Hobby

A Small World

Here at CE we’ve looked at hobbies before.  Most notably, we often look at book collecting which may be the first modern hobby, though we do it tangentially by mentioning pretty books.  We also looked at stamp collecting which, in the 20th century, might have been the most popular hobby of all.

One thing I’ve found many traditional hobbies to have in common is that the age of the people who practice them has been creeping up to the point that one of the biggest challenges the organizing bodies (wherever organizing bodies are found) is to get younger enthusiasts involved or risk disappearing.

Book collections and, to a lesser extent, stamp collections, have academic value and are often absorbed by institutions, but other hobbies are at risk.

A good case in point might be scale modeling.  It’s a kid’s pastime, right?

Nope.  Not anymore, at least.  Most practitioners are adults with a perfectionist streak, a passion for detail work and access to serious tools, all of which become obvious when you pick up any publication dedicated to the activity.

Scale Auto Modeler - August 2004

I recently picked up an issue of Scale Auto Modeler (August 2004) and read through it.  Though I’m not detail oriented enough to ever consider entering a model in a contest, I enjoy building a scale car every now and then, and I’m good enough at it that my non-modeling acquaintances think they’re store-bought expensive handbuilts (the secret is, of course, shiny paint).

So I loved reading this one, but I see where a novice would be scared away (I always shake my head that, to get decent results at a contest level, you need both proficiency with an airbrush and a reliable source of compressed air, both of which can be daunting for someone who just wants to build a little car).  I also notice (see the cover) that the subjects most admired by the target audience (I assume that the editors know what they’re doing and that the magazine is adequately targeted) tend to classic vehicles as opposed to more modern expressions.

There’s a good and a bad side to this aging of the customer base. On one hand, older consumers are wealthier, and the hobby does seem to be in robust good health, with truly expensive kits dominating the landscape.  On the other hand, of course, model builders aren’t getting any younger.

I imagine a lot of “crafty” pursuits are in a similar situation as the current generation spends more time immersed in intangible virtual worlds and wonder if they will ever make it out.  If you’ve read my novel Outside, then you know one way I think it could end.  There are other takes.

Anyway, for a writer, it’s all grist for the mill.  There are countless story ideas in these situations.  I just need to make time to write them all.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer.  Outside, mentioned above is a novel of both warning and hope.  You can check it out here.

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Trainspotting in Miniature

British Railway Modelling Augusta 2001

We’ve been on a bit of a hobby binge lately here at CE, in which we discussed the artisans who build near-perfect replicas of cars and the gently mad world of book collecting. We also did stamp collecting once, but that was quite a while ago.

I’ve never really been a miniature train enthusiast but, as a child had a couple of HO-scale locomotives, some wagons and some props that I’d inherited from my father, who really wasn’t an enthusiast either, but dabbled for a few months.  I understand the attraction that building a miniature world could have and even pored over an old Märklin catalog for hours as a kid but never really had the time, among my hundred other interests, to really get in deep.  Being a polymath and poly-interested-in-everything has its sacrifices.

But, as I mentioned last week, I went to the Anglican church jamboree… and they had an old edition of British Railway Modelling sitting there (August 2001).  So, of course, I bought it.

And went down the rabbit hole.

Model train layout

I have a certain amount of experience with modeling, and am also trained as an engineer, so I’m not exactly just off the turnip truck, but a read of this publication quickly set me straight.  Model railroading is just as packed with specialist terms and products as any other hobby practiced by a small group of alchemists sequestered in attics and basements without any significant contact with the human race.

First off, apparently the British have their own scale which is slightly different from the worldwide standard HO scale…  OK, I can live with that.

Then there is the fact that, of course, trains that come straight out of a box are inferior to those which are sold as small resin bits and assembled and weathered by the end-user.

So far, I managed to understand what was going on, but there was a whole bunch of other stuff going on, some of which assumed knowledge I will never have.  I’d say that only about 80% of the contents were things I could easily comprehend…

After reading Chapman’s Homer and Joyce without too much trouble (although, admittedly, Finnegan’s Wake is still on the to-be-read list), it’s nice to know that there is still literature out there that can leave me wondering what the hell that was all about.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist.  You can check out his novel, Siege, here.