Barges and badgers: living your passion and shining your light

“There was a teapot, in which Mma Ramotswe — the only lady private detective in Botwana — brewed tea. And three mugs — one for herself, one for her secretary, and one for the client. What else does a detective agency really need?”

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by  Alexander McCall Smith 

hobbies interests and passionsAs an Englishman, Alexander McCall Smith obviously understands a nation’s passion for tea (Rooibos tea in the case of Southern Africa). I’m more of an English tea drinker myself (rusk or dipping bikkie, essential). A cuppa, strong builders, Tips, Yorkshire, char, Twinings  – whatever you like to call it, a steaming cup of liquid has a soothing, contemplative quality, which little else so simple and so available can quite replicate.

 Tea, as you know, is one of my great pleasures if not a passion.

But stranger things are afoot. One day in Stockholm and last Friday in Liverpool I found myself speaking animatedly about barges. Even more perplexing, I was in the company of other ‘barge nerds’ – jack-up barges, flattop barges, accommodation barges, semi-submersible barges, split hopper barges, hold barges.

It’s a peculiar old world.

What interests me about specialist areas of study, hobbies and passions is that they make us come alive, bring a sparkle to our eyes and turn a quiet reserved person into an ebullient, articulate extrovert.

Don’t worry, I don’t quite need to seek help about my barge interest. It’s just that in the company of passionate people I find myself getting carried away.

I remember watching BBC News with my flatmate one Saturday morning a few years ago. At the end of the serious news they interviewed an expert on badgers. He was talking about growing development and it’s encroachment on the natural habitat of badgers in the UK. He was small, had a mop of black disheveled hair greying in parts, bushy eyebrows, piercing eyes and a rather unfortunate overbite that made him look not a little like the creatures he loved. He was captivating. Those badgers had someone who really cared about them and he was doing a pretty good job at canvassing us into the ‘Badger Rights Party’ as well.

Ever since that moment I’ve pondered this issue of passions and their potential.

I do not believe that these passions have to be the way you earn your living. You are lucky if you do, but for a long time that’s been the zeitgeist of the western world and I think it’s left a lot of people lost and disillusioned.

I do believe that we all have God-given passions that help us to connect with others in a deeper and more effective way than almost any other means – we become contagious. I do believe that these passions, not the things themselves as such, but the energy and joy that exudes, have a redemptive quality. Each one of us can be a light in our small corner of influence in the world.

For me that’s stories in the form of films, novels, characters, photography, history, words and theatre. For Hubby it’s bread making, languages, culture and otherness. For a fellow trustee in Liverpool it’s fail-safing children in order to reduce the need for intervention in adulthood. For a friend from Westminster Uni it’s Tough Mudders. For my neighbour that’s jujitsu. For a 13 year old boy I once knew it was learning Elvish from The Lord of the Rings series.

P.s. I think you already know what it is that makes you come alive 🙂 

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