Chris van Schaick column - the next big thing

An intense and focused form of inactivity, pottering has never been more alluring than in the height of summer

High summer brings the question of how best to enjoy Hampshire’s fresh air.

Hitch a ride with a sailing mate and skim over the waters of the Solent past Nab Tower? Settle down to watch some first class cricket at the Bowl? Or work up a light sweat yomping along the South Downs Way? All good and all on my list. But there’s another activity I’m going to find time for on at least one of July’s eight weekend afternoons.

It’s pottering. And I’m talking about the strict definition. It must be undertaken outdoors in the environs of your own home. It must be undertaken alone. And crucially, nothing of substance must be achieved.

That last part of the definition is vital. Although you may pick a few weeds from the gravel at the front of the house and rake the stones over a few bad patches, there must be no substantial maintenance work. Dead leaves may be removed from plant pots, but nothing new can be planted. You can remove a few fallen twigs from the lawn but you mustn’t actually cut the grass.

You see pottering is a particularly intense and focused form of inactivity. If you actually achieved anything, it would be a serious breach of the Potterers’ Charter. What’s done in a 90 minute pottering session, when expressed on an Excel spreadsheet would look lame and pathetic. If you handed it in at work, it would result in a final written warning. But that’s the point. Pottering is undoubtedly my favourite waste of time – and that’s a big claim.

The solitary nature of pottering appeals. It allows you to disappear from view. The prime pottering location isn’t in plain sight in the middle of the garden. It’s in those lesser seen places just behind the shed or down the side of the house – well out of the gaze of spouses, children and other relatives.

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Another thing I like about pottering is that it’s so hard for other people to spoil it. The private equity boys can’t try and make money out of it. There are no leaflets or posters in Wickham Surgery saying that pottering can reduce your risk of diabetes - you actually burn more calories putting the kettle on during the F1. And there are no articles in the weekend papers by Kirsty Hyphen-Hyphen saying that pottering is the new thing and people are talking of nothing else in gentrified Battersea.

By the way, being a confirmed potterer is in no way a surrender to the low impact later life of slippers and Suduko. There’s been many a time when an afternoon of summer pottering has been the prelude to a riotous Saturday night at some shindig or other - quaffing gallons, flirting madly and pogoing the night away to Chumbawumba.

No, pottering is a supreme meditative form which refreshes body, mind and spirit. In fact I must dash - Kirsty’s on the phone from the Saturday supplement wanting to do a piece about it.