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your musings as well. I miss being bored.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautifully written Geoff! And so true – boredom doesn’t stick around for long when you know how to keep yourself entertained. I remember lying on my stomach in the summer grass and tasting all the different types of greenery growing. They were called collectively ‘grass’ then, weeds later and, as I recently discovered, now are synthetically reproduced and packaged and sold as healing herbs…. But the point of my story was that I learned what everything tasted like and as a result of that testing followed it later by finding out many of the names of those ‘weeds’. I would never have done that had I not been momentarily bored.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Boredom is essential to developing creativity. Without it children are truly deprived. My standard response to “I’m bored” is to suggest a household chore. It works every time.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Charli Mills says:

    Now you have me missing boredom. But I don’t think I ever felt it much — after all, there are stories to cath and rocks to identify. Good take on Times Past!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. willowdot21 says:

    So many things here to share! So many common memories. I remember our first TV. I remember travelling on a steam train on our way to family holidays! A much better experience,or so my memory tells me, than by going on the train yesterday crowded not particularly clean with an electronic voice telling us where we were and to watch out for anything suspicious!
    What happened to the national anthem followed by the dot when the BBC ended the nights programs…oh! Yes TV no longer sleeps.
    I remember my husband proudly showing me the first mobile phone he had been given for work…. it was in a brief case and it was heavy!
    So much has changed … you are right we were all able to amuse ourselves and had to. Our children saw the silent creeping invasion of technology… I do fear for the next generations.. or am I just getting old. Thank you for the great post Geoff. 😀💜

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A thought-provoking scan of these last amazing decades of time. That reflection of you and Dog is marvellous

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I never did an all-nighter (unless you count stopping out all night when not working), but I do recall much of what you’ve written here. My sister was terrified of the teleprinter on the TV, and I remember using the telex and thinking how clever I was that I was using something that was going to be around for the next 50 or so years. How wrong I was.
    If there’s one thing I do miss, it’s good old Saturday morning TV when the likes of Noel Edmonds and his ‘Swap Shop’ adorned our screens.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I was born in 1972 and my world has changed a lot too but not as much as yours. I agree with you about work though and internet, iphones and email has made it much worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Norah says:

    Wonderful post, Geoff, and I totally agree. I too have seen those changes. There is nothing like a little boredom to stimulate an imagination. I said I was never bored. I always had something to do – or think. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Geoff thank you so much for joining in with such a wonderful take on the prompt. I agree with you – time has changed since we were kids and the use of that time has changed enormously. I agree you need boredom to really harness creativity. It was a pivotal argument of my thesis that boredom allows a shift from the task at hand, an external function, to looking inside the self, examining feelings, memories and experiences, and shifting the focus of attention elsewhere allowing daydreaming to occur, thereby opening channels allowing a new, creative way of doing the task to be discovered. Unlike Norah, I have to admit as a child I was often bored, but probably some of our best games and worst punishments were the result of it.

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  15. Pingback: The biggest change: Times Past | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

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