All Roads Lead to Home

The phrase ‘you can’t go home again’ was originated by Ella Winter, and popularised by Tom Wolfe as the title of a novel. It’s a phrase that comes back to me regularly with regards to thoughts of moving away from my home town, moving house on an almost annual basis since, growing up and becoming a different person etc. I’m not always sure how ‘at home’ I feel, but maybe I’m just chasing a feeling that I can never recapture. It doesn’t matter what I do to recreate my old bedroom; amassing a new key ring collection, a new assortment of baseball caps I would never wear, or a new hockey trophy for a tournament I never played in. I was a weird kid.

In a very literal sense, I can never go back to my childhood bedroom, because my parents don’t live in that house anymore. Sure, I could knock on the front door, greet the confused inhabitants, and convince them that it’s worth letting a stranger into their house just so he can prove Ella Winter wrong. But even if I could, I’d go into that room, possibly still a child’s bedroom, and all I would feel is a gut-wrenching pang of lost time. Maybe I’d lament the missing Matrix Revolutions poster, (with the appropriate tag line, ‘everything that has a beginning has an end’) the lack of a tiny grey cathode ray television in the corner, and the absence of a singular smell of adolescence. But what I’d miss most is not the objects, or the geography of it, but the feeling of being a pedantic, insufferable sixteen-year-old, yet to decide whether to dedicate his life to any one thing in particular, aside from making sneering corrective remarks at every opportunity.

One reasoning for the direction in which we view time, past into present into future, is the gradual increase in entropy the universe undergoes. The past has already happened, it is set, we agree that these things cannot be changed. They have a lower entropy, a lower level of disorder than the future, in which a greater number of possible versions of reality exist. But there’s comfort in remembering the past. It’s safe. Just ask fans of Peter Kay’s stand up. We know what happened, we know who we were back then, but we can’t say the same about the future. You can never be who you were, and while we should be okay with that, and happy to grow and progress, it’s just another reminder of the inexorable march of time, just like sitting through Peter Kay’s stand up.

Would I really want to be the version of myself I was when I lived in that bedroom? Where I wrote a bucket-list in which I somehow expressed an equal desire to ‘fall in love’, ‘see the Mona Lisa up close’, ‘go to New York’ and ‘con McDonald’s into giving me a free meal’. Where I would paint my Warhammer figurines. Where I lost my virginity (those last two were necessarily many years apart). I want to go back to my old self and tell them that writing a list like that is bullshit. Pointless. What you want will change, and you shouldn’t feel beholden to a promise you made to yourself in the past. Plus McDonald’s really isn’t that expensive. I want to encourage myself to be more in the moment. I’d say not to look forward to the completion of a stupid list, only done so for its own sake. And maybe I’d give some tips regarding losing my virginity. Maybe I’d even get it right.

I used to fantasise about going back in time to my twelve-year-old body with the mind I have now, and being even more of a know-it-all irritant at school, but having the foresight to not worry about the little things. Also knowing which of my classmates would turn out to be followers of the BNP on Facebook, making me feel a touch less rueful of their lack of approval. But what would that do? Realising that nothing I did mattered until I turned eighteen? I’d become a tiny nihilist, accosting teachers and classmates for the tiniest of transgressions, using my knowledge of the future for personal gain and generally being a fucking nuisance. I’d be Biff from Back to the Future.

What’s the point in looking back unless it’s to learn something? I know I was a little shit. I also know that what I wanted then doesn’t matter. I’ve been in love, I’ve seen the Mona Lisa up close (if you want to know what that was like, just Google ‘Mona Lisa’) and I’m going to New York soon. Not because my sixteen-year-do self told me to. Frankly I’d rather not do what that idiot told me to, he had a fucking Matrix Revolutions poster on his wall. Don’t worry McDonald’s, you’re safe.

Next time on the Bandwagon, I’ll be discussing my new fad diet, wherein I eat what I want for a week, then eat nothing for three weeks, fake my death, move to Italy and gradually work back up to my ideal weight using pasta and wine.

On the Originality of the Species

Brief disclaimer, in the following entry, I may well refer to myself as a ‘creative’ or ‘creative person’. If this comes across as pretentious, I apologise. It is merely intended to come across as fiercely accurate and self-aggrandising.

