I was at a loose end that wasn’t getting any tighter, and the sound of my fingers drumming on the table made passers-by wonder if Ringo Starr was in the building. Or Gordon Ramsay. I began to wish I had a useful hobby.
Originally, a hobby was a smooth-gaited Irish horse which became associated with the gently rocking child’s toy — a wooden stick with a horse’s head and reins attached. Rock on, but beware of splinters.
Nowadays, hobbies can take many forms: making things, learning things, collecting things — coins and banknotes spring to mind — or going to look at things, like icebergs and rainforests, before they disappear altogether. At which point you’ll need a new hobby.
Playing darts is said to be a semi-athletic, semi-cerebral hobby — you have to be able to hurl a small javelin and count to 180. Or less, if you aren’t a world champion. People invited to join a pub darts team have been known to turn up with a sick note from their doctor (who may then turn up on the opposing team.)
During stressful and uncertain times — do pandemics count? — it seems that our social and mental activities and routines are disrupted, and many of us learn Tae Kwon Do, a Korean martial art in which “one attacks anytime or anywhere, with occasional use of weapons.” Sounds like Saturday in a Glasgow pub on a darts night.
Hobbies apparently make you more interesting, to another bagpipe player, perhaps, or a fellow train-spotter. I recall the definition of a Scottish gentleman as someone who can play the bagpipes, but doesn’t. And I suppose origami must be useful when reading a newspaper while standing in a crowded commuter train. But some people go the extra mile when choosing their hobbies.
This is especially true of ‘Extreme Ironing,’ have you ever tried it? It consists of ironing clothes in outlandish locations, while rock climbing, for example, or surfing. A clear case of your hobby horse turning you into a clothes horse. How do you balance an ironing board on a surfboard when the sea is choppy?
One person actually made Suing into a hobby, filing lawsuits against Somali pirates, Britney Spears, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! and the President of Iran. All of that while locked away in a federal prison in Kentucky. The local booby hatches must have been full up.
‘Newsraiding’ is the vexing hobby of appearing as a bystander in the background of live TV outside broadcasts. Not recommended if the frustrated news reporter has a large microphone in her hand and is glaring daggers at you. As for Competitive Duck Herding, well, what can I say? See a quack.
The strangest hobby of all must be Faking Your Own Death, how many times can you do that without losing all credibility? On balance, I think I’ll stick to my stamp album, no pun intended. It’s much safer than riding a hobby horse.