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Every bloke needs
a meaningful hobby

Elspeth McLean


 Dear Laura,

              Every man needs a hobby.

I think you probably already know that.

You would have directed some of these harmless souls to books on stamp collecting (769.566),  Matchbox toys (688.72075)  model railways (625.19)  and fly–fishing (799.12).   Did you ever have to stop anyone stealing a car manual?   Your librarian counterparts here would sympathise.

A hobby gives life meaning and a focus.   Men like that.   For once no–one expects them to try and fail  to do more than one thing at once.   Nobody mentions multi–tasking.

Women's hobbies often give an excuse for their minds to dip and soar on other tangents.   They may knit,  sew or do patch–work in groups so they can gossip and laugh or just watch and listen.

They enjoy gardening for a variety of reasons  —  they might like dirt under their fingernails or the power that comes from donning rubber gloves.   Some may feel a garden is something they control,  others may love the fact it isn't.   Whatever their reasons,  you can bet their minds won't be thinking only of compost,  camellias and cabbages.

A hobby gives a man an excuse to escape from the woman in his life and that's a good thing for them both.   Not that I would suggest,  Laura,  that George Dubyuh needs to escape from you.   In fact I wonder if he would benefit from seeing a bit more of you.

I know it might be a painful subject,  given the behaviour of his predecessor,  but for some men sex is a hobby.

It doesn't need to be a hobby you practise outside the home,  although some men struggle with that concept.   Spice things up a bit,  Laura.   You know how he is always wanting to interfere with wearers of flowing headgear,  so stick a tea towel on your head.   He might want to boss you around a bit too.   Yes I know you once said you didn't want a lot of advice from him,  but couldn't you humour him a little for the sake of the free world?   No?   Well,  it was worth a try.

Here,  in New Zealand,  blokes have sheds.   They retreat to them and build or tinker.   Some draw around their tools so they can hang them up in the right place.   They know all is well with the world when their tools are under control and they know it is important to recognise the shape of any that are missing.

Sometimes these men injure themselves,  not usually on purpose because they know the women will not be sympathetic.   They don't tend to hurt others.

My father made me a knife in his shed,  casting the blade and making the handle out of deer antlers.   I don't think it would be safe for George to make knives,  but I see him in a shed on the White House lawn.   It would have to be made out of something more substantial than corrugated iron.   We wouldn't want George to be the unwitting target of a terrorist attack.

We could get our prize–winning sculptor,  David Stewart,  to cause a diversion by making the shed look like several crates of beer bottles.   There wouldn't be any real beer,  though.   We wouldn't want George to take up that hobby again.   We'd forget that lettering on the crates too  —  people wouldn't get it.   They'd think you were trying to teach George the alphabet.

In his shed,  George could become immersed in board war gaming.   Nicholas Palmer in his comprehensive guide to it,  requires a  "subtle,  slippery way of thinking which interweaves strategic and tactical planning and uses the techniques of each automatically when required".   Now there's a challenge.

George could fiddle about with miniatures on a sand table,  but that might spark howls of  "hasn't he graduated from the sandpit yet?"  when we know that he has two degrees.

George keeps mum about that history,  doesn't he,  Laura?   He hasn't quite grasped that history shows your wonderful country is not particularly good at this war thing,  that it blunders into conflicts which it has no chance of winning;   lives are lost or shattered and the world is not a better place as a result.

Toppling Saddam Hussein would do precisely what?   And would it be fun?   Nicholas says a hobby should be fun,  first and foremost.   Killing real people is not a hobby and it is time George learned that.

Elspeth McLean is a member of Dunedin Methodist Parish
who contributes a regular column to the Otago Daily Times.
'Every Bloke ...'  appeared on September 4,  2002.


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