“Meeting The Dull Men of Great Britain – The Event (Part Two)”
12 minute read
“Good evening everybody.”
Said Leland as he stepped forwards to greet everybody and get the evening started.
“I thought I’d start things by giving you all a little presentation about how the Dull Men’s Club first began.”
I leaned forward in my chair and listened intently as I got to hear all about how the DMC originated in New York City before eventually making its way over to England, whilst also presenting us with a number of key facts and anecdotes about the organisation. Leland pressed a button and a video started to play on the big screen; a video that featured fellow founder, Grover Click. You can watch this short 3 minute video too by clicking on the thumbnail below.
It seemed quite appropriate that the video ends with Grover stating that “boredom has got benefits”, because up next was Dr Sandi Mann aka Dr Boredom.
Dr Sandi Mann, the curator of the event, has been studying boredom for the past eighteen years. Boredom, we learned, is actually the second most suppressed human emotion, with anger taking first place.
But my own personal opinion is that boredom is perhaps not the best word to tag this feature with; given that the dictionary definition would tell us that to feel bored is to feel ‘weary and impatient because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity.’
This is what I perceive boredom to mean also, but what ‘boredom’ means in the context of both Sandi’s presentation and in terms of my own message that I am putting forward in this feature, boredom is perhaps best characterised by what Dr Mann refers to as turning off to switch on.
Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seat belts and make sure your tray tables are fixed into their upright position, because it’s time to get serious for a moment as we explore the underlying message of this latest concept adventure.
Turning off to switch on refers to eliminating distraction so that you can tune into the things that really matter. It is up to each individual person to decide upon the things that matter most in their lives, but it is usually something that lies deep within us rather than what is sitting on the surface.
In my opinion, one of the most important things in life is the act of self-reflection; something that is imperative to the process of achieving self-awareness. This is a vital life skill to have if you desire to become the best possible version of yourself, but self-reflection takes time, dedication, and uninterrupted focus. Therefore a period of quiet and stillness (or boredom, if you will) becomes the key ingredient to developing a true understanding of ourselves.
Yet it seems as though the majority of people will do anything to avoid feeling bored, finding distraction with their smart-phones, tablets, laptops, videogames, or streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Now TV, and goodness knows what else is on offer these days. We slowly become hooked by the little squirt of dopamine we’re awarded with whenever we achieve some form of instant gratification, and then these all-singing all-dancing bits of technology cause us to become over-stimulated, leaving us in need of that next dopamine hit.
But the shocking truth is that all of this distraction from reality is no different to the distraction from reality that we can achieve from taking drugs such as cocaine. Both provide a dopamine hit straight to our pleasure centres, the result of which can be addiction. Before we know it, we’re hooked, and to have a spell of boredom becomes an alien concept to us. It perhaps even scares us.
Because when we’re sat all alone with nothing to occupy our minds other than our very own thoughts, why is it that this can so often lead to feelings of discomfort?
When your mind is not distracted and you’ve nothing external to focus upon, it’s like holding a mirror up to yourself. All the little things that you’ve not been paying any attention to (whether consciously or subconsciously) will suddenly come rising to the surface. Regardless of whether they’re good things or bad things, they’ll suddenly be right there before you, and now you have an opportunity to decide what happens next. Do you see this as an exciting opportunity for change? Or do you turn away and continue as you were?
Turn off to switch on.
But to take things back to the dictionary definition of boredom, the real paradox is that by having more choice we’re actually more bored than ever.
When we’re caught in the vice-grip of instant gratification, what we’re actually doing is opting for the easy path and avoiding discomfort. But the problem with instant gratification is that the reward is so short-lived that we have to quickly move on, and so we end up flitting from one thing to the next without allowing ourselves to commit to anything. There is no focus, no purpose, no direction; we’re just lost and wandering, and this is exactly why we would eventually feel such a strong underlying sense of boredom.
But let’s say that you have a dream to become a distinct version of yourself; regardless of whether this is with the work that you do, the art which you create, or even a physical or spiritual practice; it requires complete focus and the elimination of distraction. By committing to one goal, one ideal, and becoming fully immersed in that which we choose to do, this is what gives us real direction and a true sense of purpose in life.
I believe in doing one thing and doing it properly.
I believe that to have less is to have more.
And I believe that by having less, you have far less chance of ever being bored.
Speaking of boredom though, if there’s one group of people that you could never accuse of being boring then it’s the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society. Yet to even hear those words coming out of my mouth seems rather odd, because how on earth could an appreciation of telegraph poles be anything but boring?
Even as a man who works in the electricity industry where the use of telegraph poles forms part of my day-to-day life, I still only have a vague interest in the things myself. And that’s only because I have no other choice in the matter.
Martin, of the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society (founded at some point this century), was next to take to the stage. His earlier charm suddenly felt a little more dead-pan, and I admit to feeling a true sense of intrigue as to where this would go.