People who work in some sort of creative capacity are usually seeking one or more of the following; recognition, an increase in proficiency of their creativity/skill, the opportunity to explain their creativity/skill in a patronising manner to a non-creative lay-person (referred to in creative circles as ‘social furniture’), and of course, originality.

Some of these can be achieved by attempting another; a talent for originality can encourage the practise required to reach greater proficiency, which means it becomes a bigger part of your life and you talk about it to people, leading to recognition as an insufferable, self-absorbed bore.

But isn’t originality a myth? Hasn’t everything been done? I mean Christ, I’m only writing about originality because I just finished reading a book about it. If I were really being original, I’d write about a totally new subject, such as the aerodynamics of salad tongs when fired through crepe paper, or whether candles are basically chips if you’re a Madame Tussaud display. Not interesting topics, but original I’d wager. And is originality a worthy enough end alone? Would it be unoriginal to communicate a familiar feeling to an audience as a way to vindicate that feeling? Or is originality important only as the vessel?

What if I were to expound the well-worn subject of the inferiority of aeroplane food in a totally new and unrecognisable way? Perhaps by suggesting that we have no other high-altitude food to compare it to so maybe we should be grateful. If we found that things tasted amazing on a hang-glider, then we’ll talk. Is that necessarily parody, or is there always a new way of studying any subject in a way that makes it appear new? And is there any point if you end up reaching the same conclusion?

As an exercise for how difficult it is to be totally original, I thought I would try to come up with a brief idea for 5 stories that I don’t think have ever existed before. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. A giraffe is spontaneously transported to the centre of an alien planet and learns to control it from within via the use of Jenga.
  2. Time and Space realise their relationship is disintegrating and hope that having a child will rekindle things. The child is called Stephen and he becomes a groundskeeper for a golf course.
  3. The year is 1782, but everyone is convinced it is 1783 already. Hilarity ensues.
  4. A series of time lapse photographs of grazing cattle becomes sentient and runs for president.
  5. Sweden unveils a new national anthem that tacitly ostracises cheese-lovers. People who claim to be addicted to cheese have to face the reality that they simply have no personality.

I’d like to think that some of these seem pretty original, if unworkable as premises for stories. And certainly I can trace the lineage of some of these ideas to my own influences. In hindsight, number 3 is similar to a fake documentary short I wrote about an 8-year-old girl who thinks she’s 9 and subsequently requires surgery. And number 5 is probably just me thinking cheese is overrated.

A lot of stories we know owe at least something to a previous iteration, and I don’t just mean the idea of there being ‘only seven stories’ or as the ending to The Amazing Spider-Man posits, only one story: ‘who am I?’ which seems rather apt for a film that itself had trouble reconciling its own identity. I mean that I can’t get my head around the creativity of the first person, for example, to use time-travel as a story conceit, as it inevitably leads to the exploration of ideas of free will and determinism, as well as the idea that more people than you’d expect seem to be up for murdering their own grandfather just to prove a point.

It feels so familiar a device now, but the originality required to be able to describe something as weird as moving through time in the wrong direction astounds me. I thought a good analogy for that is a story I heard about how Native Americans were apparently unable to see Columbus’ huge ships approaching them due to having no precedent for structures of that size or shape. I liked how that seemed to illustrate the reticence with which people can react to new ideas. However, upon further reading, I discovered that story to be a load of horseshit popularised by a pseudo-science documentary, misinterpreted from a cherry-picking of John Banks’ journal of Cook’s expedition to Australia, in which the natives can very clearly see the ships. Maybe that’s the key then. Take an original idea, twist and misinterpret it beyond recognition from its source, and present it as something new.

I’ve always wondered if it’s possible still to come up with such an original and multi-purpose idea as time travel for use in fiction. I just don’t like the thought that we’ve reached a point where nothing new can exist. What about teleporting limbs as a sci-fi concept? Send your leg to Spain for some reason, or send your arm to draw cocks in moon dust? If artists borrow and geniuses steal, maybe it’s just for idiots to convince themselves they should bother trying anything new. But look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn’t want to see a movie of a giraffe controlling an entire planet with Jenga.

