The Little World – It’s Only A Hobby – Part One

I remember a comedy record that Lou Jacobi made in which he said that he had a hobby of catching honey bees in a jar. Another character asked him if he put air holes and honey in the jar, and he said ” No “. When they remonstrated with him that this would cause the bees to die he said ” So what? It’s only a hobby…”.

SO WRONG on so many levels – both in humanity and in hobby-manity. But you still laughed at the deadpan delivery…

Leaving aside the comedy and the poor bees, the idea that something is ONLY a hobby is one of the most corrosive ones that you can hold. If you approach anything upon that basis, you are doing yourself and whatever you attempt a vast disservice.

I am not generally an advocate for passion. People who profess it generally do so to press their opinions upon you – opinions that might not pass the scrutiny of logic, practicality, or morality. Passion becomes at once an engine and a vehicle for anything. I like engines and vehicles, sure, but not when they are made to bear down upon me.

I cannot do the cold logic of the Vulcans, nor even the measured stuff of classical philosophy. I refuse to go into the marginal footlings of Talmudic logic…it seems to be something of a hairy fraud. But I can see some things clearly, and one of them is the need for a good reason for nearly everything.

I say a good reason – not a bad one. The bad ones come close to that passion thing, or to Lou’s callous hobby. A good reason in the Little World can be many-fold:

a. Because it is beautiful. Lots of dollhouse and teddy bear and doll hobbyists draw strongly on this. The things they do are intrinsically beautiful and everyone who sees them is rewarded. Lucky hobbyists – to make something that does this much good.

b. Because it is unusual. And if you did not do it, no-one would ever know about it. Who knows what stimulation your model of a Hungarian tractor might give to someone’s memory or curiosity.

c. Because we need to remember it. If there was a historical occurence, item, idea, or person, you can frequently record them in miniature in such a way that people do not forget it.

d. Because we need to understand it. A prime example of this for me was to see a set of models made in the Museum Of Science in London in the 1990’s. They were cut-aways of steam engines and boilers done with colour highlighting for water, steam, and air passages. It was the first time in 48 years that I had ever really grasped the idea of water tube and firetube boilers or of automatic fireboxes. Never forgot it and I’ve been grateful to whoever  made those models.

In all of these instances there may be some passion…and a great deal of dedication. They might be hobbies, but the best of them are never ” Only a hobby”.

 

Advertisements

How Old Do You Have To Be To Legally Purchase Nostalgia?

This good question was supplied by a friend over dinner. The venue was a retro pub that had been burned out and restored to the appearance of a burned-out pub. I found myself getting nostalgic for it and hoped that it would re-ignite.

As a child, we rarely have a sense of former times – all things happen in the present. Indeed, we are sometimes so impatient for new things to happen that we discard the present almost as soon as it arrives. Either way – nostalgia or impatience, we cannot really be said to dwell in much contentment.

Well, if we are lucky, time marches on for us. We get to the point where we have something to remember and the interval gives it a sort of hazy mental glow. It becomes better than it was – even if it was actually awful at the time. We edit our thoughts so that there is a good side to the former situation and then we home in on that. It is the kindliest self-deception we can practise.

Of course it also goes the other way – We’ve all seen that Monty Python sketch of the old clubmen bemoaning the modern times and trying to compete with how bleak their childhoods were. The idea was pinched from an Israeli book published a few years earlier than the sketch, mind, but it was still funny. And you can find this sort of thing done for real in any pub front bar. The older we get the tougher we had it.

I wonder if anyone ever really assesses their past and comes out with a neutral view of it? A view that would pass the scrutiny of a common magistrate’s court. It might be the one thing that could give them happiness now – and blessed relief for their listeners.

Ah, but there can at least be some winners – the companies that reproduce vintage items – from clothing to radios to camera outfits. Of course you have to grant them some chance to incorporate modern improvements for safety, convenience, and a higher profit margin – and there will be an inevitable bias in the advertising that accompanies it.

The people who remember the real times may wince a bit when they see the copy version. But some small scrap of the past will have been carried on.

” Do I Look Like An Idiot? “

This is one of those questions – like ” Do I look fat in this? ” – that is a test of many things.

Your sense of honesty…your timing ability…your commitment to a relationship… There are just so many things that you need to do, that you you need to consider and plan for, long before you hear it.

