I've just been reading a report about internet trolling and how it is generally young men who are 'bored' who are those who become trolls on social networking sites. There are some women and older people...but mostly...according to the article...it is young men. Not just boredom accounts for their actions...a feeling of lack of self-worth is cited as another...the fact you can virtually post whatever you like to anyone you choose with little fear of a backlash is another...but it seems to come back to boredom as being the main reason they troll.

So I thought...as I so often do, about the past. And in particular the census records. I'll be looking at the English census for 1851 for instance...for a family member and his or her children. And when I've found them, I'll look to see how their neighbours made their living. There will often be a common thread...Cotton Weavers for instance tended to live in a row of cottages close to the mill where they worked...the same with the Straw Hat makers or the inevitable Ag labs. Then a record will leap from the page...a ten year old boy described as a Plough Boy...or a twelve year old girl as a General Servant...

Have a look through Workhouse census records and see how many elderly men are described as 'soldiers'...more than one would think.

Poke about in the Probate Records during the period of the First World War and see just how many young men had made Wills and then died on the Western Front...'died from his wounds' 'died from Trench Fever' 'died from unknown causes...body not yet found'...over and over and over again those records come up. They left small amounts of monies to their Mothers and their sisters...saved up I suppose from their Army pay.

Those old men who ended their days destitute in a Workhouse fought in long forgotten Wars in places that few people have even heard about...

The little girls who were sent to the big houses to be general servants would have slept three to a bed in a cold attic and be lucky to get an afternoon off each year to visit their Mother...and the small boys who were described as Plough Boys or Cow Boys? They'd have been up at the crack of dawn with watery porridge in their belly to walk endless miles behind the great Shire horses...up and down fields wearing leather boots and no socks in all kinds of weather. Or sent to the farthest most fields to bring in the cows for milking with a clip round the ear should they be slow.

It wasn't all doom and gloom...there were Fair days with street entertainers and dancing and drink flowing in the local 'pubs...Christmas was always a feast even for the poorest family with a goose to roast and perhaps a ham to carve and a boiled fruit pudding for afters...there were dances too...in Ireland they were mostly held in the tiny cottages on the flagstones of the living rooms...in England, the local Church Hall would have been the venue.

Those who were rich and lived in good houses with a decent tiled roof and had horses to ride to the hunt and guns for organised shoots...they were hardly idle. They had estates to run and farms to oversee and perhaps some had a place in the House of Lords or sat on the board of Governors for schools and hospitals...

What did those people who lived a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago have in common...a lack of boredom. They were simply too busy living their lives...the women running their homes and caring for their children and weaving or spinning...feeding the hens and the pig and cooking the suppers and washing the clothes...the men hadn't the time to be bored...there was ploughing to be done and hay to be made and potatoes to be earthed up. Boots to be mended and Church sermons to write and clothes to be tailored...

Even the pig killing involved anyone and everyone who was able...from the scraping off of the bristles to the blowing up of the bladder for the children to play with...boredom was an unknown quantity which may have happened to other people...but not to our Tailors and Bootmakers and Plough boys...

There is something out of kilter when a young man sitting in front of his laptop posts virulent messages to a person he has never met nor ever will...there is something awfully wrong when his actions are described as the actions of a person who is 'bored'

We can't go back two hundred years or so nor should we ever wish to...those days and those times are gone along with Bear-Baiting and hanging for simple theft of a sheep...but if we've managed to produce a society where someone can post that their target 'needs to be raped' ...where that kind of a message posted for all to see on a public networking site is excused as 'boredom' on the part of the perpetrator and they are gently led away for intense counselling aimed to get to the root of their problems with interaction with others...then I simply give up and would rather become the mad old woman who lives with dozens of cats and writes cross letters about the state of the drains to the local newspaper.