Next time on the bandwagon, something unoriginal, cliched and derivative. Or a story about turning all the faberge eggs in the world clockwise by two degrees and seeing if anyone notices.

I Wrote About Sensationalism – You Won’t Believe What Happened Next

People will tell you that 2016 was the worst year ever… EVER. At least the mindset of the worst being behind us puts us in a better mood for the year ahead (remember the women’s March? That was so good people couldn’t even wait until March, they had to do it in January). But 2016 was the worst? Really? Remember like, polio and stuff? No, neither do I, I hadn’t been born yet, that’s how far away we are from it now, my whole brilliant life so far, plus more. Remember when Hitler? Or before we evolved the need for cool sunglasses? Let’s get some perspective guys, especially if your cool sunglasses have prescription lenses.

 

I’m not going to give you the whole ‘let’s give Trump a chance’ spiel because that’s what got the city of Troy in trouble with that big wooden horse. ‘Hey I know it’s from the Greeks, but let’s give it a chance, maybe it’s full of money and wishes.’ Just that we need to dial it back sometimes on the hyperbole. Otherwise we’re no better than him. Him who has ‘the best words. Everyone knows it.’

 

Remember when BBC News 24 launched, and everyone was panicking that either there was actually much more news than we realised, or that the channel would struggle to fill the time? I don’t think that helped. That constant need to fill a void, be it dead air or head space, then migrated to the click-bait articles of the Internet, making us all believe that we cared about the net worth of Charles M. Schultz, or what that kid from Jerry Maguire looks like now (he’s ripped). Luckily we’re moving past that to an extent, and if you don’t believe me, check out the Facebook group ‘Stop Clickbait’, or look for any meme or joke that ends ‘you won’t believe what happens next’, such as the unimaginative, derivative title of this blog. We are becoming savvy consumers of media, gradually more able to discern real from fake, and fake from ‘alternative’. More and more people are, in the parlance of our times, ‘woke’.

 

The closest I came to buying in to apocalyptic media hype was leading up to the activation of the Large Hadron Collider, during which time everyone was told that the machine would be used to recreate the conditions of The Big Bang, leading to a possibility that they would create a black hole, which would of course swallow us all up.

Feel free to cast your mind back to recall whether this did in fact occur, and then whether any of the news outlets reporting this seemed to do so with any level of authority or knowledge on the subject. It puts me in mind of the time I was stopped by a Jehovah’s Witness in the street as a teenager. I explained my beliefs, what I thought happens after death etc. She asked how I thought the universe got here then? I suggested The Big Bang. She replied, ‘Yes but, if we had a Big Bang now… we’d all die wouldn’t we?’ I had to admit, as irrelevant a question as that was, she had me. We would all die. All of a sudden she had me thinking about physics, when all I’d been planning to do that day was go to my A Level Physics lesson, which I was now late for.

As it turns out, the peeps at the LHC were trying to recreate conditions very similar to those immediately after the Big Bang, in terms of pressure, temperature etc. They were not trying to create a new universe, so apologies to those people that think everything’s so fucked at the moment that we may as well try.

 

Oh yeah, and remember the whole 2012 Mayan prophecy thing? Turns out they just stopped their calendar, not that the world would necessarily end. At least we got a terrible Roland Emmerich movie out of it, wherein John Cusack tries to escape a planet-wide apocalypse by driving away in a car. Oh yeah, and remember the time I convinced myself I had a brain tumour while at work? Turns out I’d just had one more coffee than usual which gave me a headache and fast-tracked me to Anxietyville. I would’t recommend you visit Anxietyville by the way; all paving is crazy paving, all warts are worry-warts and all the road signs just direct you to ‘bed’ even though no-one sleeps. And not in a cool New York way. In a less cool heart-palpitations way. Oh and everyone watches Gogglebox or something. Satire.

One thing that confuses me is the idea that everything is worthy of comment. Nothing is above reproach of course, or irreverence, but why talk about something as inconsequential as Trump’s hairstyle or whether or not the kid from Jerry Maguire is ripped (again, he is), when we should be discussing the actual things Trump does, and the actual things the kid from Jerry Maguire is doing now (according to Wikipedia, he was in a movie called Loserville last year. Looking ripped probably).

