A tireless programme of national jam making, competitive vegetable husbandry and choir practice had all but eradicated the perilous sickness of boredom in Britain by 1970, when a new hovercraft link to the Continent and a vogue for day trips sparked fears of contamination from abroad.
Suddenly our spectred isle was vulnerable to virulent foreign strains of boredom, such as German Weltschmerz, French ennui, and the Dutch molenvermeidheid (literally ‘windmill fatigue’, caused by the infrequency of vertical objects on the horizon of the low countries).
After Mrs Sarah Kettleship, the infamous ‘Patient Zero’ shrugged herself to death in Felixstowe in 1974, the focus turned sharply towards the group perceived to be at the highest risk: Britain’s housewives, with their repetitive routine and depressing rollerblinds.
Initial attempts to stem the blight of apathesis included quarantine kennels for globetrotting housewives returning from Calais and Rotterdam, and the introduction by Whitehall’s Central Planning Secretariat of a string of national talking points, starting with breakfast television and ending with AIDS.
Opinion is divided as to whether ennui was ever a real threat. Experts still disagree on what wiped it out, attributing it to a wide number of factors including upstairs phones, the Kays catalogue, and everything.