Unaccustomed to Free Time

Being a married man and a father of small children, I am very rarely alone in the workday evenings or weekends. Indeed, in the past five or or six years, my capacity for sustained self-entertainment (yeah, yeah, OK; “nudge, nudge”) has atrophied to the point where I no longer know what to do when faced with a free Sunday. Yet this was the situation I found myself in last night. Wife off on business trip. Son at mom’s place. Daughter likely to spend day at friend’s place. Now what?

After some thought, I reached the conclusion that I would very much like to spend the afternoon with friends at a museum and a café. That is the sort of enjoyable pastime that small children turn into a stressful chore. So I was happy, having found out what I would like to do.

As it turned out, I started planning this too late. My daughter’s friend was only available until three o’clock. My own friends have kids too or were otherwise occupied. So here’s what I did with my lazy Sunday:

  1. Went to town reading Pratchett on the train.
  2. Had vaguely Asian chicken & shrimp wok.
  3. Attempted to get replacement for non-functional remote control at shop in town, was directed to suburban mall.
  4. Went to mall reading Pratchett.
  5. Got remote control replaced. Checked price on wifi card for old laptop.
  6. Rode bus home reading Pratchett.
  7. Bought groceries.
  8. Was invited to new neighbours for tea and a bun and a chat.

Dear Reader, if you found yourself with a free Sunday, would it surprise you? And what would you do to entertain yourself?


  1. #1 Larry Ayers
    January 25, 2009

    Well, I’m quite a bit older than you are, Martin; my kids are grown and I’m divorced from my wife. Sundays are easy here! It’s 12 degrees F. outside here in Hannibal so I’ve been reading blogs.

    What Pratchett novel are you reading? I’ve read almost all of them over the years; “Small Gods” is one of my favorites.

  2. #2 Martin R
    January 25, 2009

    I think I’ve read about half of his novels. Now I’ve gone all the way back to The Colour of Magic. Good fun, loads of bright & shiny stuff!

  3. #3 Tobias
    January 25, 2009

    What a no-brainer! I’d hop on the ferry to Denmark and spend the day metal detecting. Wasn’t able to get out this weekend, but hopefully I will have better luck next week.

  4. #4 Lars L
    January 25, 2009

    Like Larry I´m a bit older, and so are my kids. Don´t see much of them these days… I gray Sunday, windy and rainy: I take out my film scanner and have a go on all my old films, both negative and slides, color and b/w. Kind of nice…

  5. #5 Reh
    January 25, 2009

    Given the amount of snow in Saskatchewan right now, I would probably build an igloo for fun, and play guitar the rest of the day. And read my archaeology textbooks to wind down for the evening. Oh, to be a bachelor in uni with no children.
    Martin, do you still have your archaeology textbooks from when you were attending university? If so, do you ever look at them anymore? I feel like I should keep mine, as if I would consult them for some reason after I have a degree, but maybe I’m fooling myself.

  6. #6 Martin R
    January 25, 2009

    Reh, yeah, I’ve still got them for reference purposes though I rarely use them. David Hurst Thomas. Good book!

  7. #7 Jonathan Jarrett
    January 25, 2009

    No such thing as a free day: the to-read pile always lurks and when you’re doing academia in your spare time, that spare time becomes work time. Not that reading is a chore, exactly, but…

  8. #8 Martin R
    January 25, 2009

    What’s your day job, Jon?

  9. #9 literarydeadkittens
    January 25, 2009

    I usually work as a biology technician, but find myself between jobs and with more free days than I know what to do with lately, despite the presence of small children. I hope your free day was a fun day, but don’t wish for one too often, I’m on the verge of needing a padded cell.

  10. #10 Martin R
    January 25, 2009

    It’s strange how nothing is fun when you’re unemployed!

  11. #11 Janne
    January 25, 2009

    Married but with no children so even with busy work I do have time off to myself fairly regularly. And what I end up doing is almost always either to go out for a walk, have a bowl of ramen somewhere, watch people and shoot pictures; develop and post-process said pictures; or spinning my wheels sufring the web.

  12. #12 Martin R
    January 26, 2009

    Develop — you use an analog camera? Lovely stuff on your site!

  13. #13 Janne
    January 26, 2009

    I use both digital and film. Most black and white stuff is medium-format film while color is digital.

    I know film is an anachronism, but the slow camera handling, the twelve (or eight) image limitation, the need to get home and develop it before I can see the results – it’s not a liability, it’s part of the fun. Also, it forces me to be more careful and think a little before I snap away, so the results are better too, I think.

    Get yourself a film camera – a used medium-format camera is cheap today, and with a digicam for your everyday snaps, you’re not spending a lot of money on film either.

  14. #14 Martin R
    January 26, 2009

    You’ve got a home photo lab? Cool!

  15. #15 Jonathan Jarrett
    January 26, 2009

    My day job is as catalogue monkey, I mean Research Assistant (Documentation) in the Department of Coins & Medals of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. In fact I’m now running a short-lived Documentation team so I must be some senior kind of monkey. Documentation mandrill, maybe 🙂 This is how come I sometimes step up with an opinion about coins here. They’re very good about my secondary career and time off for research and so on, and I have one day a week free for this sort of stuff, but it always seems to go on admin at the moment. More discipline needed!

  16. #16 Martin R
    January 26, 2009

    Ah yeah, I’m writing grant applications today instead of working on my book.

  17. #17 literarydeadkittens
    January 26, 2009

    Martin: Oh how true! Hell, I’d volunteer, I just want to be back in the lab again. 🙂

  18. #18 Felicia Gilljam
    January 26, 2009

    My free time is pretty much never booked, except for when someone wants to do something with me. When that happens I’ve invariably made plans already. Usually these plans involve staying at my parents’ place. So I’d say “next time you find yourself in that situation, give me a call!” but according to aforementioned circumstance, if you do, I’ll already be busy…

    But, Martin, I’m aghast to hear you didn’t spend the day counting birds! You’re a home owner and interested in nature which pretty much requires you to take part in SOF’s yearly bird count!

  19. #19 Doug K
    January 26, 2009

    free Sunday ? I’d be flabbergasted, actually..
    sometimes I get an hour or two between work, parent things, house maintenance: and it’s true I usually don’t know what to do with myself. However the dog can always use a walk, my trout-fly boxes are empty, pottering about the reservoir in one of the fleet of canoes is always appealing..

  20. #20 Martin R
    January 26, 2009

    Ah yeah, fishing, the time-honoured meditation of the family man.

  21. #21 Doug K
    January 26, 2009

    fishing – yes indeed, ‘hermits in gumboots’ as one LRB review had it..

  22. #22 Dunc
    January 27, 2009

    Well, having no wife / girlfriend or children, being atheist, and only working a 4 day week, I have every Sunday free. It usually starts with tea, pan au chocolate and a spliff whilst listening to music, then progresses to beer and another spliff in a leisurely bath. Then, depending on mood and / or other requirements, the remainder of the day may be spent in some combination of brewing, allotment gardening, playing / listening to music, reading, or even (horror of horrors) housework. I sometimes end up spending part of the afternoon in the pool hall, but that’s more of a Saturday pastime.

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