 

Scientists are not trying to destroy the world, which Mayans did not predict, and they are not acting under the orders of President Trump. He hates science. What he really cares about is fashion. I mean just look at that hair.

 

 

Next time on the Bandwagon, a full retrospective on the career of Jonathan Lipnicki, aka the kid from Jerry Maguire. Spoiler alert, he works out a lot.

Obsessed Behaviour

Remember when liking and knowing things wasn’t cool? I have no idea how much school might have changed since I went, but when I did, being able to answer a question correctly was the top reason to bully someone. Not so much a case of ‘might makes right’, but more a case of ‘might makes being right undesirable and punishable’. Being a ‘nerd’, or any equivalent, was in no way cool. If you wore glasses it’s because you had shitty eyes, not to accentuate your position within a subculture. And even now the ‘geek’ look is only considered sexy if you’re basically already sexy, looking like a geek on its own is not enough. I should know; I went through school with the physique of a Tim Burton animation (plus acne) and the incessant pedantry of a YouTube video entitled ‘David Mitchell’s Best Rants’ (minus the wit), and it did very little to help me out socially.

Well now knowing things and liking things apparently is cool, due to the rise and acceptance of nerd culture. So having an ‘obsession’ or passion is not considered weird, but is encouraged. I’m led to believe that offices have replaced ‘dress-down Fridays’ with ‘try to dress like your favourite anime character without being offensive Tuesdays’, GCSE English exams exclusively ask students to discuss the themes of identity in Scott Snyder’s run on Batman; and Pub-Golf is disappearing to make way for the much more popular Pub-Magic:The Gathering.

While a lot of my ‘obsessions’ certainly fit into the mould of a stereotypical nerd, I also have a few outliers. Shall we share?

First up, looking at before and after photos of celebrities who have lost weight (the Nutty Professor is subsequently much higher than it should be in my personal movie rankings)

Okay, now you go, what’s your ‘obsession’?

Oh wow, I didn’t realise that was still technically legal, but thank you.

My turn again. Reading about hip hop stars that used to be in a feud but have since buried the hatchet. If DMX and Ja Rule can learn to get along, maybe there’s hope for us all.

Now you again.

Oh that’s so adorable that you think that’s even worth mentioning, bless you. I mean I wouldn’t call it an obsession, but I certainly tried it during my adolescence on those lonelier nights.

See, sharing these things is a great way to get to know someone, as we have just categorically proven. But these aren’t really obsessions are they? What we’ve been talking about are just passion projects, or hobbies. Basically the things we would list on dating profiles next to GSOH and that picture of us pretending not to know we’re having our picture taken. Mine would be something like ‘reading, writing, trying to make people laugh, trying not to fuck up’ which also very accurately describes my school experience. Maybe you would list ‘looking at strangers’ dogs’, ‘thinking that being really excited about Christmas gives you more of a personality’, or ‘craft ales’. But whatever annoying thing you do to stave off the thoughts of death, they aren’t really obsessions. A true obsession would be something you can’t stop thinking about on an hourly basis, something that is all-consuming, to the point of almost being detrimental to your mental health, whether it comes from an internal or external source.

People like to bandy the term ‘OCD’ around like a volleyball on a nudist beach, but mostly just to describe being slightly worried about neatness or grammar. Such as:

“Oh don’t put that cup of tea on the table without a coaster, my OCD will go mental.”

Please… I think you mean 5 items or fewer, not less. You have to stop that or I’ll just get so OCD all over you.”

“Is that Bryce Dallas Howard or Amy Adams? Let me just text my OCD, he’s good with stuff like this.”

Some mental illnesses enter our general lexicon, but few that are used in such a watered-down version day-to-day. I don’t want to pretend that I’m the spokesperson for it, or that I even fully understand the condition, but I did suffer from it mildly as a child, and for me it had nothing to do with correcting people’s grammar (which I do, but purely recreationally). I think mine started as a result of having to check the ingredients of food due to a nut allergy, and took a less logical jaunt over to turning lights on and off multiple times before leaving the living room, and obsessively checking the doors were locked. There was no sense to it, I would literally stand at the front door for minutes, jamming my hand on the unmoving handle, knowing it was locked, but still having to continue checking. If a dating profile asked me to list my obsessions, I don’t think this would be what they were after.

