Not even Bacon Krispies can rekindle my lust for life

Clang! Boredom falls, like a judgement, with its heavy hand. What excuse do I have for being bored? This is the internet age, and there are a billion distractions waiting to pour through the computer screen.

I also have great inner resources, not to mention about a thousand books, many of them unread, to divert me. If any of my children tell me they are bored, they get a sharp little lecture along these lines. But this is a kind of super-boredom, which exerts its own gravitational pull, and indeed there does seem to be something huge about this, something no human agency can fight.

I recall that every other week, when I was a kid, the original USS Enterprise would sail through some kind of shimmery cloud that would make Captain Kirk and/or his crew very angry, or fall in love with some space sexpot, or age very quickly, or some other catas­trophe. Was there ever an episode when they all became very bored, and looked at their twinkling and chirruping computers and thought to themselves: "You know what? I simply cannot be arsed."

Wine numb

I have a book of my own to wrap up, but the prospect does not appeal, although it rarely does at the best of times. I would be listening to the Test match on the radio, but it is as black as night outside and we seem to have started the monsoon season, which means that that's what it's like a few miles away in Kennington, too. The commentators have been reduced to inviting a Bollywood musician to play in the press box, which is a sweet gesture, but desperate.

I go to bed to have my second nap of the day. Even my dreams, I discover, are boring, although they do not plumb the nadir of mundanity I had a few weeks ago, when my sub­conscious saw fit to make me share a short and uneventful taxi journey with Neil Sedaka. (He paid, which was decent of him.)

I get up, make tea, stare unbelievingly at the downpour outside. "Il pleure dans mon coeur/ Comme il pleut sur la ville," I mutter automa­tically, but I can't pretend to be Verlaine, who was referring more, I think, to a gentle pitter-patter than to the sort of biblical deluge that's happening outside my window now.

There being a limit to the number of cups of tea one can drink during the day, I pour myself a glass of wine at six o'clock. Even that does not appeal. Now I know I'm in trouble. I flick through the pages of this magazine.

I note in this week's issue (last week's by the time you read this) that one Graham Griffiths of Bury, Lancs, has not to his knowledge ever summoned up the interest or energy to finish reading one of my columns. My dear chap, I feel like telling him, I know exactly how you feel.

At which point, I am moved to make a specious comparison between myself and the young people who went and did a little illegal shopping in Tottenham and other inner-city areas in England early this month. I should add that I am even more broke than usual, what with the cavalier attitude about payment that seems to be gaining traction among publications that employ freelance writers. One magazine has gone as far as to go bust rather than pay the £750 it owes me.

I have a fiver in my pocket to keep me going for the next four days.

Earlier in the day, even the Guvnor refused to lend me anything to tide me over, which strikes me as A New Low, and did alleviate the tedium for a bit, but shame and rage are worse feelings than boredom, so that was no good. (Besides, I think I've caught a cold from getting drenched, despite carrying an umbrella, in the walk to the pub and back.)

Alien culture

So here I am, spiritually and financially alienated from the society that surrounds me. Would I, if the weather weren't so filthy, run out into the street with a cricket bat and start helping myself to all the goodies in the local shops? Well, if I wanted a dress tailor-made for someone else, various commentaries on the Quran, non-Ikea Swedish bedroom furniture, one of those vegetables that look like a cucumber but isn't, an Aston Martin, or an enormous bag of Bacon Krispies, which seem to be the only things you can get on my street, then that would be just dandy, but I don't.

However, I may be missing the point here. Did all the looters want the stuff they looted? I gather that huge, flashy TVs were sold for £20 shortly after being ripped off. Which suggests that neither making a quick buck nor even common acquisitiveness was the motive, or all of it. It can't be boredom, can it?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 29 August 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Gold