” What, Actually, IS Your Hobby…? “

Darned good question.

I’ve asked it of myself for about 6 decades – ever since I discovered that things you like to do are a hobby and things you don’t like to do are a chore. I’ve tabulated the former and latter and I’m happy to say that the first outnumbers the last – so I have a credit in my fun account.

How do you know when a mere experience or activity becomes a hobby? When you devote more than a half hour a day to it – this can be accumulated over a week to 3.5 hours or more and spent all in one go – attendance at a hobby club or social circle, for instance. The most it can be accumulated is a month –  14 hours  – and then it must be discharged.

Can a chore be a hobby? Only if you are very lucky or very unfortunate. That old saw about doing what you love so that you never work a day is somewhat true, but like all old saws gets rusty and loses teeth eventually. I know people whom I suspect have never worked a day in their lives because the thing the dearly love to do is sponge off others. That’s not a hobby – it’s a crime.

Can hobbies be fluid? Yes, and if the fluid you choose is brandy, don’t expect to get much done in the evening. But you can change from one hobby to another quite legally. It is not so easy in practical terms, however.

Hobbies cost money, time, and social effort. If you design to change, you are going to have to do something about the past expenditure you will be foregoing and the remnants of the thing. You may have left over equipment, projects, and people who are still valuable… And you’ll find it hard to give up valuables.

The thing to do is to meld – make one hobby flow into another. Take some of the gear and investment in whatever you did before and make it do now. Carry people over from one social group to another – the ones you value – and you’ll find that they are still a delight.

And occasionally you can return to an abandoned hobby and take it up again – it will be all the sweeter for the rediscovery.

 

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” Lookin’ For A Good Time, Big Boy…? “

Yeah, I am. And I have learned to be damned careful where I look.

Recently a friend on Facebook shared a small essay about doing things for fun – as opposed to doing them for money. My mind, being what it is, instantly linked up the concept to the title and it all went downhill from there. But I thoroughly agree with the original essay – there is a limited time and a place for monetization of our lives – and an increasing pressure to judge everything we do by the standards of the cashbook and journal. But there is an equal time and place for it all to be done for love.

We stand in danger of becoming Jacob Marley in our spare time.

These essays I write are for fun – I find them so, even if you may not. I do not expect to be paid for them, as payment comes as soon as the words hit the screen. It is in the form of pleasure and satisfaction…and I do not need to do double-entry bookkeeping to appreciate that.

I have had hobbies that earned money – and I pursued them diligently enough for years. In the end the money that they brought has evaporated, as all money does, and the only thing  left is a sense of satisfaction or otherwise when I think back on the times spent sewing, developing, shooting, drawing, or whatever. I could equally have this final pleasure if no money had been sought. Indeed, it may have given me more time to seek pleasure, rather than profit.

Well, I learned. I now build model aircraft, take photos, and write to please me. I share some of this and if you are pleased as well, good times are rolling. But they do not need to roll with an on-line shop, etsy, or business model. They have other wheels to run on.

Trying To Be Plain, Without Being Simple

I have come a little late to realise that I am plain bun. Possibly with one sultana in it, and occasionally a bit of jam…but a simple bun nevertheless. For an awful long time I pretended to be fancy pastry.

Do we all do this in our youth and early adulthood? Do we dress, drive, and do far more than we need to? Do we try to live to a fancier standard than we are really able to sustain? Do we intend to fool others and end up fooling ourselves? I fear this has been the case for me.

It was the access to ready money – derived from a secure professional job – that made it easy to attain more and fancier goods than were strictly required. In its turn this produced fancier internal visions which demanded more goods…and the cycle went on and on.

Occasionally there was a hiccup – when tax time revealed that I was not the high-flyer I imagined. But the taxes were paid, goods accumulated, activities ongoing at the time smoothed over the unease, and there was always something new to do. And new things could keep the money flow going.

Eventually, however, retirement reduced the spending river to a small rivulet, and eventually it became time to close down the luxury mills or take up train robbing to pay for them. I have chosen the former, rather than the latter, though the idea of a pistol and a mask is still attractive. The wonderful side effect is to discover – as the first paragraph states, that I have simpler tastes than I suspected.

My hobby pursuits do not see me wearing $ 1500 clothes, $1500 away from home. My dinners cost well under $ 10. I play happily on $ 20 a week and am never bored. And I do not have a debt that lasts longer than a month.

The life of a plain bun can be just as nourishing as anything the patisserie can supply.

Living Your Own History

I have given up pretending to be other people; I have commenced pretending to be myself. Whether I will be more successful at it remains to be seen, but I know one thing – the clothing bill will be considerably lighter.

Do I have enough life accrued to have a history? And is it notable enough to be worthy of re-enactment? I’m not Dwight Eisenhower or Jim Carrey…so I don’t know whether anyone else will want to see me playing me. But I will still pursue the idea for my own purposes.

What was I? A little kid, then a teenager, than a young man, than a middle-aged man, and now an oldish sort of man. I have never climbed a new mountain, nor discovered a new cure for anything. Equally, I have never murdered people nor stolen money from them. Just an average Joe.

But an average Joe who had a great good time doing several things; taking photographs, reading books, and building scale models. If I re-enact what I did then I will not please or harm anyone else, but I can still please and harm myself…hopefully in equal portions.

This column, and the others I write, are part of the re-enactment I do of success in school. That petered out early, but these WordPress posts are going along nicely.

The Little Studio continues to take dance pictures as well as commercial illustration to the satisfaction of the customers.

The Little Workshop is spooling up to produce more and more scale models that please and delight me. And keep me agile of mind and hand. The activity is totally beneficial.

