Inspired by Tom Hodgkinson’s talk at the Hello Etsy conference (along with a cover-to- cover read of his newest book, Brave Old World: A Practical Guide to Husbandry, or the Fine Art of Looking After Yourself, and a stubborn cold that followed me home from Texas), I decided to spend the weekend being idle – or at least as idle as I can be with my temperament and a five year old at home.
In the introduction, page xiii, Hodgkinson explains that the word ‘husbandry’ means “nurturing animals, crops, your children, yourself.” Brave Old World is written in the form of a monthly calendar or almanac, of sorts, that draws beautiful quotes and recipes from great authorities on husbandry like, Hesiod (8th century BC), known as the father of Greek didactic poetry, Virgil (70 BC), Pliny the Elder (AD23-79), John Evelyn (1620-1706) and John Seymour (1914-2004).The book is a lovely, entertaining and inspiring romp through the garden, the woods and the year with very important lists of feasts and celebrations at the end of each month.
On page 217, the month of October (entitled “Brew Beer”) includes three feasts:
October 11: Meditrinalia, Roman feast day, a harvest thanksgiving.
October 25: Feast day of St. Crispin, as mentioned in Shakespeare’s Henry V.
October 31: Hallowe’en, the evening before All Hallows Day, which is when we remember the dead. Hallowe’en marked the end of the year in the ancient Celtic calendar and was marked by the feast of Samhain or summer’s end.
Aside from his many other books and The Idler (a magazine in the form of a book), Tom and his partner Victoria are the owners/operators of a heralded bookshop and café in West London with the brilliant title: The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment.
From their website:
“It’s intriguing to note that in Ancient Greece, the word for ‘leisure’, scholee, later turned into our word for ‘school’. Education was a privilege of the free élite, hence the term, ‘liberal education’. Education distinguished the free man from the slave. State education today, though, is really a matter of fitting us out for servility rather than liberty. The Idler’s idea of education is different: we want to liberate by giving people skills both academic and practical. We want to teach English grammar, Latin, calligraphy, gardening and embroidery, so we can concentrate more of our time on beauty and truth rather than simply toiling for wages. We want to rediscover the pleasures both of creativity and the intellect, and help people to become self-reliant, capable and competent. That way lies liberty. Hence our motto, libertas per cultum, meaning “freedom through education”. And that word cultum means ‘education’ not in the sense of instilling propaganda, but in the sense of ‘cultivation’ or ‘culture’.”
I plan to spend much more time being idle and celebrating further monthly feasts, particularly as the year draws to a close.