Developing Your Hobbies

Posted on: 15 January 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Turn your ideas into reality with our guide to kick-start your new hobby.


You can turn your vested interest into a hobby with our top tips for beginner cooks, writers, collectors and more.

If you’re looking for a fresh approach to life then you’re probably due for a new hobby to dig your hands into

Not only can they serve as excellent icebreakers, but hobbies also serve as venues for meeting people, be it at salsa lessons or Star Trek conventions.

So develop your ideas with our beginners guides.

Improve Your Cooking

A beginner's guide to the culinary basics.

What has TV cookery come to? Forget television/ celebrity chefs and go online. Producers’ obsession with celebrity, gimmickry and fast-paced editing have made telly just about the worst place for beginners and improvers to learn anything.

But don’t hang up your apron just yet; there are websites that explain cooking techniques and ingredients in-depth at a sensible pace that today’s television executives would deem ‘boring’. Head to the BBC’s superb ‘Get Cooking’ site at www.bbc.co.uk/food/get_cooking.

Buy Good Ingredients

It’s a culinary cliché, but it’s true - if you buy dreary ingredients, you have to work hard to make them taste good; if you buy great ingredients, you can do the bare minimum.

Take a pavé rump steak from grass-fed beef, fry it for a couple of minutes each side, let it rest – Michelin stars. Take cheap supermarket braising steak, fry for a couple of minutes each side, serve immediately – Michelin tyres.

Follow The Recipe & Pay Attention

If a professional recipe writer is telling you to do something, it’s usually for your own good. This is particularly true for baking and desserts, where results are based on chemical reactions and the incorporation of air, rather than simply the application of heat, but it applies to fairly simple tasks too.

Let’s say you’re toasting pine nuts - the recipe says to stir them constantly and transfer them to a bowl as soon as they’re done. That’s because you want the pine nuts to brown evenly and if they’re left in the pan, they’ll continue cooking in the residual heat even if you turn the stove off.

Instead you leave them in the pan while you take that call from your mother. Then you have to open a window, bin the burned pine nuts and find some more.

Take A Class Or Four

If you’re a beginner or serious about improving, don’t bother with demonstration classes; yes, they are often cheaper, but you’ll come away with little more than inspiration.

Instead go for hands-on classes with spacious, well-equipped facilities, and look for those with a high teacher-to-student ratio.

We recommend Rosalind Rathouse’s Cookery School at Little Portland Street - www.cookeryschool.co.uk in London and Leith’s Beginners Cookery Skills evening classes - www.leiths.com.

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Begin A Stamp Collection

With artists such as Steve McQueen and Jimmy Cauty designing anti-war stamps, this deceptively tame hobby has rarely seemed so controversial.

Begin with a small collection and soon you will be a master philatelist. Get started with www.stamphelp.com, a great site for beginners with advice on displaying and valuing your collection.

Indulge in retail therapy at Stanley Gibbons - www.stanleygibbons.com, where you can also register your stamps online. Finally, if you’re really serious, you can work towards joining The Royal Philatelic Society London - www.rpsl.org.uk. Established in 1860, it is the oldest philatelic society in the world.

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Novel Writing

Follow the steps below to produce your first masterpiece.

Write Every Day

Even if just for five minutes, write every day. A page a day is a novel in a year. A thousand words a day is two novels the length of War and Peace. In other words - don’t get it right, get it written.

Find A Reader

Find a constructive – but candid – reader for your book. Someone whose taste you trust who isn’t related to you, who will tell you the truth. Try to avoid punching them when they deliver bad news.

Be A Ruthless Editor

When you start editing, be ruthless, particularly when it comes to the bits you like the most. Slash and burn. Cutting may be the most creative bit of the whole novel-writing process.

Write What You Don’t Know

Making stuff up is a major part of a fiction writer’s job.

Attend An Arvon Course

They really work. A week spent working with other writers without worrying about irrelevancies such as children, spouses, work or the internet will push you on faster and further than you ever thought possible. Learn more at www.arvonfoundation.org.  

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Learn Origami

Get technical and creative with the ancient art of paper folding, which can conjure up anything from a hungry bat to a Jedi knight. The British Origami Society - www.britishorigami.info has practical tips, contacts for supplies, and more than 700 members worldwide.

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Learn An Instrument

The inside track on adding strange strings to your bow.

Uilleann Pipes

A kind of proto-bagpipes, these customisable tubular clusters are ideal for the ‘Scrapheap Challenge’ aficionado.

It’s one of the more sociable instruments – the best way to pick up the basics is to join a local ceilidh band playing penny whistle, before graduating to the full uilleann pipe set later on.

See www.pipers.ie for some tutorial videos and a guide to buying your perfect pipes.

Ukulele

The ukulele is London’s fastest-growing instrument - in terms of number of users. If you’d like to be part of ukemania, head to popular East End uke epicentre The Duke of Uke.

Not only will you be able to find your perfect pygmy guitar, you can also take part in the weekly workshops to sharpen your ukuleleing skills for free.

Bouzouki

Perhaps you’d like to learn a sophisticated ethnomusicological instrument, while at the same time retaining street cred. In that case, you want to take up the bouzouki.

This mandolin-style instrument is the mainstay of rebetika, the Greek equivalent of gangsta rap. For more information visit the School of Greek Bouzouki website www.st-panteleimon.org.

Didgeridoo

You might think that learning to play the didgeridoo is easy, well, it is. You basically just do an impression of someone playing a didgeridoo down an actual didgeridoo and the rest takes care of itself.

To learn more visit the Aboriginal Arts area in Stratford at www.aboriginalarts.co.uk for lessons at £20 per hour.

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Be Disciplined

When you're learning new skills be prepared to try, try and try again.

Involving other people is a great way of staying motivated in your new hobby. Find out if there is any kind of local or national organisation. Your parents could contact them to see if a group meets up near you.

Have you started a hobby recently? Are you planning to start a new hobby?

Tell us about your experience by leaving a comment in the box below or share your thoughts with other readers in the 50connect forums.

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