When is a hobby a hobby?

In today’s FT Magazine, there is an interesting article by Rosa Lyster, called The Tyranny of having a hobby. It is a rather tongue-in-cheek observation about how hobbies have been re-framed during the pandemic to become a vital and serious form of self-care, rather than simply being fun. I enjoyed the article, which had some keen observations, but was particularly struck by the below characterization of a hobby:

“Even taking these difficulties into account, however, it seems obvious that birdwatching, knitting and playing bridge are classic adult hobbies, the kinds of activities you would adopt if you were an alien trying to pass as a believable human being. They are absorbing, enjoyable, nonremunerative, can be mastered but are resistant to professionalisation, involve practice and reward diligence, and they grant immediate passage into a world full of others with the same interests, knitting woolly octopuses for premature babies and making unforgiving observations about the wrong way to play bridge.”

The tyranny of having a hobby, by Rosa Lyster, FT Magazine, 09 June, 2022

As I was pondering this (and thinking that knitting octopuses for preemies is a bit of a narrow take on the knitting community), Doug was busy aiming the remote at the TV. This is the height of activity for us in our covid-induced brain fogginess. He landed on an episode of Midsomer Murders. “Quick,” he said, “which episode is this?” It took me 30 seconds to announce “It’s the one where they kill off the orchid collectors!” (Given that the scene was one in which there were literally orchids everywhere, this 30 seconds is not a sign of my clever observation skills, but rather indicative of brain fog.)

If you don’t know Midsomer Murders, it is a series of rather tongue-in-cheek murder mysteries taking place in the mythical, pastoral town of Causton and its environs, and all shot within a short radius of our home. It has been filming for over 20 years, and for us, there is a cool game of spot-the-location which we play in the background, as we try to identify every building, turn of the Thames, and village green being used as a location shot. It is also the case that in every episode as least three people meet a grisly comical (or comically grisly?) death, which usually revolves around their having made the poor decision to join a club. Orchid collectors? Dead. Amateur astronomers? Dead. Bee-keepers, comic book fans, bell-ringers? Dead, dead, dead.

And suddenly, it occurred to me: no knitting club. All of these years of hobbyists meeting their premature end in ever creative fashion, and no knitting club. Perhaps, I thought, this is the true definition of a hobby. Not that an alien would adopt it in order to blend in, but that by taking it up you would meet an untimely death in Midsomer. If that is so, I am pleased to declare that knitting is not a hobby. Which means, of course, that it must be a spot of self-care.

6 thoughts on “When is a hobby a hobby?

  1. I love Midsomer Murders, I could probably tell which episode is which too. And I’m in America. 🙂 I agree that knitting is self-care. Hope you and Doug heal fast

  2. What about the rabbit raisers? I can’t believe you left out the rabbit raisers. They killed each other over all that cuddly fluffiness! Jos. and I are seriously thinking of putting together a Midsomer Murders trivia game. Maybe in my old old age – just to keep my mind sharp. Jos. calls it the soundtrack of his life because it is so often playing in the background.

  3. I love Midsomer Murders, I’m such a sad sack I keep a list of all the episodes extracted from Wikipedia and tick them off when I have seen them. There’s only 9 episodes I haven’t seen! I used to love Terry Wogan on Radio 2 years ago talking on his breakfast show the morning after an episode. That’s what originally got me into it. I don’t know if you’d moved to the UK that long ago.

  4. LOL! Love it! I love Midsomer Murders. Up until now I hadn’t realized they haven’t killed off any knitting clubs yet. How cool that they are filmed near where you live and you are familiar with a lot of the locations 🙂

  5. Love the post! The first thing that struck me in the article quoted was ‘is it octopuses or should it be octopi?’ so I had to do a websearch and discovered both are correct – though when I learnt grammar it was always octopi ! I have watched quite a few Midsomers and a I don’t think I live somewhere where the risk of death by murder is such a threat – luckily – a very amusing programme, as you say, tongue in cheek. I have actually read books where there have been murders at knitting clubs or by knitters or with knitting paraphenalia – and personally I have waved a knitting stick or two in hubby’s direction when he’s interrupted my counting of stitches on more than one occasion. Ha ha ! Knitting as a hobby, yes, knitting as therapy, yes to that too.

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