It reminds me in many ways of the time I went to see Elvana; the Elvis-fronted Nirvana band (and no, I’m not making that up, and yes, they do actually exist). When you mention to anybody that you’re seeing a Nirvana cover-band that has Elvis singing in place of Kurt Cobain, you get the same expression on their face that you do when you also tell them that you spent an evening with the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society. It’s an expression that blends disbelief with amusement.
But if there’s one word that I’d use to describe the TPAS then it’s ‘irony’, because what followed was a master-class in ironic humour. I have no doubt that there is a genuine affection for telegraph poles with what Martin and Keri are doing, but it’s also clear that they’re just having fun and this was demonstrated clearly in the video that was presented to us. You can watch the video now by clicking on the thumbnail below.
We went from one appreciation society to another, because the next person to speak was Kevin Beresford of the Roundabout Appreciation Society.
Kevin is somebody that I’d definitely describe as being ‘a character’, and he was full of energy and had boundless enthusiasm. I was fascinated to find out what it was that he liked so much about roundabouts. Maybe it was the size of them? Maybe it was their shape? Or maybe it was their functionality and the assistance to traffic flow?
It could have been all the above, but what Kevin expressed the greatest passion for was the different things that could be housed within the centre of a roundabout. I began thinking about some of the things that I’ve seen in the centre of roundabouts myself, and wonderful images of floral displays and rustic art came to mind. Near where I live there is a roundabout that has an old train carriage on it, yet I’d never really stopped to think about how nice it looked or about the character it brought to the area.
Kevin’s enthusiasm was rubbing off on me, but what came next almost sent the room into a complete meltdown. Because it came to light that there is a roundabout in Ireland that has a structure in the middle of it which is made out of, wait for it…
So can you imagine the atmosphere this news created when you have the Roundabout Appreciation Society AND the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society all in the same room?
The atmosphere was electric, in a roundabout kind of way.
The man who has visited all 2,548 railways stations in Britain was next to address the room. Andrew, who had sat quietly for the majority of the evening, suddenly came alive when his presentation began.
Using the big screen that was linked to a laptop, Andrew opened up his USB drive to show a huge list of photographs, all listed in alphabetical order by the name of their respective railway station. The list of files appeared endless, although if I were a gambling man I’d be willing to bet that there were probably 2,548 files (just a guess).
He appeared to hold a wealth of knowledge on the subject and had a story to go with every railway station that he spoke about. Members of the group began to shout out railway station names in a bid to find out whether he’d been there, but since it has already been officially confirmed that Andrew has indeed visited all 2,548 railway stations in Britain, it’s a little pointless asking him. We already know the answer.
I put my hand up.
“Have you been to Derby?” I found myself asking without even realising I’d done it.
Andrew clicked a button and then looked at me. I looked at Andrew and then at the screen where a picture of Derby railway station had popped up.
I put my hand back down.
“Thank you.” I said with an overly enthusiastic smile on face.
Dave stood up, brandishing his box of valve radio bits, and with his friendly demeanour and even friendlier voice, he took to the stage and fired up the internet.
He began to tell us about the origins of his passion while his website loaded up, and he also showed us one or two items from the box and explained what each of them did. When his website had taken pride of place on the screen, he turned towards it and then talked us through the page.
There were photos of radios he’s worked on and details of the services he offers, but perhaps most impressive of all was the link to his live webcam! Yes that’s right, a webcam! So if anybody reading this has a shared enthusiasm for valve radios you can actually head to Dave’s website and watch him working, live and direct, in his valve radio workshop!
And last but not least was Richard Gottfried, the crazy golfer. Richard was attending the event with his partner and fellow crazy golf enthusiast, Emily; but when taking to the stage Richard took this on as a solo effort.
Richard was warm and friendly, and he seemed totally at ease while completing his presentation. Like Dave, Richard also brought along a few items to show us. Before we knew it we were being shown a selection of golf putters and an even bigger selection of balls.
It suddenly occurred to me that in all my forty years on this planet I’d never once stopped to consider that there might be different types of golf balls; I mean, why would you? To me they were just round, hard, and very bouncy. But I now found myself being introduced to a whole new world of golf ball knowledge, and it was the brown ball that caused the biggest stir.
As the ball was passed around the room it was met with a variety of oooh’s and aaar’s, and when the ball finally made its way into my hands I could understand why. It was like holding a piece of rolled up clay; it was really squidgy. I found myself feeling genuinely intrigued about all the different balls and the pros-and-cons that each of them offered, and by having this genuine sense of intrigue it made me realise that I was very much at home with this community of dullards.
As the squidgy brown ball completed a full circle of the room and found its way back into its owner’s hands, this signified the end of the evening.
Although every DMC member had had their moment in the spotlight, it was now my time to shine. I was here for a reason and I needed to try and get as many people on board as possible.
What followed was a frantic round-robin of the room, like a Lossul.com supermarket-sweep, moving from person to person and doing the best I could with what little time was left. The concept was explained as concisely as possible as I went on the full charm offensive; cards were exchanged, books were bought and signed, and all kinds of DMC-related paraphernalia were handed out.