To start out…the answer that the person asking the question wants to hear is ” No ” – and then as many supporting statements as can be drawn from you. They want to hear that answer in very quick time, accompanied by the feeling that you are admiring, apologetic, appalled, and anxious  – all at the same time. They want to own your mind, for free, and have you provide a 2-year warranty with the transaction.

Do this if you wish. If you can see trouble looming on the horizon; dismissal from employment or withdrawal of conjugal conjuggling, and want to avoid it, say no and then squirm around in the mud as hard as you can. You might avert a fight, or only postpone it. You’ll find out eventually…

Or tell the truth. Say ” Yes “. And then be prepared to say either nothing, or a very great deal more. You will suffer for your honesty – make no mistake about that. And it may be more suffering than you really want to do at any given time, but you will at least have had the pleasure of speaking your mind.

Note: the consequences of saying your mind in a court of law may be more than you would wish to bear. If a legal tormentor succeeds in cowing you through threat of sanction, you can console yourself with the thought that even the highest of High Court judges is eventually removed.

Note: ” Heretofore, no. ” is not really going to work. It may be correct and literate, but still…no…

The Little World – Knowing When To Stop

Knowing when to stop is a concept that all Little Worlders should firmly grasp. It is most useful for the designers as well as the builders.

a. I built two kits of the same vehicle recently – One by Hobby Master, and one by Airfix – both long-established firms. Both designed in England and manufactured in China. Both made with good-quality materials – in the case of the Hobby Master this included plastic castings, a zamac casting, and rubber tyres. The Airfix kit was all plastic. Price for the HM was higher, but not excessive.

Well, they both made up to good models, and I was pleased, but the Airfix kit had been made with more pieces of plastic on the sprues and consequently there were a lot more joins to be made. Some of them were joins that required the parts to be 90º accurate – difficult to do in 3 planes.

I’m a reasonably careful worker, but even so I got more things out of line with the Airfix than with the HM – and the extra-fine detail does not show enough in 1:76 scale to merit those inaccuracies. I’ve noted this problem with my next Airfix kit as well, and will look to other makes for my needs in the future.

The designers should have stopped dividing the master model into parts earlier – sacrificed some of the tiny parts for integral moulding. The end result would have been more certainty for the modellers – particularly if they were juniors.

b. I noted that there is yet another re-issue of a die-cast car model by a well-known firm in yet another fanciful livery. I think they have put it out in about 10 varieties…only 2 of which have any basis whatsoever in reality. By all means put out something that returns money to the company, but try not to flood the shelves with examples that have no further value. Stop at 2 authentic models and one fantasy.

c. Other die-cast makers and resin casters are putting out what may be accurate models of especial vehicles by the score – luxury vehicles, racing cars, one-off show cars. Lovely work, but far in excess of the more mundane cars and trucks we see on our roads or remember from the past. Some makes are ignored completely – others have perhaps one example of a line that actually went for decades. The collector is hard pressed to make a representative collection – it is all dessert and no potatoes. Time to stop and to start making more average sedans.

d. Some collectors pursue balanced collections. Some concentrate on one make. Some concentrate on one model from one maker, and break their hearts and our ears with their search for the fabled lost variant that was only available on Wednesday March 18th, 1959 on a radius of 2.7 miles from a newsagent in Pinner.

I am willing to believe that they care about this, but they should stop before they try to make the rest of us care.

e. That final touch of paint on the model often is the final touch plus one. And that extra spritz or brush then spoils the whole paint job by running or skinning. Oh, if only we had stopped earlier…

f. The extra model on the shelf is just a little more weight. And then another. And eventually the shelf – like the camel’s back – has just one straw or model too many. You can see where  this is going.

g. Some model lines – some model collections – are finite things. There were only so many of something that were ever made and only so many models are possible. What do you do if you come to the end of that line and there are no more things to collect? A sad stop.

So it is all a matter of timing – and balance. Success may be reached but should not be over-reached. Every meal has a satiety point  – up until then it is all delight…but after it, everything is nauseating. We must learn our saturation points and stop in a timely fashion before we reach them.

