A few days ago I was walking through the city, near St Paul’s.
And because I had nowhere else to be, I ended up taking a mid-afternoon detour through Postman’s Park.
I headed to the flower bed in front of all the plaques, parked myself on a bench, and made a conscious effort to just sit and look around.
And more and more I find it is a conscious effort – I hardly ever just sit and do nothing these days. There’s always a way out.
How many collective minutes, hours, days, weeks and months do you think we’ve lost to just absently staring at our phones? I asked my housemate that the other day while we were watching TV – well, half watching, you know how it goes.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all “phones are bad, delete your apps, don’t use them” at you – the truth is, I’m not quite sure how I ever navigated London with any success without mine.
My phone tells me the weather, shows me important dog news, lets me communicate with my friends using only the whale emoji, and on those rare occasions when I venture out of my stomping ground and into south London, it tells me how to get home. Plus, Twitter and Instagram remain my favourite way of not talking when I don’t really feel like it, and not making eye contact with people I want to avoid.
Phones have become a shortcut, a fast forward, an excuse to be busy. They’re the somewhere else you have to be without actually moving your feet.
When you live in a big city, phones are pretty much essential. But we also need to give our brains time to stop and drift and think.
Because I’m not sure I really want to find myself patting around for a little screen whenever I pause or have to wait anywhere, or immediately reaching for it whenever I sit down, or creepily cupping it in my pocket wherever I walk.
And the truth is, I’ve got this nagging feeling that I think most of us would like to be doing more with our spare time – myself included – and an equally nagging feeling that phones will probably be why most of us won’t.
So I’m trying to become a bit more conscious and aware of how I’m spending my time, and allow myself to get bored. I want to get to the point where reaching for my phone when I have nothing to do feels weird and ridiculous and odd, instead of the other way around.
I thought about all this as I sat in Postman’s Park, and listened to the passing traffic, sirens and car horns. I sat, and occasionally wrote down ideas, and got restless. My mind drifted and wondered, and my eyes scanned and watched. A few times, patches of flowers round the edge of the bed quivered, and out popped the nose of a tiny mouse.
And in contrast to all the other times I’ve sat down to kill some time and ended up distracting myself, by the time I got up and walked off with this post writing itself in my head, I knew exactly where half an hour could go.
This post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter. Find out more about that badboy here.