I guess it boils down to knowing the difference between a passion and obsession. A passion is following your favourite sports team. An obsession is following the players of your favourite sports team home, because you think they might be in love with you. I have a passion for comic books and comedy. I had an obsession for making sure the lights in my kitchen were turned off properly because I was worried it would spark in the night and, in the event of a gas leak, set the house on fire and kill us all. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there.

But don’t feel too bad. I hammered on my parents’ front door handle so many times over the years that I actually broke it and my dad had to replace it. If only someone could have gone back and spoken to me as a teenager, during a time when my arms were little more than pairs of parallel lines between wrist and shoulder, and told me that I would one day rend a door handle free from its bindings, I probably would have felt pretty good about myself. I guess what I’m saying is, never give up. Or something.

Next time on the Bandwagon, I try to prove that beards aren’t vegan, to ruin it for everyone.

Identity Cleft

Who am I?

Difficult question to ask isn’t it? No it isn’t, I’m Tim, your best friend ever and the person whose blog you turn to whenever you need a good chuckle or existential crisis. But what makes me who I am? Is it what I think (that bacon is overrated), is it what I do (say I love bacon, but then eat less bacon than you might think), or is it some combination of the two? Personally, I believe that what a person thinks is basically irrelevant. If it doesn’t lead to action then it’s it’s entirely subjective, there’s no record of it except inside that person’s own mind, and it has no impact on the world (except in rare cases of telekinesis, you know Derren Brown sort of shit, or what I like to call ‘Brownian motion’). And in regards to what people say? Well I could go around telling people that I have six arms (it’s a great ice-breaker), but it will have no impact on how many arms I actually have, which, if I had to guess, is closer to two.

What I’m saying is that the only thing that counts is action. So in that regard, who am I?

When I’m on my own? I’m that person who, when I realise I’ve taken a wrong turn while walking somewhere, is not confident enough to simply stop, turn round and go the other way. That would look mental. I have to put on a little play where I stop, look at my phone, act confused and maybe enraged at the erroneous directions I’ve received from some non-existent friend, then sort of huff at nothing, and impatiently turn the other way and continue walking. As far as what I’m thinking in that situation goes, well that means nothing, because I’m not behaving in a way that bears that out, and that’s all people can see.

We do this sort of thing all the time; my favourite individual one-act play is the one called ‘Push/Pull’, a silent comedy of errors wherein the main character encounters a set of double doors. They push one. No movement. They pull it. Nothing. They push the other. Still nothing. They pull it. At last, it yields. The actor grins with relief, and slaps their forehead to signify what a dunce they are. They walk through the door, shaking their head in disbelief, before turning bright red upon exiting stage left.

These are things we do to influence how people see us in the world. We want to not look like a total idiot, and show we have some humour about our idiocy. But it never fools anyone does it? I mean, it’s nice to see someone show humility when they’ve been wrong, but if someone manages to get through a door only on the fourth try, and then walks through stony-faced, I’m not going to think they’re a psychopath. But we need to display to everyone around us a certain version of what’s happened. Which is all part of constructing our social identity.

Watch any reality TV show these days (please don’t) and you’ll find at least one of the contestants/characters/housemates/jungle-bunglers say something to the effect of “I just speak my mind. If I don’t like them I tell them to their face. It’s just being honest.”

No it’s not, it’s being a bellend. Being honest would be to tell someone when they’ve done something specific to upset you, or the missteps of manners in their behaviour. Telling someone you straight up don’t like them is basically always shitty. But there’s a difference between not necessarily speaking your mind and being two-face. One means you have a sense of tact, and social grace, while the other means you’re a district attorney for Gotham City, and half of your face was burned with acid in a courtroom, which manifests as a split personality and a vendetta against Batman. You see? Worlds apart.

Similarly, how we present ourselves on social media is a relatively new dimension to identity. We now have more opportunities to define ourselves, forced to form opinions on everything, from the history of Western politics, and the relationship between the critical and commercial view of Christopher Nolan, through to whether honey is better for you than sugar (apparently it isn’t). If what we actually are, is the collection of viewpoints we display through social media, then most of us are actually fucking unbearable.

