” 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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The Permanent Playroom

Or how to live happily ever vs clean up after.

I live a life between two premises. Not the premise that I am a reasonable gentleman nor the one that sees me a slavering monster. Those are mere assumptions, and miraculous ones at that. No, I mean I live my life in two houses – my sleeping residence and my playroom.

The playroom is officially a suburban residence and/or photo studio. I inherited it and hope to pass it on one day. While I am in possession, it serves as a photo studio, entertainment venue, and repository for my scale model collections. It is a simple structure but well suited to the purpose. It also has the distinct advantage that it is far enough away that I need to put on a coat to go there. I can make it a destination that seems like a workplace, even if I have no work to do.

Every person needs something like this – even if it is only a secure spot at the local library or men’s shed/CWA/sniper pit. You must get away from your sleeping quarters to do your duty. You’ll be back there soon enough at the end of a hard day and if you can go away you’ll appreciate the sack all the more.

Some people are denied this – they are bed-ridden or restricted by circumstance to one small area for life. It can be the equivalent of a non-parole period for the innocent. For all of us who can at least go to the shops and bruise the tomatoes, no day need be a sentence.

The thing I like best about my playroom is that I do not need to put away my toys at dinner time. I can lock the door, set the alarm, cock the spring gun, and then just carry on to my sleeping quarters. If I am lucky there is a delicious home – cooked meal ready for me when I get there…because I put it in the crockpot earlier in the day. Ya hafta be realistic about some things in life…

I Want A Job As A Test Pilot

A test pilot in a toy factory. Or a book store. Or a pin-up studio. Something with dignity, intellect, and a big tray of cakes for morning tea.

I did health care until I didn’t care anymore – I’ve done retail sales until they took sharp things away from me and started making soothing noises. I’ve done studying until I couldn’t see straight. I’d like something different.

” Oh “, I hear you say, ” You’re retired now. It is time to take a trip around Australia towing a caravan or go to the Greek isles and look at tourists. Or potter in a garden. ” Do these two fingers mean anything to you?

I like to think of it as retyrement. A fresh set of treads and an opportunity to do burnouts at the lights. Old enough to know better but not inclined to pay attention to the voice of reason. It is partly the reason that I write these weblog columns and entirely the reason I write them the way I do. I detest a day without doing, and I am getting to the point where I am not that fussy what or who it is I do…

It is just as well that I realise the need to be canny with money – if I were flush with cash all Hell would break loose. And the funny thing is, I would not have as good a time with unlimited spending as I do under the current regime. There is comfort in frugal endeavour and delight when it actually succeeds.

Note: I would accept employment in a suburban bank, as long as I was allowed to serve at the window and actually be there when people started to queue up. I detest the modern bank that has no serving officers in the teller’s cages. I’d love to bring back the old days of face-to-face cheque and passbook work.

Good Morning, Sir. How May I Hell You?

Everyone should work retail at some point in their lives.

Indeed, I’ll go further than that – they should also, at some point:

a. Work personal service – wait tables, attend a public desk, man the complaints counter.

b. Work publicity. Write copy, draw illustration, serve at a promo show. Think up the bullshit and then have to spread it…

c. Work in dirt. Even if it is just a personal garden, everyone should work in dirt until they get a good result.

d. Work in a position that is monitored by a jealous and vindictive overseer. This may be a person or a professional board.

e. Work in a workshop. Whatever they produce makes no difference – it will cement their character if they can eventually do it well.

f. Work to a deadline. And fail once, and then succeed once, to know the difference in the way it feels.

g. Work to a financial bottom line. Unless they have had to watch the pennies, they’ll never know how to accumulate the pounds.

h. Work in a job where they were in command. Command of the job and command of other people.

If they have done all or most of these things, they are well-rounded individuals. But they mustn’t get cocky – so is the Michelin Man. And he gets tyred sometimes…

No… back to the topic. People who vault to command without ever experiencing the reality of work live in an unreal world and make false decisions. People who never rise also never see what command should be – there is always a battle between them and others that is detrimental to business. There needs to be a shared experience to share in effective management and effective employment.

 

 

Too Rich, Too Thin, Too Early…

The quote that ” A woman can never be too rich or too thin ” has been attributed to a number of people. One of them, the late Wallace Simpson, might have been tempted to add ” Or too close to the British royal family or fascist Germany…”. Leaving aside who actually originated the phrase, I would venture to say that it is not true. Nearly all of us can think of women…and men…who would far better off poorer and stouter.

I would like to use the format as a springboard for a thought about retirement: You cannot retire too early or too late – you cannot retire too poor or too rich – and you should not retire too sad.

Let’s take the first part; too early. I know several people who have elected to do just this – having built up a nest egg of superannuation savings they have stopped work in their early or middle fifties. Their experiences were mixed – one found nothing to do all day, and one has been trapped by other people’s desires and has no free time. Prisoners of either ennui or ambition.

Had they been able to continue their paid working time a little longer they could have been excused after retirement from having either empty or over-full days.

Now to the second part; too late. That caught my grandfathers – one died employed, with no leisure time ever, and one died from the effects of his work’s environmental dangers…he went at it too long and too hard. We all know someone who carries on until exhausted and is horrified to discover that there is nothing after the gold watch presentation but exhaustion.

Too poor? That’s sad, and it is sometimes the unavoidable consequence of low pay all the working time. Sometimes the result of bad investment or savings, family losses, or marital strife. Sometimes just the result of bad living practices. Whatever the combination of circumstances, it leaves the retiree bound as a slave to either governmental handout or to want. The only hope is a rise in the former to alleviate the latter.

Too rich? Here it pressure is from another quarter – a moral or intellectual one. The overly wealthy retiree is beset by the temptation to spend money, and may have arrived at that position not knowing what to spend it upon. Bad choices may be made – God knows bad choices will be offered by everyone who wants a piece of that money. A perfectly good man or woman may become a perfect monster.

For my part, I am discovering that my mixture of retirement age and money may be just right for me. I have enough to live well – on a standard that I think of as well – without being tempted to pretend to be something I am not. I have arrived at retirement with very few bad habits and no need to acquire new ones to please others. I have enough old clothes to wear and old books to read and can afford the candles and firewood to do this of an evening. And I have the sense to realise that I do not need to go where I do not want to go, nor can I be compelled to do things I don’t want to do for people I dislike. It is a modest form of heaven.

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.