Posts Tagged ‘hobbies’

Yesterday was not a great day.

To start with, I was grumpy. Very grumpy.

We’ve been renovating and redecorating for a few months, and yesterday I began to feel a tad overwhelmed not only by what is still left to do, but by the toll it’s taken on my sixty-plus-year-old body. In short, while I’m used to aches and pains, I’m not used to being so tired at the end of the day that I’m thinking about going to bed at 8PM.

So that was my baseline going into things.

Then came work, where I’ve been in a holding pattern for a few days, waiting for analysts to provide answers to specific questions regarding the solutions I’m supposed to be crafting for them. Well, I got some answers, all right. The first answer was to a question I hadn’t asked, but it’s an answer I’ve long suspected. The answer was, “No, we really don’t read your emails.” The second answer was also to a question I hadn’t asked, because (as mentioned), they really don’t read my emails. Ditto, the third answer.

Waiting three days for an answer to a specific question is frustrating enough. Waiting three days and getting answers that are totally irrelevant to the questions posed, well, that pushes my frustration coefficient to 11.

To keep myself from lashing out, I needed a distraction, so I turned to something totally unrelated, something as far from programs and coding and specifications and analysis as possible.

I decided to reorganize my collection of British coins.

I could have chosen any number of other activities—weeding the garden, working a crossword puzzle, rearranging my office (again)—just as long as it engaged my hands and my brain sufficiently to keep me preoccupied and kept me from delivering mayhem to a few certain someones. Reorganizing my coins was the perfect choice.

My collection of British coins is modest and limited. Nothing too old. Nothing made of gold. Just coins that regular folk used in their daily lives, coins I’ve collected over the decades, either on a whim or because my interest was reignited. They range from Victoria (1836) to Elizabeth II (pre-decimal, 1971)—okay, there is one sixpence from the reign of Elizabeth I (1573), but that’s an outlier—in denominations from farthings to crowns (1/4 d to 5s, for you LSD afficionados; you know who you are). 

I won’t pretend otherwise: it is an extremely nerdy activity. On the nerdiness scale, it’s right there next to stamp collecting (though whether it’s on the nerdier or less-nerdy side, I couldn’t possibly say). It’s the kind of thing where you’d expect me to be wearing tweed, smoking a pipe, sitting in a room lit by a single lamp, surrounded by dark wood bookshelves, and holding a massive magnifier. And you wouldn’t be far off.

But it does consume a great deal of brain activity, and yesterday, that’s precisely what I needed: to be distracted.

So, I fiddled and examined, sorted and re-sorted. Should I organize by denomination or by monarch? Ascending or descending? Is this coin really in XF condition, or is it merely VF? 

Pressing, important issues.

Issues so much more important than screaming “Read the damned email, why don’t you!?” or reiterating for the third time the question I’ve been asking for days.

And it worked. My blood pressure went down. No one was injured.

Sure, I was still grumpy (and sore, and tired), but at least I wasn’t making plans to nuke my co-workers anymore.

I’ll take a small victory over none at all.


PS. In the end, I went with: by denomination, ascending, and merely VF.

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Gossamer WheelMy father was a painter. Oils, acrylics, pastels, charcoal, pen and ink, on canvas and on paper. By trade, he was a lithographer, but at home, he was a painter, and that’s how I always thought of him: as an artist.

His basement atelier was a cluttered chaos of books and bottles, half-squeezed-out tubes of paint, papers thick and thin, stretched canvases primed stark white, and dusty pots of darkest India ink. The walls around his drafting table were festooned with French curve templates, squares, and straight edges hung on pegs. Teetering stacks of ancient boxes held rapidographs, compasses, dividers, and ruling pens. Old mugs sat here and there, bristling like ceramic porcupines with quills made of brushes, pencils, and pens. I remember clearly the sharp smells of turpentine and linseed oil, and the sound of his artist’s knife scraping against palette and canvas. Sitting with him at the table, it always amazed me how with a few strokes of a pencil he could create an image from nothing, as if he already saw it there on the blank paper, waiting to be drawn.

His was a talent I admired, and at which I occasionally tried my hand. My youthful attempts were… well …youthful, filled with dark melodrama and suffused angst. They were very carefully crafted, highly detailed, and incredibly overwrought.

They were also pretty awful. (more…)

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