Nobody can recall exactly when or under what complicated set of circumstances a copy of the Taschen Boring Postcards book first floated into the house. Hundreds of Boring Postcards are lovingly reproduced in riotously offensive Technicolor, and the book is refreshingly devoid of introductory text, commentary or any attempt at formulating an aesthetic of the Truly Dull. Boring Postcards, itís implied, do precisely what it says on the cover. Highlights of this defiantly unthrilling collection include Tolworth Tower, The Subway (Oldham), the Redditch traffic interchange, the Crossgates Arndale Centre, the Scratchwood Service Area on the M1, the canteen at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the terminal at Glamorgan Airport, the interior of the Mersey Tunnel, and (a particular favourite, this) some rainclouds viewed from the end of Southend Pier. The interesting part of the enterprise, of course, is wondering why anyone thought these buildings were worth photographing in the first place, and why images of them were ever offered for sale and even, from time to time, bought.
There was a long and thoughtful review of the Boring Postcards book by Jonathan Bell in things magazine, which argued that the real subject of the anthology was the incurable English hatred of and embarrassment about post-war architecture. Iím not sure whether I believe this or not. Certainly the book has provoked howls of laughter and derision from all of our visitors who have turned its pages, especially our Canadian Correspondent, who was delighted to learn when she was staying here two summers ago that boring postcards of the Turriff Sports Centre car park were on sale locally. We cranked up the ancient Renault 5 and drove at speed to the newsagent to stock up on these charmless objects, which were duly posted to many corners of the planet.
But recently the Canadian Correspondent has been sending us more postcards to add to the collection. The first to arrive was a picture of some coalminers standing with their arms folded and yawning unapologetically on the shore of Theitaga Lake. And just this morning she sent us another one, which shows an empty road, some telegraph poles and an agricultural silo at Jacobís Hill. We have retaliated with a boring postcard of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone in the Peopleís Republic of China, snapped by a no doubt eminent Norwegian photographer. There are cranes, some concrete cylinders, a couple of half-built skyscrapers and quite a lot of rubble. We donít know what will come back from the Canadian Correspondent, but we are sure that she is up to the challenge.
None of us are sure exactly how this curious war of attrition will end. Answers on a boring postcard, please, to the usual address.