I don’t know if any of you will remember it, but when I was a boy there was a program called ‘How?’. It featured Fred Dinenage, who did daft things; Jack Hargreaves, who did ‘country’ things; Bunty James, who did ‘girl’s’ things (different times, different times) and another man, whose name I cannot remember, who, to my recollection, kept electrocuting himself. Now, why this has come to my mind is that, as the show’s title implied, this show told you how things worked and also how to do things. These things we would, I suppose, class as hobbies and it is hobbies I have been thinking about for the last few days, because people keep telling me I need one. I say ‘I’m fine, I have a hobby’: I’ve got you dear reader, but they tell me you’re not enough, I need something more tangible. Something I can make or (pray excuse me) do.
Now during the course of my ramblings these last few months, I have looked briefly into what I suppose might be described as the most likely of ‘old man’ hobbies: D.I.Y. and gardening, and it’s fair to say that neither of them really hold any appeal for me. What I’m looking for, I think, is something rather more challenging than collecting stuff, but rather less dangerous than climbing rock faces. I do not suppose for one second that my long-held interest in whisky tasting will be allowed to develop into a hobby. I took Art at ‘A’ level (which means, basically, that I know how to draw a bus station and colour it in) so I guess that might be an option. When my mum died, I bought myself paints, brushes, canvas, an easel. They have lain unused ever since. Perhaps I’ll give painting a go. My Art teacher at school always told me that I had a special talent – at least I think that’s what he said.
My problem is that I am, by nature, solitary. I’m ok in a group setting once I’ve got to know everybody, but meeting everybody for the first time is torture. Remembering them for the second time is worse. The only way I could ever join a club would be to go along with somebody who is already in one, so that I could slowly skulk my way into the group consciousness. Once I am part of ‘a team’ I am fine, it’s the introduction phase that scuttles my equilibrium. I have dallied with golf in the past, but I have no talent for it and, anyway, it is far too stressful for me. Other folk, who are far more skilled than I (skill in golf is indicated by lack of dress sense) have a tendency to be both impatient and patronising. I try to make it a rule never to play sports with anybody whom I would like to kick on the shin during the normal course of events.
Despite many pleasant childhood days spent on the riverbank with my father, I have never understood the pull of Angling. I do not see me spending my twilight hours spearing carp through the hard-palate; taking a selfie of myself with them before throwing them back from whence I have just tugged them. Especially when armed with the knowledge that somebody else is going to try to do just the same thing to the poor little buggers the following day and – well, a fish’s memory being what it is – probably succeeding.
Anyway, the point is this: if any of you do remember ‘How?’ and can remember any of the things they did (except the electrocution ones) please let me know. It might be time to give them a go…