The Machine Gun Belt Of Retirement

We often use the expression ” dodging the bullet ” to celebrate avoiding some horrid fate…and if you have been associated with as many amateur entertainments as I have, you’ll have a fair idea what a horrid fete is…

It is also a way of looking at life in retirement – the situation in which I now find myself. Two years in, and I have learned a few things:

a. You can sleep in, but only to the extent that the sun, the tradespeople, and the cat will permit. One or other of these will have you up to match their schedule.

b. You will get on your wife’s nerves. She will get on your nerves. Designate specific areas of the house where you can go to avoid each other for some portion of the day. The rest of the time will see a much better relationship.

Note: Wire, mines, and machine gun pillboxes are probably going a little overboard – just pick two rooms.

c. Your friends who are still working will be glad to see you, but on their timetable and their terms. They have busy lives to lead and may not appreciate you mooching about when they are exhausted. Be sensible.

d. If you do not need to go to the shops to buy anything, do not go to the shops to fill time. There are better things to do with it.

e. You can get a great deal of pleasure by listening to the morning and afternoon radio reports of traffic jams on the Freeway in peak hour. The best place to do this is at your kitchen table with a cup of fresh coffee.

f. Use the special seating on the trains and buses. If you are a senior, it is there for you.

g. Wear out your old clothes. Wear them out by wearing them – out. No-one is looking and  no-one cares. Just make sure they are clean.

h. Pursue that hobby. You may take it further than it has ever gone.

i. When people are polite and kind to you, be polite and kind in return. When people are not polite and kind to you, still be polite and kind to them. Repeatedly, and in public view. Until they get the message.

If necessary, help them along by explaining how to be polite and kind.

j. Expect some memory glitches. Where is my coffee? I had a cup of it started just before I sat down. No, seriously, I did…

k. As an older person, you may not sleep as well as you used to. Since you do not need to rise at 5:00AM to chop down trees, you needn’t go instantly to sleep at 9:00PM. By all means stay up late and read new books.

l. Expect former work colleagues to forget you. It is not a sign of disrespect – it is just the pressure of new demands that continues to flood into their lives. You are out of that pool and need not re-enter it.

m. ” Annual Holidays ” and ” Vacations ” might seem less valuable now – now that each day is free. This is a perceptual trap.

Certainly, the desperate relief of pressure that you used to feel when you got your annual week or two weeks is gone. But it was never an easy thing – it used up the first three days of any break you had, and there was always the nagging fear that you might be called back into work. And the feeling of impending doom when you thought of the re-start date coming closer.

No more. You cannot be doomed by former workmates and bosses. They are busy dooming each other and you are out of the blast circle. You are, quite simply, free.

Soooo…about the annual vacation business…

Why does it have to be annual? Why can’t it be every 6 months? Why can’t it be three days in the middle of the week now? No reason at all, save the monetary aspect. And does it have to be a big, annual, pressure-relieving, pressure-inducing, official escape? Can it now be a small pleasure jaunt?

Of course it can.

Give up the idea of the ” vacation “. You have nothing to vacate. You have time to spare, and time to fill. Fill it with something good – something new, if you like new, or something old, if that is your comfort.

Go see what you like and do what you like. If you don’t know what these two things are, now is the time to find out – go and do a wide variety of things and see how you feel. You might discover you’re a beach sitter who loves the nothing life. or you might hate it. You might find you are a planned tourist – or you might just like a pub chair and a book. You might find anything, if you go and look.

Be careful. You might find yourself being happy…

n. At the age of retirement, you get to mentally review a lot of things.

No, I still do not know where flies go in winter – I am just content if they stay away from me in summer. But you get to review the people you are in contact with and decide whether you wish to stay in contact with them. You really do have a choice.

I’ve made my own list of people I wish to remain in contact with. I’ve also made another list. Neither require dramatic action – I seek the company of people on one list and avoid that of people on the other. The basic result is an increase of happiness for me. That achieved, I am a better friend and companion. Of course chance may throw me in or out of contact with either lot, but I try to remain calm about it. I am a reader of P.G. Wodehouse and the character of Jeeves is a great assistance in some situations.

m. At the age of retirement, you can eat and drink less than before. Heavy consumption is unpleasant. But you can still appreciate good food and drink, and as you are taking less of it, the little you do have can be of much better quality.