It was like an alternative form of speed-dating and was a mad five minutes of networking, but I walked away from the room knowing that I’d done the best I could with the time that I had. The seeds had been sown and now I had to wait and see what would come of it.
I walked towards my car, shaking my head and laughing in disbelief at the evening I’d just experienced. Had this all really happened? Had I really just spent an evening listening to stories about railway stations, golf balls, radios, roundabouts, and telegraph poles?
“You really are a lunatic.” I chuckled to myself as I opened my car door.
But then I heard a familiar voice behind me.
“Well that was a bizarre evening wasn’t it?”
I turned around to see Martin of the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society unlocking his van.
“You’re not kidding. Did that really just happen?” I returned.
Martin and I stood chatting for a while and it became immediately apparent that Martin had felt exactly the same way as I had about the evening.
Sometimes it can be so easy to assume that you’re the only person that ever feels like an outsider, and when coming to an event like this – which is something that’s a little out of the ordinary – that feeling can often allow you to believe that everybody else has their shit together and that it’s you, and only you, that sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.
But my conversation with Martin made me stop and think that maybe everybody that attended this evening had felt like an outsider in one way or another. Because when you have a very individual passion and stand by that passion, very often you’ll find the conformist majority poking fun at that. This is what often leads to a person being made to feel like the outsider or a misfit.
But what makes being this kind of person so special is that it becomes easy to spot and appreciate another like-minded person. And then when a whole group of people like this come together it leads to a true sense of community, and in this kind of situation people embrace each other for their quirks rather than mock them for it.
Because as the old-saying goes…
“It takes one to know one”
Martin and I shook hands, knowing that it wouldn’t be the last time we saw each other. I climbed into my car and started driving back to Derbyshire feeling happy, content, and full of excitement for where this latest concept adventure could take me.
A little while into my journey I decided to stop off for a coffee. But as I sat in the window of the motorway services and sipped on my latte, I suddenly felt an overwhelming need to message my friends, Andy and Mark.
I thought back to our conversation earlier in the afternoon and couldn’t get their troubled faces out of my mind. I really hoped they were okay.
I pulled out my phone and began a What’s App group message.
Elliot – Did you get your emails sent?
Andy – What emails? Anyway, more importantly, are you still alive?
Mark – Dull people? You honestly met dull people?
Elliot – I thought you’d…never mind. And yes of course I’m still alive. I’m on the M6. Just having a latte. And yes Mark, dull people.
Mark – What kind of dull people?
Andy – Is your latte nice?
Elliot – Well there were all kinds of people, such as this guy who photographs roundabouts. His name is Kevin.
Elliot – Yes thank you Andy, it’s lovely. I’ve just spilt some on my t-shirt though.
I wiped frantically at the part of my t-shirt that I’d just spilled my latte on.
Mark – He photographs what?
Andy – Has it stained?
Elliot – Roundabouts. And his name is Kevin, Mark. He runs the Roundabout Appreciation Society.
Elliot – I’m not sure Andy, it’s a black t-shirt.
Mark – The Roundabout Appreciation Society? Just who exactly are these people Elliot?
Andy – That was lucky then mate. Latte is a bugger to get out of your whites.
Elliot – Yes Mark. And it’s The Dull Men’s Club, or DMC for short. They’re absolutely awesome and we could definitely learn a thing or two from them. Anyway, I’m getting back on the road now.
Mark – Maybe they could teach you how not to spill your drinks.
Andy – Agreed, latte is too expensive to waste.
Elliot – Idiots.
Mark – Dickhead.
Andy – Knob.
Elliot – (insert middle finger Emoji)
In the days that followed the ‘Delightfully Dull, and Brilliantly Boring Evening’ in Preston, I exchanged a series of emails with the people that I’d met and we continued to reflect upon the event. The banter continued and relationships were nurtured, but still nothing had been arranged in order to continue my pursuit of dullness.
Although I’d put my intentions out there and had shown genuine enthusiasm in telling people’s stories, I couldn’t exactly force them to get on board with what I was doing. All I could do was to give it some time and stay positive.
And that positivity soon paid off, because about two weeks later an email dropped into my inbox that was to become the turning point of my latest concept adventure.
It was game on.
And in more ways than one.
The first “Meeting The Dull Men of Great Britain” road-trip adventure is now available on Lossul.com. You can read the feature by clicking here. If you’d like to be kept up to date with all the latest DMC Adventure news then please sign up to the Lossul.com newsletter mailing list by following this link. You are free to unsubscribe at any time.
What do you think about roundabouts? Do you appreciate the merits of telegraph poles? Have you ever had an urge to visit multiple railway stations? Have you ever looked at a radio and wondered what’s inside it, and why? And do you ever have the over-whelming urge to play crazy golf? Do you now feel a little differently about the subject of boredom and dullness? Are you going to let your inner dullard out a little more? And is there anything that you’d like to ask which either myself or the readers could help answer? Please feel free to leave your comments below so we can get a conversation started.
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