This blog, I freely admit, operates to no known timetable and is a bit like the proverbial bus service: you wait ages for a post and then two turn up at once! I can only blame myself as I did promise (threaten?) another one and at least one person is waiting to see it. (Thank you, René, for pricking my conscience!)
Another word for a hobby is “pastime”, literally a way of passing time. As such, there doesn’t have to be a defined end point, there is no requirement to “finish” anything, just so long as one is passing time in an enjoyable way (otherwise this is not a hobby, merely a chore). I suppose I could stop there, because ultimately it really is as simple as that, but there is a slight paradox as it also isn’t as simple as that!
To elaborate, the simple definition of passing time in an enjoyable manner applies in our case to the whole bundle that makes up railway modelling – however you define that end process, be it creating a layout, operating to a timetable, building individual models, etc. So, to use an example, René Gourley’s 24 year and counting project to model Pembroke in Proto:87 is by any measure a successful way of passing time, the more so in that the project still has many years to go, and will continue to provide opportunities for him to pass time for many years to come with many personal achievements along the way – which is what hobbies do. And at the end of this lies the enjoyment of operating a layout which authentically replicates a real place at a real time: fulfilling that goal is the end target, which is why the definition here is simple.
A less simple aspect is the individual steps along the way, for the way is not a straight line and twists and turns like a twisty-turny thing. It also includes uphills and downdales plus more than a few blind alleys. Some of these activities are not, at the time, an enjoyable way of passing time, indeed they may seem like a waste of time! Viewed on their own, it is easy to see such events as a lost hour, evening, week, month even years, but I refuse to see it like that. Everything here is valuable: whilst it is tempting to think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, it really isn’t and blind alleys remind us that this isn’t so. Also, even if we don’t achieve what we thought we might achieve, we will at least have tried out new ideas or practiced new skills and we have an opportunity to review what we did and gain insight into why it didn’t work out. Hopefully we do that. As the song begins, the road is long with many a winding turn. But as the Chinese sage said, even the longest journey begins with but a single step.
Individual steps may turn out to have gone in the wrong direction and need retracing. But they are not a waste of time, providing the journey as a whole is moving forward, then there is progress and the time has been usefully and (mostly) enjoyably, passed.