Sunday, 8 December 2013

The struggle for inspiration

As a kid back in the 1970s I used to watch a TV programme called 'Why Don't You?'. It was narrated by and featured only kids, and its purpose was basically to give ideas for things to do in your spare time. This was all in the days before Playstations and YouTube, at a time when we had no option but to make our own entertainment. Back then we'd watch Blue Peter and then have a go at making whatever stuff they made on the show (which invariably made extensive use of sticky-back plastic) just for the sake of an hour's entertainment producing something that would find its way into the bin within a few days. But somehow it didn't matter because at least we were doing something.
The theme song for 'Why Don't You?' went something like "Why don't you just turn off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead....", and that's exactly what we did - after the programme was finished of course...

It occurs to me, having sat about for the past few weeks getting bored, that what's really needed is a new version of 'Why Don't You?' for adults in the 21st century.
A trawl of the web looking at various sites claiming to give ideas for hobbies or things to do leaves you wondering why you bothered. Most of these sites seem to assume that everyone would benefit from either fishing or knitting. There are a few that seem to be written for those who grew up in the 1940s and have a hankering for the good old days where top entertainment was to be found with a hoop & stick, a spinning top, and rickets.
Then there are other gems such as how to build your own boat which on the face of it sounds like a fabulous idea until you realise how much red tape the rivers authority puts in your way, and that the logistics of actually getting a boat to the river once you've built it make the whole idea a tad less appealing.
Wine and beer making can be great fun, but having dabbled with such things in the past I can confidently say that if I was to do it long term my liver would end up pickled in a very short space of time. Seriously, if it's there I'll drink it, which is why I only ever buy a couple of bottles of beer or one bottle of wine a week.
So even though the internet usually manages to provide the answer to any question you care to throw at it (possibly an inaccurate one if you rely on Wikipedia), it nevertheless seems to fall flat on it's face in certain areas. You may be able to read the latest news as it breaks, tell the world you've been to the gym, and dribble over Lucy Pinder's tits, but when it comes to finding non web-based practical entertainment you're better off elsewhere.
So what would an updated version of that old TV programme be like?
First thing would be to have presenters that are genuinely enthusiastic about practical activities. Someone like James May would be ideal as far as I'm concerned because he's someone I think I can relate to, rather than some plastic celebrity who got the job because they look good in a boiler suit.
Then we want articles on stuff to do outdoors when the weather's good, and stuff to do indoors when it's crappy. We want things to make that don't absorb every hour of the day and fill the house with so much clutter that you can't see when the divorce papers drop through the letterbox. We want hobbies that don't require the spending of hundreds of pounds on specialist kit before finding that it's not really what we want to do after all.
We want stuff to do that doesn't cost a fortune, occupies enough time to fill in those little gaps in the day currently occupied by Grand Theft Auto without becoming a full-time obsession, and that isn't so embarrassing that you feel obliged to lie if someone asks what you do in your spare time.
No activity will be right for everyone of course, which means that there should be plenty of variety in ideas covered. Hang gliding would be incredibly exciting but the Fens don't exactly lend themselves to it. Jump off the highest point around here and the resulting impact would barely require a sticking plaster.
And even though knitting would be a handy skill to have, I can't help but remember how annoying I found the constant clicking of the needles when I was a kid and mum spent her spare time knitting jumpers for the family for Christmas.
So until this new programme arrives, I'll ponder the question further. My shed is full of stuff that could enable me to take up a hobby making something, but what that might be is still a mystery.
The one benefit of sitting about waiting for my leg to heal and fighting with the resultant codeine addiction is that I'm not short of time to research the subject further. Until I get distracted by Lucy Pinder again....

"OK lads, we've got some wheels so all we need
now is a frame and a big fuck-off engine..."