Derek, who lived a couple of doors down from us, introduced himself to me and my girlfriend Jane one evening in our local pub and we invited him to join us. As he sat down he said, ‘A really funny thing happened to me at work today.’ This was nine o’clock. Two hours later I looked at my watch to see it was nine-fifteen. Three years later closing time finally arrived, whereupon Derek invited himself back to ours for a drink. I told him firmly about our early starts but somehow he ended up on our sofa anyway where he told more ‘funny’ stories from his repertoire. It was only when I had put my pyjamas on that he finally released us from the torment. ‘It’s nice to have met some new friends’ he said ominously as he lingered at the door on the way out.
We are all capable of being tedious (except his Royal Highness Stephen Fry of course) but Derek was a bore of international stature – long-winded, self-absorbed, repetitive and hard to shake off. He was as opinionated as he was ignorant and, although he seemed to have no sense of the anguish he was visiting on me and Jane, he had developed a way of breathing that made him impossible to interrupt. If you did somehow manage to interject a sentence, it served merely as a reminder to him of some further hilarious episode from his life. Within days I was ducking behind hedges to avoid him.
How to deal with the bore without being arrested for murder? Most are quite genial people who make it hard for you to be rude to them, but, on the other hand, I feel aggrieved that they never themselves seem to want to hang out with fellow bores. My attention span is short and I am genuinely pained to be pinned in a corner by a bloke (and it usually is a bloke) telling me about his car or his latest round of golf. Having appeared on TV in Grumpy Old Men I sometimes get accosted by drunks saying, ‘I’m a grumpy old man too!’ ‘In that case,’ I want to say, ‘you’ll understand when I invite you to sod off and leave me alone!’ but I don’t. You can turn down invitations, invent sudden phone calls you have to make, feign heart attacks but, short of never leaving the house, you can never be fully guaranteed against the bore.
And in the end who is to say who is boring? Maybe I’m the boring one. Certainly I was surprised by the way I finally got shot of Derek. He ran off with Jane.