“But you can’t practise psychotherapy all day long!” said my next-door-neighbour-but one, who also happens to be a psychotherapist. What on earth do you do when you want to switch off?” “Well”, I said, delighted to answer the question, “I’ve got more hobbies than time”.
First – and I guess it goes with the therapy territory – there’s a major imperative to mend fragile and broken machinery and objects. It involves me having a shedful of sharp and polished tools for every contingency. I think I own something like 17 drills, about 10 of which are electric. I’ve learned you need to possess the right equipment to undertake any given task – and so my heirs will have a great deal of clutter to disperse (includes that special drill bit to cut out Yale locks and used only once). I also keep spare plumbing accessories such as ball valves to hand, and numberless bottles of nails and screws in all metals from stainless steel to copper. My man-cave in the small garage is an icon to the Great God DIY because I would always rather do the work myself to the correct standard than trust to the National Educational System and the human propensity to pad an estimate.
Second comes the playing of my piano. This I do to a reasonably impressive standard for about five pieces of Bach, some Schubert and Schumann plus the Dietrich ballad “Falling in Love Again”. But because my sight-reading is so poor – I can only be mistaken for a competent pianist occasionally – on the one hand but not on the other!
Next with its equally pervasive demands comes gardening. I’ve always grown vegetables like my forebears. Even my Dad while helping to run an oil company planted stick beans. My granddad was a consultant market gardener! So there are cucumber and tomato vines in the double-glazed, gas-fired, centrally-heated greenhouse. We harvest, strawberries, plums, apples, pears, carrots, courgettes, pumpkins, sweetcorn, climbing French beans, runners, garlic, radishes, pak choi and a million herbs. I am fond of steaming vegetables in a sort of fresh mint soup.
The last hobby occupies what we call the Big Garage (also doubling as the library with shelves for about 8,000 books). Here you will find a restored 1984 Mercedes 500SL in petrol blue which I purchased from a Finchley hairdresser who said he “simply had to get rid of it!” And an unrestored, but near-mint 1986 Mercedes 300 Estate acquired on Ebay for a song which has only done 52,000 miles. I would never buy a new vehicle. I don’t like Mercs after 1992 when they stopped coachbuilding. I won’t use a car with a computer in it because I need to be able to figure out what goes wrong with the engine myself. And there’s no depreciation left on either of them. Parts can be acquired from breakers who advertise on the Internet and I’ve even bought bits of fuelpipe for the Estate flown in from Chicago.
The single downside is the cost of the fuel. At 70 mph my sports car throws petrol out of the engine like an eighteenth century warship dumping its drinking water and jettisoning its guns in order to escape a large fleet of chasing enemies. The estate will also happily blow a hole in your bank account (well below the waterline) if you push it to high speed. But this apart, they are a driver’s dream. Just a shame that the colour of the estate is metallic beige that only a German accountant could love.
Of course, I spend all my real spare time in Cornwall body-surfing…