The company where I’ll be working for eight weeks is located in one of those places that was once a pleasant little Victorian town but that has since been subsumed into the dull urban sprawl that is Greater London.
Part of this process has seen the high street stripped of its character and sense of community by the reinvention of many independent traders that once served the community, as bland betting shops, smelly kebab bars, dull financial advisers and soul-destroyingly uninteresting electrical discount stores.
All the locals look rather weary, as though they’ve given up on their aspirations of moving either closer into central London, with its vibrancy and history and busy-ness; or out into the countryside just a few miles away. Instead, they’re stuck in the middle, with nothing to do, in a stream of commuter traffic, amid the unfragrant charity shops, characterless chain pubs and pound stores.
I realised early on that there would be little to do during my lunchbreaks – this Dull Town doesn’t set out to offer excitement and doesn’t really want the visitor to enjoy herself there. I decided I would have to go out there and create my own leisure opportunities.
So, I decided to make a list of Things to Do in a Dull Town at Lunchtime.
I thought 25 would be a nice round number. I’ll be there for about 40 days in total, unless they extend my contract – or get the hump and cut it short if they find out I’ve been disrespectful of their chosen location – so allowing for rainy days spent brooding over a baked potato at my desk, that would still leave me lots of interesting lunchtimes out.
As things stand, I’ve got rather stuck before I’ve even reached the 20 mark, and that’s including a friend’s facetious suggestion “get your tyre pressures checked” and my own – rather desperate – “go and look at the bypass”. I did consider stopping there and starting again at number 1, which would eventually generate more than a month of lunchtime excitement, but then I decided this would be cheating. Somehow, I have to come up with more ideas.
It’s my policy to exclude most shopping, eating and drinking activities, since that would involve spending money. There will be certain exceptions, such as those necessary to carry out Number 8 on my list: “beverage-criticising” (the art of sitting in a café and muttering, in middle-aged fashion, “doesn’t anyone know how to make a proper cappuccino/decent pot of tea?”)
So, here’s the list, in no particular order, each to feature in future blog posts.
- Have my legs waxed.
- Purchase three nice things from charity shops.
- Walk as far as I can northbound in half an hour, and back again.
- Ditto, but southbound.
- Visit the church.
- Walk in the park.
- Visit the “town farm” – to include finding out what a “town farm” actually is.
- Sit in cafés, muttering to self about the inadequate beverages.
- Walk up and down the high street, listing the shops and deciding which I would allow to continue to exist in my capacity as self-appointed Town Planner – and which I would consign to oblivion.
- Have a manicure.
- Go to the library and read something educational.
- See how many dogs I can count in an hour. Breed to be identified where possible.
- See how many ugly people I can count in an hour.
- Talk to strangers. On any subject.
- Ask the chatty butcher (one of the independents the town does boast) for advice on what to have for my tea – and proceed to follow his advice.
- Ditto the bloke who runs the fruit and veg stall on a Friday. This could turn into a cookery blog before I know it!
- Walk to the bypass and admire its talent at diverting much of the traffic, making Dulltown’s high street quieter (albeit even duller), so I can stroll around taking the piss in relative peace.
- Have my tyre pressure checked.
I am grateful for a suggestion for 19 (go and look at the strange outdoor exercise machines in the park) to a new colleague. Our meeting was somewhat of an accident, since we don’t work directly together, but it transpires we share a mutual distaste for Dull Towns with a propensity to publish our opinions on the internet. My fellow blogger showed a great interest in my List of Things to Do at Lunchtime but rather gloomily opined that only disappointment could result – she has tried most of them out during her time working in Dulltown, and said she ended up more disillusioned than ever with “this nothing place”.
My new chum has promised to write me a guest blog about her own experiences futilely attempting to have fun at lunchtimes in Dulltown, so watch this space.
Pic credit: Tom Curtis, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=178