2006 - Year of the Useful Hobby
"Hi, My name is Mike Carmichael and I live in Alexandria, Indiana with my wife Glenda. I'd like to tell you about Alexandria's only ROADSIDE ATTRACTION...the Worlds Largest Ball of Paint.
Imagine an ordinary baseball...Now imagine that same baseball with over 19,100 coats of paint on it. Getting the picture? Good, because that's exactly what my wife, Glenda and I have done for the past 28 1/2 years. Now that ordinary baseball that once weighed less than one pound now weighs in around 1,700 pounds!"
Looks more like a slightly deformed Malteser to me, or did Mike's surgeon save the testicle he removed during his cancer scare?
This patient and determined couple's story can be found on their website: http://ballofpaint.freehosting.net/ because I wish you to know that I truly did not make the story up. To be honest, I wish I had made it all up actually, because it is so completely and utterly pathetic that an apparently normal-looking couple were prepared to do it (for over 28 years!) and that they're proud of it. In addition, the pathetic paint ball situation doesn't cover me with any glowing attributes because you could ask what the hell was I doing wasting valuable time finding this stuff in the first place.
I don't know what 2006 is the Official year of - but how about we put in a bid for the Year of Useful Hobbies. Ones that have a point, a use and can be discussed with strangers at dinner parties without receiving pitying and bored looks.
My guilt is probably as strong as the paintball people because my unofficial hobby is surfing other blogs. Not one of them has given me any practical tips for happiness, fitness, weight loss or furthering my intellectual development, but a heap of them have made me laugh 'til I snorted diet coke up my left nostril. It doesn't really make for fascinating conversation, trying to explain a blog or website that's not in front of you and "Oh, you had to be there. You've really got to see it to believe it." Yeah, that's really interesting.......
I also like to read through home design, food and womens' magazines, soaking up every glossy page, earmarking pages that take my fancy - recipes, home renovation ideas, decor, photos etc. To this date I've never used them for anything and would probably make Sapphire's old daycare centre really happy if I just dumped it in their playroom with some donated pairs of scissors and bottles of Clag glue.
Participators of other useless hobbies include my father who was an amateur beekeeper for many years. Whilst we loved the honeycomb and jars of honey he brought home, I'm sure that my Mum could have lived without the ready supply of sticky stuff. She suffers an allergy to bee stings that is so severe she goes into anaphylactic (sp?) shock within seconds and will die if not taken to hospital within thirty minutes. Of course Dad kept his hives on farmers' properties many kilometres from our house, but it didn't stop a few rogue scout bees lurking around the empty boxes at the back of the shed - right next to where Mum had her beloved garden. Every two months, he'd receive a copy of what might possibly be the world's least exciting magazine, The Australasian Beekeeper. "Whoo Hoo Dad, it's here, it's here!" I'd tease, waving the copy and running towards him like a lunatic. "Oh and look - it's got TWO pages of black and white photos instead of just the one!" He proudly tells me that the highlight of his beekeeping career was having his jars of honey photographed (in black and white, naturally) for the front cover. Even Kate Moss hasn't done that.
A work colleague's boyfriend was into Ivanhoe, King Arthur and other mediaeval pursuits. There were apparently enough fellow fans of this time in history to have a Mediaeval society that met every fourth Sunday for a picnic and get-together. They'd gather to eat huge roast chickens and lamb legs (not sure who had to put them in the wheelie bin after the bones had been thrown over their shoulders), scull down mead (there's a reason we don't drink it anymore) and hold a jousting tournament. Each member was dressed as authentically as imagination and budget would allow - chain mail, coats of arms on jerkins (tops folks, tops), leggings (the blokes), ankle boots (yep, ditto), pointy hats (the gals, or add bells for some of the slightly more outgoing boys) and weaponry. The national parks and wildlife authority did not allow them to have horses at the events, and the mind boggles at what the jousting tournaments must be like on foot.
Some of Sapphire's male contemporaries have perhaps one of the cruellest and most useless hobbies of all - collecting trading cards. Duel Masters, Yu-Gi-Oh and whatever the hell else is in vogue. These poor little six-seven-eight year olds buy 10 cents' worth of cardboard for $20 in order to find a picture that the manufacturer deliberately only prints a couple of. Then card trader stores find these 'rarities' and sell them to the poor saps for $50 a pop. There's no point telling the boys that they're worthless because they start spouting the obscure language and rules of the cards - "No but my Triple Dark Lord Dragon Fire completely overrules your Foul Blue Thunder Buns...." The sad thing is, these guys are going to be the ones who spend teenaged months playing Risk or Dungeons & Dragons instead of discovering girls and the joys of snapping a collarbone playing footy.
My beloved Love Chunks spent many years during school and in his early twenties playing the trumpet and the guitar. He proudly marched in Port Augusta's town band, played for a jazz group, tootled and strummed for many a function. When he and I got together, both instruments had been abandoned. No matter how many times I ask him to play something for me he refuses. The only time he got his trumpet out (ooooooherr, that sounds a bit suggestive) it terrorised the dog who tore outside and was rapidly digging a tunnel towards Mecca. He has strummed his guitar for Sapphire a few times, but clams up whenever I've inadvertently lumbered into the room. Pretty useless having two instruments you don't use, isn't it, but perhaps my mocking singing of "Kum bah yah, my lord, Kum bah yah...." isn't too encouraging. I'll make that a resolution to work on - Don't Mock, Encourage.
Another work colleague - who I detested - used to insist that we have the Christmas function at her place. This was presumably so that she could get outrageously pissed and fall off her high-heeled mules, but also so that we could see - and be dazzled - by her various collections and taste in decor. She lived in an AV Jennings/Mc Mansion home with a tiny garden filled with an above ground pool, 2 fat dogs and 3 shy cats. The blue plastic sides of the pool were artfully disguised with strategically placed potplants in which she'd placed some fake budgies.
Inside was the real horror - her duck collection. Pot holders, tea towels, boot scrapers, cross stitched pillow covers, paintings, coffee cups, storage tins, wooden trays and figurines. Lots of figurines, stored on those Copper Art telephone tables and inside twee kitchen cabinets that engulfed the house. The figurines were made of china, clay, wood, brass, pewter, crystal with the piece-de-resistance being a stuffed one she'd found in an antiques shop. It left me with not only nausea but a secret prayer that someday that little duck army would rise up and somehow find the collective strength to carry out her not so slight frame to the caravan park and de-tox centre where she belonged.
Love Chunks and I are also guilty of saving the back issues of Gourmet Traveller and Delicious Magazines. They hog up space in our cupboards and not once in five years have either of us sorted through them or referred to an old recipe within them. Why do we save them?
Sapphire has a collection of stones and gumnuts she'd gathered two years ago. The stupid little round money box she stores them in gets tipped over at least once a week, spilling out the annoying little pellets. Why does she still keep them?
My mother insists on washing out every single yoghurt and margarine container and keeping them in her already over-burdened tupperware drawer. Why - when will that mythical group of 79 people visit Mum and insist on taking leftovers home at the same time?