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


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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teacher

£110 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently seeking a ...

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The successful applicant w...

Day In a Page

Read Next

The daily catch-up: Joe on Vlad, banks of the Jordan and Blair's radicalism

John Rentoul

Believe me, I said, there’s nothing rural about this urban borough’s attempt at a country fair

John Walsh
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor