Monday, 1 December 2008
In praise of anoraks
Other peoples hobbies are always difficult to understand. Radio controlled models, tennis and taking a lively interest in the genealogy and internal politics of Trotskyist grouplets are all hobbies that strike me as being only marginally more entertaining than watching paint dry but hey! that's just me. Others find these things totally riveting and more power to their elbow I say. I'm in favour of hobbies, the very idea of them tends to make me feel all warm in a sort of pipe and tank top kind of way.
On my bookshelf, and I suppose that you could count books as one of my hobbies, I have a 1930s edition of The Universal Book of Hobbies and Handicrafts by Sid Hedges. It's a blinder. There is basic information on over a hundred hobbies ranging from Applique Work (me neither) to Wood Carving by way of Boating, Bookbinding, Self-defence and Television (that's making a set, not being an expert on Corrie). But it's the introduction that really gets my juices flowing. I don't know who Sid Hedges was but I tell you, he was one of us. Sid had much to say about unemployment, the alienation of work and the tyranny of machines. Here he is on the importance of hobbies, " they will become more important still, for as mankind shakes itself clear of the old jungle habits of hating and arming and fighting so there will be more scope for living...... Is it too much to hope that the various Whitehall Ministries of War may one day be replaced by Ministries of the Peoples Leisure?"
Of course you could accuse Sid of a certain naivety; while he was writing all this stuff about Fretwork and Home Gymnastics Hitler was putting the final touches to his plans for a new United Europe. Perhaps that is the whole point. If only Adolf had just relaxed and got on with his painting. Done evening classes. Joined the local Art Group. Maybe made friends with a nice Jewish girl. It could all have been so different.
One of my own hobbies is old fashioned systems of physical training and a few years back I got hold of a book on the subject called "Dinosaur Training". About the same time I bought a wormery for making compost and I was tempted to put on my CV under "Hobbies and Interests" - Dinosaur Training and Worm Breeding. I had visions of a HR department somewhere, " blimey! bloke here not only breeds worms, he trains fucking dinosaurs as well".