Helen Blaby reflects on the joy of having a passion in your life…
I do a lot of interviews on my programme with people who have a passion in life. Last week, for instance, I had a gentleman called Mike Allibone in the studios with me who used to be the county recorder for birds. He’s still an incredibly passionate ornithologist, with a particular interest in gulls. He tells me he spent Christmas Eve afternoon standing near to a refuse site not far from Rugby watching the comings and going’s of various species of gull. Christmas Eve afternoon. At the tip. To watch birds. That is an all consuming passion. And do you know what? I am rather jealous of that.
It made me wonder whether I have a passion for something, something which could threaten to take up all my time. I thought about it for quite a while and sadly came up blank. I have to know a little bit about a lot of things for my job. For a few days before an interview I can be incredibly well versed about a particular topic, but that information disappears from my memory fairly swiftly after the interview is through. Sure, some bits stick around (my friend Emma says I have a useful fact for every occasion) but there’s not one thing I am consumed by.
Many years ago I can remember being taken to stand by the level crossing out by Bozenham Mill. I was totally enthralled by the trains rushing past, and the barriers being down at exactly the right moment. The man in the signal box let me go and see how it was done. Dad bought me a book that listed all the train numbers, and we spent a happy few hours one summer holiday standing on the platform at Clapham Junction watching hundreds of trains going about their business. I think Dad was indulging his interest through me, but I loved every second. I can still remember my first trip on an Intercity 125 from Northampton to Birmingham and going to the front of the train when we got off to ask the driver if we’d really done over 100 miles per hour. I was totally thrilled when he said we had.
Somewhere along the line, that passion for a subject has disappeared. I love to read, I love my bowls in the summer, but there’s not one topic or pastime that consumes me, and that makes me feel a bit sad. I admire people who pursue a hobby to the Nth degree. Don’t get me wrong, if I decide I want to try something new I go at it full pelt. A few years ago I signed up for an Adult Learning course trying out watercolour painting. I bought all the stuff, everything you could possibly need, but then got frustrated that I wasn’t immediately brilliant. Perhaps that is part of my problem: I’m too much of a perfectionist to put in the slow-burn time something needs in order for it to become a passion.
Maybe you’ll see me hanging around on railway station platforms sometime soon, trying to relive the heady days of youth!