Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Days of Boredom

Long-term readers of their blog (may their sufferings be rewarded in Heaven!) will know that I often write about days-- those units of time into which the week is divided, those islands of wakefulness between sleep and sleep.

My fascination with days manifests itself in many ways. One is the writing of a daily diary which has continued unbroken since June 24th (the Feast of St. John the Baptist, and the date on which I proposed to my future wife) 2015. I've been writing it in Gaelic for  a considerable time now. Bad Gaelic, but Gaelic nonetheless.

My favourite film of all time is Groundhog Day, partly because of this fascination with days. I did intend to watch it on Groundhog Day itself (which was last Sunday), but my DVD player is broken and none of the TV channels I can get were showing it (strangely enough).

Another way in which my fascination with days manifests itself, more recently, is subscribing to an "On This Day" email, from this website.

The most interesting thing about today's email is how little actually happened on February the Fifth, the Feast of St. Agatha, through all the long ages of the world.

Here are the top events the compilers of the website found for today:

1576 Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV of France) abjures Catholicism at Tours

1885 News of the fall of Khartoum reaches London

1885 King Leopold II of Belgium establishes the Congo as a personal colonial possession

1969 US population reaches 200 million

Henry of Navarre
No insult to Henry of Navarre, or to enthusiasts of the demographic history of the USA, but this seems slim pickings indeed in terms of world history and culture. This date has come around every year since the beginning of recorded history. Really, nothing more notable happened in all those years?

Reader, do you think I'm complaining about this? On the contrary, it delights me. It's yet another example of the spaciousness of life.

I was inspired to do an internet search for "the most boring day in history". I didn't find that, but I did find (arguably) the most boring day of the twentieth century: April 11th, 1954. A  general election in Belgium was, apparently, the most newsworthy event. (It's amusing it should be Belgium. Peter Hitchens has disputed Belgium's reputation as a boring country, but the reputation certainly exists.)

For the same reason, the phrase (and the concept) of a "slow news day" has always delighted me.

For the same reason, this account of a visit to Shipea Hill (at that time the least busy train station in Britain) is one of my favourite blog posts of all time.

Shipea Hill railway station
  What would life be if it was thrills all the way? But even to say that is to suggest that slow news days, sleepy train stations, and so forth, are simply recuperative, or a kind of necessary contrast to all the good stuff. And I won't have that. They have their own unique poetry, in themselves.

This is one of the reasons I fear (and resist, as best I can) a globalized world, and a twenty-four hour society, and a pure meritocracy; because I believe mediocrity, boredom, and obscurity add vastly to the richness of life.


  1. This is almost a riposte to Philip Larkin's 'Nothing, like something, happens anywhere', but you celebrate that truth where Larkin lays it out cold on a platter. What to some eyes is nothing is itself something to celebrate: why should there not be lazy days of slow news?

    Thanks for linking the Shippea Hill article. I have been meaning to return to the subject, as the station usage statistics for 2018-2019 have just come out, and the plot has thickened.

    By the way, when I visited Shippea Hill it had been the second least-used station in Britain the previous year; almost more obscure than the one in last place, as I think you said at the time! When Shippea Hill actually did come lowest in the year I visited, it hit the headlines, and then of course the year after that it had an increase in usage of several hundred per cent!

    1. I forgot Shippea Hill was second place! And yes, that makes it even more obscure, it avoids the distinction of superlative!

      You went to Shippea Hill before it was cool!