Sam Delaney has something to declare
When I was 14 we went on a family holiday to France. I was at a weird age – too young to hang out at the disco with my older siblings but too old to visit cathedrals or play Scrabble with the grown-ups. So I did the only thing I could do, I took up smoking.
I had time on my hands, holiday money in my pocket and half-baked rebelliousness on my mind. What’s more, I had a secluded meadow behind our rented cottage in which to secretly indulge my new habit. But when it comes to stimulants, as we all know, one thing always leads to another. Once I realised quite how easy it was to procure fags from the unscrupulous foreign shopkeepers, I decided to push things further and start buying booze as well.
Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I had drunkenly started setting fire to the grass in the meadow with my Bic lighter. It seemed an amusing distraction at the time. But the fire spread, I had to confess to my dad and, after the whole family had helped douse the flames and avoid a disaster that might have wiped out a large portion of the Dordogne, I got in a heap of trouble.
Why did I do all this? Because I was bored, that’s why. That’s what happens on holidays isn’t it? You go there with the express intention of doing absolutely nothing for a week or two, but after a short while you realise that doing absolutely nothing for a week or two can get really, really boring.
It gets worse as you get older, too – your brain is so used to the hectic cut and thrust of work, family, mobile phones, TV, Twitter, Facebook and, I dunno, crochet (or whatever it is you fill your time with at weekends) that it gets confused by doing nothing. It jitters about up inside your skull like a nervous wreck, fretting about the imposed state of inertia and worrying that it might actually be dead.
That’s when it starts conjuring up stupid, pointless and sometimes evil thoughts. In the modern, information-rich age, the human brain has grown unable to deal with boredom.
So, wherever you’re going on holiday this year, beware: if you give your brain nothing to do, it will eventually malfunction and turn against you. My advice to keep it occupied? Visit some cathedrals and play plenty of Scrabble.