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”.

 

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Taking Back Life – Part Three – Hand And Mind

I am 69 this year. A delightful time, if I let it be. But it takes work. The trick is to like the work…

I don’t mind it – though I must say that I appreciate the change from weekly duties in the shop or surgery. A daily routine includes writing, photography and communication, bathing and shaving, making the bed, doing the dishes, planning the evening meal and cooking it, and doing the round of suburban payments and shopping. You might think it odd to include the bathing and shaving in there as work, but they are – and you need to do them as regularly as ever before to give shape to your day.

The household tasks are not as annoying as one might think – a weekly clean-up of rooms and the regular laundry. Cooking each day. Garbage disposal, etc. Mundane, but if you go about them the right way, actually pleasurable. It is all in the mind – in my shop position I was the staff member who did the dishes for the rest of the crew. Many of them thought it was demeaning for an older man to be doing dishes, but they didn’t realise that I was pulling a half hour of overtime each day at the task. Every week paid for one more car in my model collection. And on a freezing winter’s day, I was the only one in the building with warm hands! Every task I undertake now for my family means we are better fed, housed, and clothed. That’s worth doing.

My day also includes some time spent at the workbench. This can be in my photo studio illustrating goods, or in my workshop making props and models. I treat the two activities the same way – a chance to explore art and craftsmanship – rather than just dog work. As a result, I can be pleased with a clean illustration of a camera bag or the paint job on a model building. It is the doing rather than the buying or consuming that rewards me here.

And lastly, I try for some reading each evening. ( And if I am dining alone, I can read at the table as well…a social no-no, but a divine dinner companion…) I’m not a novel reader, unless it is a Victorian pot boiler. I tend to read technical books or art histories. Biography needs to have a strong hook to catch me, but then I am surprised when some unknown historical figure pops up. As I’ve gotten older I understand more of what I read.

I’ve more or less decided that my time is what I make of it.

 

 

The Little World – Applying For A Fun Licence

” This is a free country, isn’t it? ”

Fine words, and perfectly appropriate at the polling booth or in the public bar, but hesitate before uttering them in your local hobby shop. Because the answer may turn out to be ” No “.

I’m driven to this conclusion by looking at the goods on offer in the shop. Fine models, glorious kits, magnificent engines, and more trouble than you can pack into a Gladstone bag. In many cases you may be free to purchase the fun, but you will be forbidden to have it…or at least you will need to go a’begging to someone for permission to play somewhere.

If that sounds over the top, consider that here in Perth – the most isolated capital city in the world with hundreds or thousands of kilometres between us and other cities – we need to go to one special secluded spot on the outskirts of town to fly a toy airplane. We need to go 20 kilometres to sail a toy boat, and we can go to Bunbury or buggery if we want to run a toy car.

Noise, pollution, disturbance, wildlife, public nuisance,etc. etc. Councils jealously guard their parks and schools jealously guard their ovals, and woe betide the trespasser. The drone flyers have it even worse as they are the bete noir of everybody. Doesn’t stop the hobby shops from trying to sell lots of different drones, but when it comes to clubs flying them…?

So far the toy train people can escape most of the contumely and control as their layouts are inside, and on their own property. If they take them outside they can be harassed for creating an attractive nuisance or for spoiling the council’s view of what the garden should look like.

The toy soldier, car, and doll collectors also escape most of this problem…but this is probably only because the police and council haven’t figured out an angle that can either fee or fine the collector. Have no fear…they are probably working on it. They already have a stranglehold on the militaria collectors who just want to trade old muskets.

I am not going to worry too much. I’m sure I contravene a number of regulations by collecting toy cars and taking pictures of them and a zealous enemy could put in so many council complaints as to make the hobby miserable, but collecting enemies could also be a lot of fun.

Particularly if you pin them to a board or press them between the pages of a thick book.

The Hobbyist’s Christmas

dscf3434Of all the Christmas celebrations there are, the hobbyist’s version must be one of the best. This is because of several factors:

a. They know what they want.

Even if what they want is ” everything ” or is some excruciatingly expensive or obscure item…it is still something. The hobbyist mind has an object toward which to work all the time. Holidays are a time of opportunity.

b. They know where to get it.

Even if it is half way round the planet in some warehouse in New Jersey, you can be sure that the hobbyist has sussed it out long before the holiday. magazines, internet sites, and the underground grapevine of other enthusiasts will pinpoint anything.

c. It is never socks, a tie, or a brown sweater with snowflakes on it.

No-one buying a present for a hobbyist will have to suffer the silent contempt of the sales assistant as they wrap up the World’s Worst Present. The shop might be exasperated at the fact that the specialised object is being purchased by a Philistine who has no idea what it is, but if said buyer comes in with a carefully written note from the hobbyist they can at least know that it will end up in good hands.

d. The hobbyist only wants one.

They do not need multiple presents. Just the thing that they asked for. They really are grateful for it, even if it is old or rusty or small or tacky. They know what it is wanted for and how it will be used. Trust them.

e. They are content for the entire day.

Look, lets face it, you can basically give a hobbyist their present, a mince-pie, and a bottle of beer and they will be happy to go off into the basement for 12 hours. You can save on turkey and Christmas crackers and have the day to yourself to watch old Bond movies. Sometimes they’ll surface Boxing Day and sometimes it won’t be until New Years. If you crave a bit of quiet at Christmas, that is how you get it.

f. They don’t mind a bit if the price of the thing they give you is way more than the price of the thing you give them. It isn’t an issue if something is priceless for the hobby.

g. You can hand a hobbyist the world in an envelope.

I mean a gift certificate to their favourite hobby shop. It will never be put at the back of a drawer and forgotten. In fact, it will be spent within the first trading day after Christmas. You’re lucky if the thing doesn’t heat up and ignite on the bedside table in anticipation…