| Family Tempo |

Man Overbored

It was vacation time, and (say it with me) the kids were bored


was vacation time, and (say it with me) the kids were bored.

We’d done jumping jacks, we’d painted, we’d played every outdoor game that we could, we’d baked and crafted and read stories and had baths. I had run out of ideas.

“I’m also bored,” I said.

That stumped them. They suggested I do jumping jacks, and I managed 30, to rousing cheers. They suggested I do a handstand. I found, to my amazement, that I could still cartwheel across the room. My little audience went wild. They suggested that I paint the walls. I demurred; I know my children’s helpful inclinations, and preferred to tackle that particular task in the dead of night, undisturbed. They suggested I bake them treats, but didn’t have the patience to wait for me to actually bake anything. I suggested that I have a nice quiet bath. They said worriedly that that sounded far too boring.

We sat opposite each other on the floor.

“We’re boooooreeeed!” the children began again.

Inspiration struck. “You think you’re bored?!” I said. “You have no idea what it means to be bored! None! Let me tell you a story, an incredibly boring story, a story so boring that the person writing it can’t stop himself from continuously mentioning how unbearably bored he is.”

I jumped up, entered our guest room, climbed onto a chair, and reached up to the top shelf of the closet. I felt around until my hand closed over a leather-covered little book, still perfectly preserved.

“This,” I told my children in a hushed voice, to prolong the moment of blessed silence, “is your great-great-grandfather’s diary. He wrote it when he was traveling from Liverpool, in the UK, to Sydney, Australia. In those days, the journey took weeks and weeks and weeks by boat.”

I saw I had the children’s attention.

“Here’s how he starts: An abbreviated chronicle which excludes all personal and private thoughts, hopes, and fears.

“That means,” I explained, “that he’s not planning on saying anything interesting at all. He is just going to spend the entire diary talking about how bored he is. He is then going to send the diary off to his long-suffering wife, whom I’m named after.”

Little Aharon frowned. “Being on a boat is fun!” he protested.

“Let’s see,” I suggested, and began reading, a highly abbreviated version. Even I got bored of reading how bored my dear ancestor was on his boat.


Sunday, Jan. 6, 1946

Here goes the first day’s impressions. We boarded yesterday at 4.00 p.m. and only started moving today at 9.30 a.m. There appears to be a pretty drowsy crowd on board. Food good.


Jan. 7

Ship rolling a little and many already down. Micky dodged breakfast and just lay down on a deck chair.

“Micky,” I explained to the kids, “is your great-grandfather Michael. He got seasick.”

Encountered dirty seas at about 11.30 p.m. when we ran into Biscay. The seas were mountainous, and the ship tossed about like a cork. I shall not expect any large attendance in the saloon for breakfast.

Jan. 8

Seas still very rough. Many down with seasickness. Michael made a brave attempt to get up, which in his condition was very courageous. I had a hearty meal and feel no effects from the bucking ship. Some strange creatures wearing slacks and jumpers on all occasions excepting dinner!! Naturally they must the Old Kent Road type! The nicer people appear to be South African.

“Nice in the old days meant posh,” I say. “It meant the upper-class people.” I don’t know how to explain the concept of snobbery to my sweet little Israeli kids who speak the kind of English that no doubt would have offended their great-great-grandfather’s proper sensibilities. I continue.


Jan. 9

Doctor saw Michael. All well excepting sore throat. Micky begins to make me anxious: He seems not to bother about getting up but prefers to lie in bed and have his food brought to him.

I laugh. Teenagers haven’t changed.


Jan. 10

Doctor saw Mick and said he could get up for a while. Before long he was back in bed, however. He is most difficult and causes me endless trouble and anxiety. A mother’s care is so essential in this case!

I won the ship’s sweepstakes.

“The sweepstakes are when… when… um, in the old days, they played games called sweepstakes when they were bored, and Great-Great-Grandpa won it,” I say vaguely. I’m going to have start glossing over all the mentions of gambling. Like, what not to teach the kids to do when bored, Hashem yerachem.


Friday, Jan. 11

Just passing the Canary Islands and can see the peak of Tenerife. Still eating like a horse and putting on weight. Have been asked by the committee to run the games committee. Shall act as referee. Australian forces wives gave a sing-song in the smoke room to celebrate the birthday of one of them. Am not sleeping at all but will not take drugs as am trying to break myself out of the habit.

Did I seriously just read that aloud to my kids? Why didn’t a more appropriate ancestor write a boredom diary, for goodness’ sake?


Jan. 12

Won the ship’s sweep again, which meant an immediate round of drinks. Very boring.

Another wonderful example for the kids. Oh my goodness, Esther, censor, censor!


Sunday, Jan. 13

Quiet day. Passenger died today and will be buried at sea. Ship’s run was 345 miles — no sweepstakes, this being Sunday. Have been asked to arrange a Double or Quits Quiz. They seem to think I am intelligent!

Just passed the Verde Islands and everyone who can is in bathing costume sprawled over the deck. Micky is very obstinate. He really does worry me. I suppose he will grow out of it.


Tuesday, Jan. 15

One day after another and quite uneventful. Watching the flying fish and sharks in the morning and plenty of the latter. Deadly brutes. Played Lotto but my luck has changed: won nothing. One more day nearer to my destiny and further from you in England.

“He’s writing the diary for your great-great-grandma,” I explain to the kids. Something about that last sentence touches me.


Wednesday, Jan. 16

Michael was in brilliant form last night. Party up on the boat deck to escape the heat: Micky made us quite ill with laughter. Impossible to sleep as it is too hot. We are just on the Equator now. Sea as smooth as a glass tabletop. Did 336 miles yesterday.