I may decline to wear the clothing of my childhood – the Howdy Doody vest is a difficult garment to integrate into normal day wear – but I’ve noticed recently that I can rock the flannel shirt and work trousers…and as a retired man I can wear them in more places than you’d think. The white moustache and flat cap help as well.

The Ghosts Of The Mall

It is not very often that we can say we like ghosts. The traditional ones – rattling chains, screaming in the night, passing through walls, etc. are somewhat of a strain on the nerves. They leave slime. When they infest a house the resale value plummets. Few people want them.

In my case I do have a reason to be grateful to them – they have enabled me to start my retirement in a good note.

When I was working in my last career I was sent out on many occasions to help people with photographic training. Specifically, with the Polaroid passport cameras that were common at the time. These were the four-lens jobs that put nearly identical pictures onto a sheet of Polaroid or Fujifilm instant film. The requirements of the Australian passport department were stringent and the geometry and illumination needed to achieve them operated within a fairly narrow band of possibility – hence I was sent to train chemist’s assistants and post office employees on how to do it.

Fine. Motor out from the shop, conduct a hour’s training and motor back in, picking up a cup of coffee on the return journey. Easy stuff. But it was the sights in the shopping malls riveted my attention – I saw ghosts.

They were both sad and frightening, and I paid close attention to them. They were the men of a similar age to myself that had no occupation – either public or private – and who passed the day sitting in the centre of the mall. Some of them drifted silently about. Grey men in shapeless garments – they may have been wearing their grave clothes – with grey faces devoid of expression. Whenever I encountered them they hurried me on my way, as I did not want whatever had infected them to touch me.

Well, now I am a retired person, and having seen what mall ghosts look like I have determined on a few things:

a. When I get up, I dress up. The outfit may be a plaid shirt, braces, and high-water britches, but it is the clothing of a person who is determined to keep moving. No grey winding cloths.

b. When I am in a mall, I keep moving briskly to whatever store I need to go to. And then equally briskly back home. Malls are fine for concentrating shops in one area, but they make lousy graveyards.

c. I do not eat or drink in a mall. I have food at home that costs me 1/4 the price of the mall. I do not need to overspend to undereat.

d. I have hobbies – so does my wife. They are the life-rings of retirement. I do not begrudge them to myself or to her , and I realise how much good they do us.

Every hobby cannot be done all the time, but they can be rotated so that there is something all the time that can be done on one or the other of them. It might not need to be done, but that is not the point.

Fortunately I am a loner in many respects and always have been. Thus I do not need to be cossetted in a group doing things to find things to do. But I do not deny the utility of pensioner groups and other forms of entertainment. That is what some people need.

Result? I am up early and doing, and the feeling of being a ghost comes rarely to me. I would urge it upon others for as long as they can manage at whatever level they can achieve. Leave the malls to the teenagers.

 

Make It Or Buy It?

I once started an old-fashioned hobby that needed all sorts of arcane things that I had never seen in shops. When I asked the president of the hobby club where to get the things needed he said: ” My Dear Fellow – we make them ourselves. “. And then proceeded to show me how. Over the years I discovered no end of enthusiasts making things in workshops, forges, sewing rooms, and kitchens that had not been seen for centuries.

I joined in with some darkroom and studio work that revived old practices. In nearly every case there were difficulties finding out what to do and where to get supplied of raw materials but in the end most of the projects attempted were achieved. And I found out that in the process of casting, sewing, forging, planing, and general blood-letting we had gained something even more valuable than the musket balls, swords, tunics, and historic photos – we had gained the ability to be a little independent in a coddled world.

Not all of us can make castings in a furnace that we have constructed from river clay – but I know two chaps who can. Likewise I know people who can hand-stitch an entire suit of clothes. I can make leather goods and spray paint. None of us is ever really daunted by a household repair – we might not get round to it for a decade, but that is just laziness – not fear.

We all have reversed the admiration we might have once felt for store-bought goods in favour of those we design and make for ourselves.

If you are a person who is the victim of the shops – if all you wear, eat, use, and do is governed by the goods on offer and the price that the retailer can extract – pause for a moment and think. Is there any little need that you have that can be satisfied by making it yourself? It doesn’t have to be an organically grown steam engine or an entire garden in a week. But start small and make…and use to the exclusion of a commercial product…one thing. Get used to it – get to like it – and get the feeling that there are more things that you can do…

There are.

Coupla Shotza

That sounds like a Polish folk dance, doesn’t it? The Kupula Shotza. with big skirts and lots of twirling around.

Actually it is a prescription for the end of a good day and the start to a new project. I am retired, with enough working space around me and time to spare…I can commence making trouble in a dozen ways.

Fortunately I have not retired with a fortune…or I would actually be dangerous. I have also retired in a very nice part of the world and need not try to escape from it. Indeed, I really think I should be wise to escape into it rather than the other way round. I have a comfort zone and I’m smart enough not to allow someone to try to inveigle me out of it for their own purposes.

See? The coupla shotz are working. I’m actually thinking for myself. If you’d like to draw up a chair and pour one, we can can both benefit.

It is very rarely that we can admit to being happy. We are not allowed to be so by the people who want our money…happy people don’t spend. We are allowed to search for happiness, but we’d need to buy all the equipment for the search and pay ( ask about ezi-finance terms ) before we could play.

And in the end it would not be play. It would be work.

I used to worry about not being successful, or rich, or powerful. I could as readily have worried about not being puce, or steam-powered, or slanted. It would, in the end, have made as much sense. I have now reduced my worries to whether the dinner will be overcooked or whether I will be able to do my hobby in my little workshop…rain and cold weather affects it. It is a much more basic approach to life, and much more pleasant.