Absurdity and Hobbies

absurdity | əbˈsəːdɪti |

noun (plural absurdities) [mass noun]

the quality or state of being ridiculous or wildly unreasonable: Duncan laughed at the absurdity of the situation | [count noun] : the absurdities of haute cuisine.

The above is the dictionary definition. My definition is driving nearly 400Km to stand on a mountain in the middle of a lashing hail storm with winds that make it almost impossible to stand while looking for a particular flower and not finding it. The strange thing is that I was was happy to do this and while I was disappointed not to find the Queen of Sheba I did find some other orchids that I’ve never seen before.


Short-eared Snail Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Short-eared Snail Orchid, Pterostylis sp ‘short sepals’. Gull Rock National Park, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM 1 mk ii with Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro lens. Exposure: 1/250 sec, f4, ISO 200.


Helmet Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Helmet Orchid, Corybas recurvus. Gull Rock National Park, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 mk ii with Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro lens. Exposure: 1/200 sec, f4 at ISO 800.

All this and the the ongoing COVID problem have made me thinking about the importance of hobbies.

hobby | ˈhɒbi |

noun (plural hobbies)

an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure: her hobbies are reading and gardening.

Back in the Seventeenth Century a hobby was thought be be a childish pastime – indeed the word originally was used to describe a small horse, but then was used for a toy horse on which children  mimicked riding a real horse. It was the advent of industrialisation that gave respectability as the new industrial age gave people more structured working practices that gave time off. The work was often incredibly tedious and people wanted activities that brought them satisfaction and fulfilment. Come the Great Depression (1929-39) and participation in hobbies exploded because the unemployed needed something to occupy their time and minds. In the later part of the Twentieth Century psychologists began to realise that play was an important part of a child’s development it did not cease when entering adulthood and that play in the form of adult hobbies provided the means to healthy ageing especially when we retire. Hobbies are very much a paradox as they take a leisure activity and turn it into a form of work which is just done for the satisfaction.


Dad with his trophies for his rabbits circa 1946.

My father wasn’t one for doling out advice, in fact I can only remember him doing it a couple of times, and one of those was about having a hobby. Being a dour Lancashire man he maintained that work wasn’t enjoyable and how you consoled yourself was by having a hobby that was totally engrossing. He practiced what he preached throughout his life – stamp collecting (he called it “postal histories”), model railways, slot car racing (Scalextric and we children were not allowed near it!), keeping tropical fish, and breeding rabbits. To be honest I think the rabbits were a bit of a business as he started doing this at end of World War Two when there was still rationing because while he showed his best ones a lot were reared for their meat and sold to friends and neighbours. The stamps were his life long passion and when he got into the postal history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in his early 70’s he taught himself German and started visiting some of the places. By the time he reached his 80’s he was wheeling and dealing stamps on internet auction sites right up to when he died.

As kids we were encouraged to have hobbies. I’ve tried loads over the years and some have stuck and some have died a death. The ones that have stuck like photography and bushwalking have over time developed and changed reflecting my interests and the amount of time I have. Over the years they’ve helped me manage stress, get through difficult times and given me a sense of purpose and validation. At times I’ve managed to make money out of them but now I do it for the love. Interestingly the word amateur comes from the Latin word “amator” or lover. This is what found me up a mountain looking for flowers in a hail storm.