Thursday, Jan. 17

So the days pass, without event. Monotonous and tedious days in which we eat, sleep, and generally moon about. Lucky people can read as there is a good library on board. We are in the African summer. Michael had his day when won the sweepstakes. We should see the Southern Cross tonight and the full African moon like a lamp in the velvet sky.


Monday, Jan. 21

As anticipated, we have run into very dirty weather, and the old tub is bouncing about like a cork. It is South Africa Day today, and the 40 or so South African-born Brits here are celebrating. Dinner has been a riot. Lulu war cries, Afrikaner songs, crocodile processions, speeches, and many bottles of wine… with its consequent result! But such a happy crowd, all returning to their natural law after years of exile. Amongst them an old chappie of 76 who was interned for four years in a Checho camp under the Nazis.

Mick won the sweeps again.


Tuesday Jan. 22

Ship is pitching consistently and I have already heard the resounding crash of crockery, which took the steward by surprise. There are many sore heads and dry tongues today as a result of yesterday’s celebration. All the South African contingent feel pretty sorry for themselves. Ship is dancing about in a whorl. I have told Michael we are not yet on the famous Cape rollers when the ship does a pretty corkscrew movement calculated to upset the toughest. So far I have played only one game since boarding — they will not play with me as they think I am too good!!! Such is fame!

Michael started a game of Slippery Sam this evening to uproarious merriment. He is difficult to control however and wants to play. I hope to curb this in him, and I think I shall be able to.


Friday, Jan. 25

Saw our first albatross today, which still follows the ship. We are now in the Atlantic rollers and the ship is bucking like a frightened horse. South Africans wildly drinking.


Jan. 26

Saw the Table Mountain rising out of the sea some 30 miles away and the coastline of Africa. We pulled into Cape Town at 3.00 p.m. and waited impatiently for the mails to be brought on. How delighted we were to get letters from you in London.

Not very impressed with Cape Town altogether. Some very fine buildings and shops, but quite a comparatively small place. Ninety-nine percent are American cars, great streamlined mountains on wheels, which Michael just gazed and gazed and wondered at.

We started coaling at 7.30. The noise and dust were appalling.

I had to explain to the kids about coal. They absolutely failed to understand. I suddenly feel grateful for modern conveniences that enable us to be bored and not to have to load coal into the oven every time we want to cook….


Wednesday, Jan. 30

Pulled into Durban at 10.30 today. Lovely city this, wide streets and clean. Full of nations of all tribes, Swazi, Mataheeli, Kaffirs, Hottentot, Lulu and so on. Lovely beaches. As in Cape Town, full of great shining American cars, and extremely occasionally, one sees a British car chugging along, entirely out of place.


Friday, Feb. 1

Went to the Stardust where had the most memorable birthday party arranged for me. The menu and wines were something to dream about. The orchestra stopped playing at exactly midnight and announced that I was the birthday guest, and the whole place toasted me. I was most embarrassed and touched. It was too lovely, and needless to say bedtime was 5.30 a.m.


Wednesday, Feb. 6

Ship sailed today at 10.00 a.m. Seems very dull without our friends who remained in Durban.


Friday, Feb. 8

Well into the Indian Ocean now. Life seems to have gone out of the ship. There does not appear to be anybody interesting on board.


Sunday, Feb. 17

Had a quiz session in which, as I took part, the men over 35 beat all comers. Not a bad show. My familiar name of “Pop,” by which I am known all over the ship by all passengers was given me by our table through Micky a few days out of Liverpool. Everybody calls me “Pop,” and that was the cry tonight, “Go it, Pop!!”


Thursday, Feb. 21

Docked at Perth. Lovely city, Perth. Kings Park is a gem. Perthians are very proud of the Swan River, and they have right to be.


Sunday, Feb. 24

Pulled out at 9.30 a.m.


Monday, Feb. 25

Some 20 new faces since Fremantle. No one in the crowd on board is worth talking to.


Thursday, Feb. 28

Inadvertently won the final sweepstake!


Tuesday, March 5

Tiled up at Victoria Dock up the Yarra River, Melbourne.


Tuesday, March 12

This is a memorable day. It appears that the Chinese stokers decided to do a spot of work for a change, and have stepped on it, drove the old tub through 16 knots and docked her 5 hours before schedule! We entered the mouth of the harbor at 9.00 a.m. and I must say it was a thrilling sight. Hundreds of small boys running up on either shore while we sailed majestically though a thousand small craft and 3,000-ton ferry boats. After an hour, we caught sight of the famous bridge and docked at Central Wharf right in the heart of the city of Sydney.


I snap the diary shut. Not so politically correct in those days, apparently.

“And that’s how your great-great-grandfather spent two and a half months on a boat! And because of his bad eyesight he couldn’t even read a book! He was so bored! Now that’s called boredom,” I finish triumphantly.

My kids are goggling.

“He saw sharks all around the ship!” Aharon says, eyes shining.

“They had grown-ups dressing up as crocodiles!” Yael says, giving me a meaningful look.

“I’m exempt,” I warn her, because I know what she’s thinking. “One cartwheel a day exempts mothers from any crocodile-related dress-up.”

“They must be very thirsty on ships,” Yael points out. “Everyone is drinking and drinking and still not feeling well afterward.”

I clear my throat and change the subject; I don’t want to have to disabuse her of the mistaken notion that the ship’s passengers were drinking water.

“Let’s make a sea with the blue blankets!” shouts Aharon. “And we’ll make sharks! And the couch will be the ship!”

“That’s a good idea.” I beam, thrilled that my kids are no longer bored.

Aharon turns to me.

“Mommy,” he says angelically, “will you be the crocodile?”


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 878)

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