Martin talks about his time consuming hobbies

Over the years I have had many different hobbies each with its own distinct mixture of cost, personal satisfaction and work involved. With the possible exception of amateur astronomy I don't regret the time I spent on any of them. I've arranged this list, not in alphabetical order, but in order of the amount of time I currently spend on them.

CEMETERY BLOG AND CEMETERY SURVEY PROJECT - The project started off with the two of us concentrating on recording the graves of people who reached the age of at least 100 years. We soon discovered that we were finding other memorials that were of particular interest or rarity and we decided that these too deserved to be recorded for posterity. Since October 2008 Claire and I have visited 827 different locations. That is an average of nearly 14 sites a month. It has not been a cheap hobby, petrol is expensive, but it has been lovely to have a hobby that Claire and I can do together.

One of the great joys of the survey work is that you never know what you are going to find when you walk through the gate. I still get a buzz of excitement when we arrive at a new venue and Claire turns left and I turn right. We have a strange tradition that we go "beep, beep, beep" when we find a grave of interest - providing of course the other person is in ear-shot! Just under half the time we don't find anything worth recording. This usually happens when there are only a handful of memorials in the churchyard. By far the largest site where we didn't find anybody who reached the age of 100 was Shire Lodge Cemetery in Corby.

Sometimes we are left puzzled, almost annoyed, by inscriptions that lack important details. It is not unknown for the surname of the deceased to not appear on the memorial and I well recall one stone that didn't included any of the names of the deceased just "Mum and Dad"! Almost as strange are the patterned stones with gold inscriptions that are unreadable within a very few years of being erected.

The blog was a new development for 2013. The number of viewers per day varies between 500 and 2000 but this needs to be seen in the context of 30 hits per day being seen as a success by many bloggers!

Visit the Cemetery Blog

Visit the Cemetery Project

CREATIVE, SCIENTIFIC and SOCIAL HISTORY WRITING - In 2013 I have done more writing than ever - but not very much of it has been what most people would regard as creative. That said I am still in regular contact with E and E and "Student Sally". It has been five years since I first met E and E - and the poetry book we wrote together has sold over 500 copies. My friends and family and particularly the wonderfully supportive members of the Ragleth Writers know the deep admiration I have for these two girls and the sense of shock and anger I feel at the way the "system" treated them. "Student Sally" is quite simply the bravest person I have ever met and I have enjoyed working with her on her autobiography.

There is now so much historial material available on-line that is just begging to be studied that I could easily spend 40 hours per week just on the social history of death plus the industrial history of South Wales. I am also, finally, writing up assorted astronomical projects. These will be published via Amazon in 2014.

SCHOOL GOVERNOR - I've been a school governor since the early 1980's and I have hardly stopped doing it since then. My three years as Chairman of Governors at Danetre School in Daventry were one of the highlights of my professional career. I am currently Chair of Governors at a local primary school.

STAMPS and POSTAL HISTORY - At different times I have collected Great Britain overprints, Nigeria and Transvaal. More by luck than good judgement I made a good profit by selling up my collections at the right time. My 5 frame (80 page) thematic/topical collection on "Stamps from design to printed sheet" is finally complete and other projects have now been started. The long running (10 years plus) saga of the Cockrill reprints finally reached the Court of Chancery. I won my case, down in Bristol and I received compensation and I had my status as the copyright holder confimed.

RAILWAYS - I have been interested in railway history for years. With so much archive material around I have now started to do some detailed research into the various railway companies that once existed in South Wales.

AMATEUR ASTRONOMY - By the middle of 2012 I had achieved pretty much everything I had ever wanted to achieve in the hobby. However during 2013 I became more and more concerned about the way that professional astronomers, mainly in the USA, were using my results without giving me the credit that "scientific ethics" requires. The case has now reached the International Astronomical Union and I am awaiting their views.

SOUTH AFRICAN POSTCARDS - This was a fairly cheap hobby because so few people seem to collect this material. I enjoyed compiling the South African Picture Postcard Archive and the 2013 version of the resulting illustrated catalogue was published in March 2013. Disappointly this didn't sell as well as I had hoped mainly because some of my long-standing wholesaler contacts had retired.

BIGGLES - The Biggles Companion was one of those projects that lots of people said needed to be done but that nobody got round to doing until I came wondering along. I remember spending almost the whole of one summer holiday doing the research - basically reading all 100+ Biggles' books taking copious notes as I ploughed through them. Once in a while I drop by to read what is happening in the on-lines groups that have been created by other Biggles enthusiasts but most of the time the answer seems to be "not a lot". Sales of my book through Amazon have been encouraging and while this continues there isn't a great deal I need to be doing!

Martin Nicholson - Shropshire - January 2014.