Monday, 7 September 2009

Has drinking replaced hobbies?

I was talking to a friend who's living in Manila and he was telling me that the drinking culture there is even more dramatic than in the UK. Incredibly cheap "drink as much as you can before 9pm" offers abound and all everyone seems to do is hit the bars and drink themselves silly.

I'd just been telling him about what we're trying to do with Make it and Mend it and how our intent is not just to help people combat recession and live more thriftily, but to share and encourage the more positive psychological aspects of making stuff and mending it (see our blog post below on the difference between making and mending and making do and mending )

He then pointed out that the growth in drinking over recent years has been accompanied by a decline in hobbies. It's almost as though drinking has become the new hobby for millions of people (and I'm not ruling myself out !). That hadn't occurred to me before, but I think he has a point.

Once upon a time everyone had hobbies and it was a normal thing to ask "What are your hobbies?", when you met someone rather than "What do you do?". Then it became a bit of a no-no as an expression, conjuring up visions of saddos with no mates bent over an Airfix kit and a stamp collection - or dashing off to Girl Guides to earn a badge in brass rubbing.

But why did we get so cynical about hobbies? Were they swept aside in Thatcher's Britain with the 80's emphasis on career and money? Indeed the received wisdom used to be not to put too much on the interest section of your CV in case a prospective employer might wonder whether you were reluctant to offer less than your whole soul to their company. On the other hand, going out and getting bladdered after a long day's cutting and thrusting on the corporate battlefield was seen as suitably macho, especially in the City.

At the other end of the economic scale, the growing underclass and disaffected leave school with nothing much more than an endless capacity for boredom and no means of sating it except through a bottle or even a needle.

The recent increase in the uptake of crafts such as knitting and the burgeoning passion for vegetable growing have been heralded as reactions to recession. That may be true but maybe they are also signs of a reawakening of interest in hobbies for their own sake and hopefully an erosion of the cynicism about them and about clubs and societies. The Scouts and Brownies are supposed to be on the up, as is the Women's Institute. I've never been one for joining things myself - but I certainly don't feel cynical and sneery about those who do - even though I'm ashamed to say I once used to be!

Maybe if more of us had hobbies we wouldn't all feel we had to drink so much? If our kids did too it might set them on a path to a more interesting and fulfilling life. What do you think?

Clare F

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