We also have different versions of ourselves for different groups of people, and times in our lives. Anyone that’s been to university will know that it’s largely touted as being an opportunity to reinvent yourself, away from those meddlesome corroborators to your past personality. Nerds can become interesting kooks, meat-heads can soften into film students, and those kids that didn’t really fit anywhere can do anything, but mostly tend to double-down on weed and scarves.

In my case, I aimed to totally invert my personality by becoming someone who could actually make friends, and talk to girls without sycophantically laughing at everything they said until they got paranoid that I was laughing at them, or just thought I was simple. And I got a haircut.

If you were wondering how that all panned out, feel free to look at my Facebook profile. Still got short hair. That’ll show those people who ridiculed me at age 19 for wearing an alice band to work. It’s almost like they wanted hair in their food.

In contrast, there’s a whole different version of myself I present when walking through the city alone at night. What I do, and I think this is quite a common technique, is try to adopt a certain threateningly wide ‘don’t mug me’ gait, and try to wear all of my past transgressions on my face. A face that tells of when I deliberately stroked a cat’s fur the wrong way because it had annoyed me; when I sneaked into a cinema and saw The Hangover Part Three without paying; and of course the time when I smoked that cigarette.

And long-term? How much do our identities change throughout our lives? I often think of a hypothetical moment in my future where I will have become the person I will be for the rest of my life. But if anyone actually reaches that point wouldn’t they just be bored? Do we just decide that our opinions on everything won’t change? What if at some point in the future, I want to be able to decide that I love bowling? Who knows? Maybe at some point in my thirties I’ll get really into it, and that’s okay. Maybe I’ll decide that knowing everything about different types of ale and telling everyone about it at every opportunity is somehow interesting too (if that happens, please show me this blog, and then kill me. Actually don’t kill me. Maybe frame me for some heinous ale-based crime so I have time to repent and re-evaluate).

My point of course, is that we shouldn’t feel bad about thinking one thing and saying another, or not always acting in line with our inner monologue, as long as what we say and do useful, good things. And that who we are anyway is free to change. For example, I never used to be this self-righteous, maybe one day I’ll return to being more humble.

But right now, I like being someone who writes blogs about very nebulous topics that don’t necessarily have satisfying endings, and masks that by closing on a sentence that sounds somehow conclusive. Because that’s who I am.

Next time on the Bandwagon – I explain that budgetary restrictions can really save you money. And for just £8.99 a month, I’ll show you how.

Twenty-Six Years of Solitude

“No man is an island. Islands are generally cohesive masses of land surrounded by bodies of water, with their own climate and eco-system, rendering it quite unlikely for them be sentient or in any way gendered.” – John Donne in a pedantic mood.

“Oh God Tim, stop writing about negative emotions. It’s fucking depressing.” – You.

“I’ve started this entry with way too many quotes.” – Me.

I was going to work my way through the remaining deadly sins I haven’t covered yet, but thought I’d take a detour to write about loneliness. Partly because it’s an interesting topic, and partly because I think it shares something in common with boredom, and what a great idea to tread such similar ground two posts in a row.

Loneliness is surely a symptom of our biological and sociological need to exist surrounded by a decent number of other people, due to safety in numbers, a wider and therefore more robust gene pool, and recognition that a one-person game of Cards Against Humanity is basically just reading. No longer living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle means that loneliness is now less life-threatening (two-person trapeze acts notwithstanding), and only really affects our sense of well-being, and more directly our likelihood of procreation via tandem genital action. We’re constantly surrounded by people, and even let technology take the difficulty out of interaction, which seems like a sufficient substitute, but (as any episode of Black Mirror or indeed any entry of this blog, will tell you) ultimately damages your ability to do the same thing in the real world, while also making you less inclined to. Social media may seem like a good simulated antidote, but it’s very much like walking with a limp after breaking your leg. In the short term it alleviates the pain, but you’re doing more harm than good overall, and you really should see a doctor please, your foot’s gone black.

