Tom Hodgkinson: 'As a family, we go to festivals. And work'

 

Share
Related Topics

The Sex Pistols, brilliantly, attacked the holy trinity of the modern economy: work, shopping and holidays, that is, paid employment, consumption and paid-for leisure. In "17", Johnny Rotten sang: "I don't work, I just speed, that's all I need," adding, with pride, "I'm a lazy sod." "Anarchy in the UK" complains that our Queen's "future dream is a shopping scheme", and in "Holidays in the Sun" he sneered at those who take a cheap holiday in other people's misery.

Well, when it comes to holidays, I am with him all the way. Our children are now 12, 10 and seven, and so far I have managed to avoid booking a package holiday in the sun. I have been tempted, to be sure: in January, while languishing in the gloom, I started hunting round for summer holidays. The photographs of sunny villas on Greek islands, unspoilt beaches and happy smiling children looked most alluring on my laptop as I sat in my cold Exmoor study.

But they all seemed to be rather pricey, not cheap at all, as Johnny Rotten had supposed. The cheapest seemed to be about three grand. Add another grand in spending money, and factor in income tax on what I would need to earn to get that four grand and you come up with £6,000. Well, that's not really possible.

In any case, holidays generally turn out to be pretty disappointing. Travelling en famille is rarely fun. Airports are bad enough if you are alone. And isn't the holiday soon a mere memory, a fantasy that serves only to make grim reality all the grimmer when you return to it?

What we do instead as a family is go to festivals. And work. This year we will have set up an Idler Academy tent at five festivals: Orchestra in a Field, Port Eliot, Wilderness, Shambala and Voewood. I play the ukulele and promote the joys of idleness. We put on lectures and classes on Greek philosophy. We sell books and T-shirts.

As long as the weather is not too miserable, these festivals can be great fun. Unlike the culture-free beach, there is plenty to interest the adults. And instead of being alone in your nuclear family, you are together with friends. You can talk to grown-ups, it's wonderful to catch up with old friends, and the children can be let loose. These days the only time I see my children at these events is when they ask me for money. In general, festivals are wonderful, safe playgrounds for children: no cars, lots of stalls, lots of fun.

Having said all that, we sometimes wonder what on earth we are doing, putting ourselves through all the work that these festivals involve. The logistics are daunting, to say the least. We wake up worrying about urns and trestle tables at five in the morning. Wouldn't it be easier, I sometimes think, just to go into the office every day, take paid holidays, and go to the festivals as a punter? Work and consume. No tax returns. No risk.

It seems that, tragically, the more strenuously you pursue a life of idleness, the harder you end up working. My efforts to avoid conventional employment have led to being overwhelmed with unconventional employment. I mean unconventional in the sense that it doesn't earn money. When I set out on my working life, my avowed intention was to work little and earn a lot. Instead, the precise opposite has happened. I am working every day and all the time but seem to be permanently brassic.

It seems I am not alone in this. Many of my middle-aged friends – the ones who made the mistake of becoming journalists, artists, musicians, writers, actors and entrepreneurs, rather than just going into the City every day, or joining a corporation and working their way up the ladder, or working in the pensioned paradise of the State – have similar complaints: they are working their butts off but seem to be poverty-stricken.

The conventional path suddenly seems appealing. "I'm the idle one," says my friend Stuart, who has a Wodehousian job in the City where he works for an insurance firm. "A good lunch every day, home at 5.30pm, paid holidays, and I watch the rugby at weekends."

Yes, when it comes to work, shopping and holidays, I have successfully got rid of the second two. But not the first. I comfort myself by remembering that I have my freedom, my autonomy. Could I sit in a boring office every day for 40 years? Probably not. This is my fate and I should count my blessings, I know.

Tom Hodgkinson is editor of 'The Idler'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker