James Bryant ...obbies

I've had a number of hobbies during my life some of them have come and gone while others have stayed with me. In chronological order and with a brief description they're:

Chess (circa 1963 to present): I remember reading around 1962 my dad's paperback book called "The Game of Chess" by Harry Golombek. The book was published in 1954 and I still have the original copy although it's a bit dog-eared.

    The Game of Chess by Harry Golombek (1954)

I started playing in school chess clubs and joined my local club while living at Buckden. I have a few claims to fame. I once played a game of correspondence chess (that's by mail) around 1971 with an opponent on death row penitentiary in America. Unfortunately we got to about five moves each and then he stopped replying - did he go to the electric chair?

I drew a game with Bill Hartston (then International Master) at Buckden on 3-2-1976, when our local club organized a simultaneous chess match with him against 30 of us. This event is probably the highlight of my chess ability and as usual I peaked too soon! See game record.

I won the Buckden Chess Club shield trophy in 1975-1976 too - see below.

Buckden Chess Trophy

I once played a blind opponent in a chess match at Peterborough which was an experience, the game ended in a draw.  Chess has moved on since I was young, see link below of Grandmaster Alexandra Kostenuik:

 see pics of a great chess player!

Lepidopterist (circa 1967-71): That's collecting butterflies and moths. At the time it seemed OK but in hindsight it was probably a bit grisly. I use to catch butterflies with a giant net and then dropped them into a glass jar with a cotton wool ball soaked in ammonia. Once they died, I pinned them with their wings open and stored them in a special box. Moths were caught in a moth trap at night and followed the same fate. Unfortunately, I lost my whole collection around 1983 when the mothballs (naphthalene) faded and the bugs inside ate all my collection. In hindsight this is probably fair retribution for my earlier actions!

Model aircraft (circa 1963-03): Like most young boys I enjoyed constructing "Airfix" models and remember walking miles in Cyprus to the shop to buy a new model. More recently, I was given a model kit of HMS Hood as a present and then bought Bismarck to make the set (see below).


Hood (operational life 20 years)                                   Bismarck (operational life 8 days)


The sinking of the HMS Hood and that of the Bismarck is a riveting story - try Hood and Bismarck by David Mears & Rob White (ISBN 0-7522-2035-7).

While at Longsands Comprehensive School, St. Neots I joined the model flying club. I had a Kittlehawk model plane that I never managed to get airborne for more than one complete circle before it came crashing down to ground. See also Titanic Exhibition 2011.

Course Fishing (1968-present): I remember sea fishing off some rocks while at Tunnel Beach in Cyprus, the year was around 1966. I caught nothing. Then after moving to England in 1967, I would often fish at Offord lock near where the old mill once stood. More recently (1999), For photos of my personal best catches go to this link.

    23 lb Carp

Tropical Fish Keeping (circa 1970-72): I've not much to say about this. When I was twelve years of age I won a book prize at school for science and promptly bought a book on keeping tropical fish. I had a tank in the lounge of our house at 64 Manor Gardens, Buckden and was successful in breeding guppies (who isn't)

Martial Arts (1974-1975): I took up Tang Soo Do (Korean martial arts) after a potential incident at a disco in my youth which could have proved nasty. It was also around the time that Bruce Lee died (1973) and he could easily had been my hero if Newton hadn't beaten him to it. I rose quickly through the belts from white to yellow, to orange, to green to blue and then to red (one below black). I trained most nights at home and also on the base at RAF Alconbury, but just as quickly as my enthusiasm started, it waned. I lost interest. And I dropped my training regime and this is one of my regrets in that I didn't persevere, but such is life.

                        <--- Me, 6th April 1975

Poetry (1969-present): I hated poetry at school but now enjoy reading it, well some poems... I have read and reread William Shakespeare's sonnets for over 35 years and they're still as fresh to me now as when "Will" put quill to parchment nearly 400 years ago. I'm not interested in his plays as these were written for the public, whereas his surged sonnets are private love letters and were never meant to be published. Just imagine how you would feel if one of your love letters was published in the national paper for all to read, let alone 154 sonnets! My favourite sonnets are 34, 57, 60, 65, 90, 91, 94, 130, 138 and 144 - see sonnets.

Other than the Bard, I like W H Auden and read "Stop all the clocks" at my father's funeral. Sir Edward Dyer's (1543-1607) poem "Love is Love" is cool and HINTERHOF by James Fenton is inspirational and should be sent to your girlfriend if you really mean it! Jump to read my favourite poems.

Contract Bridge (1972-present): Bridge has a reputation of being a fuddy-duddy game but this is ill-founded. I learnt Bridge while in the sixth form at Longsands Comprehensive School and we'd play it for hours on end. Had there been an A Level in it then I'm sure I would have passed with distinction! I've also played Duplicate Bridge with my old school friend Paul McArthur and we both spent many happy hours playing Rubber Bridge at my old bosses house in Stevenage. Now with the advent of the Internet it's possible to play anytime on line and I occasionally play a few hands under the alias "Isaac Newton" and am a member of Bridge Player LIVE.

My Profile on Bridge Player Live

Mnemonics (1974-present): I bought myself a memory course around 1974, but can't remember the exact date... Seriously, it served me well at college as I wasn't the sharpest knife around but armed with this course I achieved Best Student at ONC, Distinction at HNC and a Hons Degree. I remember scoring over 98% in one exam and for the next one the teacher made me sit at the front as he thought (wrongly) that I must be cheating. I then achieved 99%. This was a record but was due solely to the memory course not brains! The course is not rocket science and has been around for thousands of years being championed by the Roman orators. Contact me if you want the details that's providing I can remember where I put the books...

Calligraphy (1975-present): I took up calligraphy around 1975 after being disillusioned with my own handwriting. I went down my local library and took out a book called Italic handwriting, written by the late and great Edward Johnson. I'm completely self taught and only wish I had learnt Italic while at primary school rather than the bastard writing style forced on me at the time. In the hands of an expert, the Italic style is the fastest and most eloquent script around which is not surprising as it evolved over many hundreds of years, reaching its zenith in the 1500 & 1600 centuries. Today commonsense has prevailed and Italic handwriting is now taught at most schools, hurray!

An example of my Italic handwriting 


Computers (1980-present): My First Personal Computer (PC) was provided to me while studying for a part time Degree in 1979. It was called HEKTOR an acronym for (H)ome (E)lectronic (K)it Compu(tor). Around 1983 I bought my first computer which was a BBC Model B and then I traded this in for a MASTER BBC which I still have. I then made the switch from Acorn to an IBM PC and sadly the rest is history. See also handheld calculators.

See also the priority of who first invented the computer and my visits to Bletchley Park in England.


Go to my homepage