There seems to be an antiquated image of masculinity attached to the idea of loneliness, through the prism of ‘solidarity’ and the ‘lone wolf’ archetype. This seems to have come to prominence, not only through Wolf from Gladiators (remember how great he was because he was angry?), but also through 80s action movies, where ‘one man’ must do everything he can to stop the evil baddies, because being alone is great, and needing assistance is weak and lady-like. Just look at the jacked action stars from those days up to now. Are we expected to believe they got to where they are totally on their own, instead of with the help of several personal trainers, dieticians, friends, family and steroids? Sure, a ‘one-man army’ sounds impressive, but it’s probably very unfulfilling emotionally. I imagine John McClane would have loved to have someone to pick glass out of his feet for him. But sadly, he’s a real man, which is why his relationships with his wife and children were so healthy.

These crazy movie characters were out on their own because they were portrayed as being special, unique, misunderstood ballistic geniuses. And that’s certainly a road to loneliness, feeling like we’re all snowflakes, that can’t be put into a box. As kids we were always told how special we were (or I hope you were, unless I was the only one, in which case I actually am special. Oh wow, this is a lot to take on. Doctrine? Oh I don’t know, be good to each other, love thy Neighbours, even if it is a terrible soap, it needs your support. Umm, sacrifice a child every so often, but only a really shit one, like one of the ones that wipes its nose on its school jumper instead of a tissue. And worship me every day, I’m desperate for approval. But if I ever have a son, he’ll just be a regular guy probably, don’t start ignoring me). The only alternative of course is an admission that we’re all largely the same, but the basis of most art is to communicate what feels like a unique experience, only to have people recognise their own seemingly unique experience in said art. If people just accepted they were the same anyway, maybe no-one would bother. You’d go to draw something, write something, sculpt something, say something, and come to the conclusion that anybody else could do it too, so what’s the point?

And isn’t that another sort of loneliness? The feeling of being lost in a crowd, not being seen? And what about our loneliness as a species, resulting in SETI, and science-fiction wherein we make contact with aliens. We want to find another species out there, so we can feel comforted by the fact that Reljax from the planet Grenknork also gets sad sometimes and wonders whether anyone actually reads his blog.

I guess the way to combat loneliness is to force yourself to talk to others, even though loneliness can feel self-perpetuating. Talking to friends and family etc. helps me, even if that is just on Facebook – it’s better than sitting and wishing.

In recent memory I would say the most loneliness has hit me was after the break-up of a long-term relationship a few months ago. We lived together for a while afterwards until I found somewhere else and moved out. With the help of my parents, I moved my stuff out over the course of a day, us ferrying my belongings from the old place to the new in two cars over several trips. With the last car load full, I said goodbye to my ex with a confusing feeling of finality, and finished moving out. With too many books, not enough clothes, furniture and odds and ends unloaded into my new bedroom, and my parents having helped as much as they could, they left me to reorganise this new piece of land.

For a long time after they’d gone, I was in my bedroom, where I am now, feeling more alone than I had in at least a few years. I didn’t know what my life would be from that point on. Who would I tell about my day, or about that interesting titbit I heard while listening to a podcast? Unpacking all of my belongings just reinforced how many of my hobbies were purely solitary; reading, playing music, stand-up comedy.

I don’t even have a good, satisfying ending for how things got better, but they did. I’d already started writing this blog at that point (see if you can spot the undertones of bitterness in my blog about Valentine’s Day back in February), and certainly having an imagined audience was useful. But more useful were actual people. Not the ones on social media, but the ones I saw in real life, as often as possible to get through it. I know, boo-fucking-hoo I went through a tough break-up in my mid-twenties, what a precious little snowflake I am. But that’s the point. I wasn’t different, I was like everyone else. Everyone understood, and I wasn’t alone.

Next time on the Bandwagon, I get off my emotional high-horse, and tell the story about another relationship, during which we had an argument on Halloween, and I stormed out dressed as Tintin.

The Bored Ultimatum

When was the last time you were bored? Maybe you’re bored right now, reading this. It would make sense; the word ‘bored’ has already appeared four times and I haven’t really said anything about it yet. But here you are, still reading.

