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.