It can be cooked  and served professionally, if you’ve got the money. If not, you can prepare it yourself and enjoy it in your own home. This has many advantages; you need not eat impossible melanges of modern food – you can stick to classics. You can experiment with flavours – with no scowling chef bullying you. You need fear no wait-staff with bad attitudes – you can be smarmy to yourself, and need not leave a tip.

n. The coffee. I found it. It was by the telephone. Why didn’t you tell me it was by the telephone?

o. You will get scam phone calls and computer messages all the time. Of course you will never fall for them, but you can spend some time playing with the criminals who perpetrate them. They regard you as a gullible old fool, who can be cozened and bullied into letting them have access to your financial secrets. They are vogelfrei…

I find it best to be ready – if you’ve a quick wit you can have some marvellous fun. In the past I have sung Broadway songs to one, shamed one with religious sermons, convinced one that they had been patched through to the quarterdeck of a Navy ship docked at Fremantle harbour, and demanded the delivery of white phosphorus howitzer shells from another.

I have refused life insurance upon the grounds that I was a train robber and lived too dangerous a life to get insurance, and kept another going for a half-hour on the basis of being a kindly and bumbling old fellow who was nearly succeeding in doing what they wanted on my computer, but not quite achieving it…

Of course, if I am frying bacon at the time or fresh out of the shower I am brusque. I’m pleased that a workmate was able to teach me a series of Croatian swear words, and I wish that someone could supply me with a similar list in Hindi or Arabic.

p. Speaking of computers, you may find out many new things that you did not know with these. You will also find out that the computer does not know many of the things that YOU know. And much of what you do know, you can recognise as being distorted, false, or foolish when it is spread out on Facebook, Twitter, or innumerable private websites.

The fact that you know better in some instances should give you cause for pause – if the almighty computer got it wrong in something that you know the truth of, you should also suspect that there could be many other instances where it is wrong.

You still have a public library, and you still have your native intelligence. These do not get hacked. Use them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Loss Of The Little Car

Look at the history of motor vehicles in the 20th century – there has been a steady movement away from the little cars that started it all. Everything has gotten bigger, faster, heavier, and more expensive. And I’m not talking about the luxury end of the market or the specialist vehicles – I mean the average run-about for the average person. Either the people are getting less average or the numbers have crept up.

Of course safety will be cited – and the increased speeds on the roads – and the congestion…but these factors are all intertwined – one producing the other – and larger vehicles only exacerbate the problem. They give the drivers feelings of entitlement, power, and arrogance – if there is any tendency on their part to this in the first place, it is exaggerated to a toxic level in the big sedan or SUV.

The small end of the market is perfectly adequate for most urban and suburban travel, and surprisingly good for country work as well. The VW beetles of fond memory ( grown sleek and large and overpriced once their design was altered…) went everywhere and did everything. So did their Variant cousins and the T vans. Before them the small Austins, Morrises, Vauxhalls, Hillmans, etc were all we needed and pretty well all we wanted.

We want them back again. The intervening automotive engineering and computer revolution would make them better than ever, and if the makers could be convinced to produce a really basic vehicle that would last, a lot of people would see the light.

I’m encouraged by the Fiat 500C and the small Suzukis. The tiny Nissans are not as good, but the Daihatsus could make a comeback and be welcome – as long as the designers could be convinced not to overload them with features.

Simplicity is what we crave when we sit down to tea – a knife, a fork and a spoon is all we need. Same thing with a car.

When I’m Culling You-Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo…

You’ll be really screw – hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoooed…

It’s the theme song for Facebook Spring Cleaning – that time of year when you turn your social media friends over and look at the stains underneath them…and decide whether to wipe it up or wipe them out.

Not that you are a cruel or callous tyrant – far from it – you are a sensitive flower of the universe  – open to goodness and kindness and righteousness wherever it appears. But when it appears under a pile of political, financial, or moral horse shit it is not worth the shovelling.

So it’s time to assess the ineffable. And the F—able as well. Especially them. When the Swear Jar starts to look like the International Monetary Fund it is time to consider whether someone is a good cultural influence or not. We are, for the most part, what we eat, but sometimes we are also what we are fed. And if we are fed a diet of bad language, bad ideas, and bad manners, it is time to find another place to eat.

Like any social media enthusiast, I want people to like me. I want to like them. But if the cost of this is agreement and adherence to the unlikeable…and sometimes to the unbearable…it is time to bring the social contract to an end.

Shall we regard it as a no-blame, no-guilt divorce? You can have custody of the Candy Crush and the sidebar. I’ll keep the hot rod pictures and the YouTube of people making ugly furniture. We’ll split the kitten videos down the middle.