It’s very easy to condemn people that get bored frequently, and yes I’m going to return to my well of blaming the modern world, but I do realise that complaining about technology on a blog is a perfect exemplum of biting the hand that feeds. But all information available at all times is quite a distraction, and one that for younger generations will easily trump more traditional past-times like reading, playing board games, or tilling acres of farmland. I do wonder if there is something inherently more entertaining about physical games such as Mousetrap and Operation over video games, or if it’s just nostalgia, mixed with generational pride. On paper, which is more entertaining? Entering a painstakingly photo-real world full of fantastic creatures, weapons, quests and locations, within which you can explore for hours without running out of content? Or a plastic mat with multi-coloured circles on? It’s the age-old question of RPG or Twister. Spending time with other people, within a framework such as a game is a great way to feel like you’re ‘doing’ something, and the physical aspect of board games feels like a more concrete way of socialising. But there’s definitely an arrogance to the argument that what can still entertain my generation and older, wouldn’t be enough to sustain a ten-year-old for an afternoon, especially if you decide to place blame on the ten-year-old, as though preferring Skyrim to Pogs requires a cognizant choice. If you’ve ever thought about what it would be like if time travellers sent some future technology back to our time (and if you haven’t, why not), then maybe you came to the conclusion that that it would speed up our advancements – that we’d leap forward fifty years in an instant. But I think we have to advance at the correct pace. If you travelled back a few hundred years with distractions like an Etch-A-Sketch and a laser pen, maybe we’d now be living in a world without necessities like underground sewage, or Tesco.

But feeling bored is also down to your own personality, as much as what’s around you, and in fact there are different kinds of boredom. Broadly separated into two types, these are trait boredom, and state boredom:

Trait boredom is what encourages you to make sure you have all the correct pieces of album artwork in your iTunes library, basically a longer term feeling that you quell in order to stem the thoughts of mortality and futility. Also known as ennui, existential angst, or what Tyler Durden calls being the ‘all singing, all dancing crap of the world’. Netflix is also great for this.

State boredom is more related to your immediate situation. It’s the feeling you get as a child when being dragged round a supermarket, or as an adult when being dragged around Ikea. It’s having to make small talk with friends of friends who regurgitate popular opinion as though it’s their own. Notable examples include:

“Oh my god! Isn’t Stranger Things incredible?!”

“Well of course, pick n’ mix is how they make their money.”

“Isn’t it funny? When Andy Murray wins he’s British, but when he loses he’s Scottish! Hahaha!”

“Freddos have got more expensive haven’t they?”

I don’t think either one of these types of boredom is necessarily more common, although I definitely suffer more from trait boredom than state. A general feeling of anxiety that pervades my life, preventing me from feeling able to enjoy small inanities without feeling guilty I’m not doing something more worthwhile (“better give up on the blog then eh?” hahaha oh you). If I’ve ever bad-mouthed such things on this blog before, such as Gogglebox, it’s borne out of jealousy that I just can’t find the pleasure in something so simple. And the fact that Gogglebox is a densely packed wad of shit.
If, unlike me, you suffer more from state boredom, a feeling that creeps up in a moment, when you find yourself at a loss, perhaps you’ve ended up searching on the internet for a short-term cure.

Well, since you’re on the internet now, I thought I’d give you my own list of things to stave off boredom, to save you the trouble of looking.

So, if you feel bored, why not:

Get to know the smells of different trees.

Learn every language.

Put your DVDs into reverse alphabetical order, then memorise the titles as one continuous word.

Create holsters for two stapleguns and have a death-duel.

See if you can make a cat laugh.

Befriend a movie star.

Eat some soup.

Go into a pub you’ve never visited before and ask for ‘the usual’.

Drink some soup.

Superglue some Blu-tac to some Sellotape.

Master the crane style.

Haunt a children’s hospital.

Become vegan for forty-five minutes.

Convince all your friends you’ve never heard of ‘paint’.

Steal loads of wing mirrors and turn them into some shit art.

Buy a house.

That should keep you busy for a while. And if it doesn’t, maybe just get a hobby. Bear in mind anything goes. I just spent a good fifteen minutes writing that stupid list for example. And I occasionally think of myself as a ‘writer’. Incredible isn’t it?

Being bored is good, it means you have the desire to better yourself, to educate yourself. It means you have an awareness that your current environment is not stimulating enough, and that you know that should change. And remember, if all else fails, there’s always alcohol.

Next time on the Bandwagon, I finally reveal how, through a strict diet and beauty regime, I still look so good at the age of 53.