Friday 28 October 2016

On hobbies

All my whining about the death of blogging has had a positive impact; NQS (v4) is back. In response Gav explored why it is that his hobbies (which include writing, go figure) rise and fall, and put it down to himself. In contrast I’ve always tried to blame something else - primarily my lack of time - for why I drop some hobbies either for long periods or altogether. In fact it is probably my own lack of focus, and the answer has been staring me in the face all along. He is called Henry and he is twelve.

For Henry, focussing on anything for longer than about eight seconds is frequently physically impossible. One exception to this was when he spent an entire day throwing a ping pong ball into a glass - admirable focus in more ways that one - but that’s also part of being twelve I suppose. This does not detract from him being a lovely kid, as you would expect given he is basically a miniature version of me - we are so similar that my parents frequently get us confused and call me him and vice versa. I thought that this inability to concentrate for much of the time was one area where we differed, but now I am not so sure. Given I see a lot of myself in him it should not really have been a surprise to me, as it was last week when I read Gav’s post, that instead of blaming a lack of time there should be a teensy bit more introspection. A bit more of blaming me. Although it is a very long time since I was twelve, am I actually able to maintain an interest in anything at a steady state? 

No. Or at least very infrequently.

As a child my mother despaired of my constant complaint of boredom. I moped. I kicked stones. I did not knuckle down to anything, including school work. My mother is a teacher, my father an academic; you can guess how this went down. Instead I had passing interests; in lego, computers, role-playing games, fishing, drawing, coins, snooker, naval history, birds, sailing, drawing, chess, bridge, tennis – the list goes on and on. Despite my inability to choose any one of these as a long-term prospect, I was nonetheless supported and encouraged. And in response I dumped nearly everything.

As an adult I have whittled down the list somewhat, but I am not sure that I am really any different now to how I was then. When we moved to our current house, sorry Chateau, my interest of the moment was growing plants. So in a huge fit of enthusiasm I constructed a large greenhouse and then killed 80% of what was in it due to complete neglect. Had we moved 12 months later I suspect it would never have got built and we would have a lot more garden. At least that hobby is currently undergoing a renaissance of sorts, but how long will it last? Worryingly this is hobby which requires an even and constant level of interest. The sort of interest that my pea brain seemingly cannot cope with for any length of time. However for now I am finding that my desire to poke and weed and dust and water is very strong indeed, and contrasts nicely with other more frenetic aspects of my life. I went down there this evening for a bit of a potter after work in a blaze of halogen. By the way, a whole 60 people read the last post about my observations on temperature variations in said greenhouse; I knew I was onto a winner.

In a somewhat similar vein, I became hugely keep on fishing again about ten years ago. On my first foray with my brother-in-law over in west London somewhere I caught a massive carp. Or rather he did, as my mind had predictably wandered off somewhere and only his quick thinking prevented the rod from disappearing into the lake. I then steadfastly reeled it in, all 31lbs of it, but I am under no illusions as to what would have happened had he not been there. Anyhow, this early success subsequently manifested itself as mostly collecting fishing gear as opposed to actually going fishing again, and so last week I sold that same fishing rod to a bloke in Poland and good riddance. Its departure on a van eastwards marks the end of my fishing career such that it was, and I now have a lot of my wardrobe back, which is where I had been storing the vast amount of paraphernalia that I had accumulated. What do you mean you don't keep your fishing gear next to your shirts and suits?

Then of course I got into birding in a big way, which in turn was a revival of a childhood fad. Birding locally and discovering Wanstead eventually turned into twitching and going everywhere for everything. To my credit (and surprise) birding continues to this day in various guises. Sometimes the patch dominates, at other times I abandon it completely. There is no telling when this will happen, albeit that June is frequently an indicator. I also blow hot and cold on the chasing of rarities; if I'm not in the mood I simply don't go no matter how close it is. If I am, then I get up in the middle of the night and am prepared to travel large distances. I thought I had finally laid this to rest but last week off I went again. What possessed me? I have no idea other than to say that this just what happens, be it in birding or anything else. Two or three years ago I went out on the patch every day and possibly further afield at weekend. I also ended up with no fewer than four pairs of binoculars; one for the car, one for a windowsill, one for the summer and one for the winter (I am cringing even writing this...). Mrs L pointed out that I have only two eyes and that one of those doesn't really work. I ignored her. Some things never change, my one steady state success.

This story repeats itself almost endlessly in any activity that gets my attention, up and down, peaks and troughs. The singular and obsessive pursuit of collection of whatever it is followed by an unceremonious dumping and shedding of all of it. In other words, I am hopeless.

The birding continues, but today I have just one pair of binoculars and use them about twice a week tops. What I really need to do is to talk myself out of being interested in anything new, boring though that would be, and concentrate on what I know that deep down I do truly enjoy and keep coming back to despite any temporary evidence to the contrary. Whether I am capable of such a feat is unfortunately highly questionable.


  1. There is of course a solution to all of this.
    In horse racing they often get an animal which has possibilities of success, but possesses character traits which not only inhibits their progress, but can make them on occasions problematical to those around them.
    Easily dealt with.
    That's where Geldings come from.

    1. I had to look that up as I am not very 'up' on horses. Ummm. It's an interesting thought I'll grant you, but it could spawn totally new hobbies...

  2. Cycling! Fill yer wardrobe with bikes & lycra! Winning!

  3. Very interesting. I think there are quite a few of us about. The uncharitable might use adjectives like fickle, vacillating, or capricious, but miss the useful fact that we can bore for Britain on far more topics than most.
    By the way, re Seppy's comment above, if you can get your bike in the wardrobe it is probably too small for you.

    1. I could easily stash my bike in the wardrobe, but then I would see it all the time. Far better that it stays down the garden. Out of sight out of mind.