Jack Hargreaves

New Year is over so I’m moving on from the last few days’ worth of posts on how to pay for your life of freedom. Of course, the media’s idealised version of this free life we talk about is one where you simply do nothing because you are stinking rich and sit around sipping fine wines at your tennis club in Marbella.

Of course, the gloss soon dulls on doing nothing all day; in fact I’d challenge anybody to last even one day doing nothing, even the idlest of idlers gets himself off down the pub of an evening.

That said, Idling is indeed a noble art and I fully endorse it as a means of living, but idlers or the “work-shy” aren’t shy of mindful, purposeful endeavour; no, what they object to is mindless, repetitive and menial work designed to line someone else’s pockets while stealing the very life out from under them.

This compulsion to do only what suits me best has always been with me. Fishing was my big thing when I was younger and I took every opportunity to spend the day on the riverbank, even to the extent that I would spend days by the riverside otherwise earmarked for school (don’t try this at home kids!).

My obsession with fishing and the countryside generally, was encouraged by the rare glimpses of real countrymen we got on TV in the late 1970’s in Scotland. My favourite was the inimitable Jack Hargreaves and his brilliant Out of Town which ran for years and years. I won’t try to explain Out of Town, but you’ll get it immediately (and be obsessed with searching for more Jack on Youtube afterwards) as soon as you watch the short clip at the bottom of this post.

Although I must have watched every episode of Out of Town at least once, I had either forgotten or missed the episode where Jack talked about Rachel Knappett, author of A Pullet on the Midden.

Now, as much as I believe that all of the universe’s beings are interconnected and that butterflies beating their wings in Japan can contribute to a storm in Auchtermuchty, I was taken aback when I followed a circuitous route to the clip of Out of Town you see below.

You see, what Jack is describing in the clip is Rachel Knappett’s observation that farmers and countrymen flitted from job to job every day. Starting out to complete one job, they would spot a more urgent task and move onto working on it. And so the day would go until dinner time. Jack explains that after his Mother read Knappett’s book, she coined the word “Knappetting” to describe the way that his Father worked his way through the day.

I immediately recognised that Knappetting was my default operational mode and had been for my entire life. Furthermore, I instantly understood that this wasn’t mindless flitting from job to job, but a demonstration of mindfulness at work. This “Knappetting” thing, is a completely subconscious state that compels someone to move to the task they are most suited to advancing at any given time, even if it means leaving another un-finished. This can only work if you have total control over your time, as everything get’s finished eventually. More importantly, the majority of jobs get completed to the highest standard achievable as you are working on them when you are most inclined to do so. Contrast this with having to produce your best work, on demand, even when you would rather be by the river!

This has been my natural working state for as long as I can remember and explains my complete discomfort with routines and aversion to being an employee. I think it is probably the root cause of the Sunday night blues endured by millions of people who are stuck in a life dominated by working 9-5 in a job they have no connection with or worse.

To finish and to explain my earlier comment about connectedness; I found the clip you’re about to watch on a blog I follow called Democracy Street, which is written by Jack Hargreaves’ Step Son, Simon Baddeley. I found Simon’s blog via another blog (I think the Tuesday Swim) and that connection came, I think, from the Caught by the River site, where I discovered a few years ago that I wasn’t the only late 40 something who had plugged school to go fishing.

3 Responses to “Knappetting”

  1. Simon Baddeley

    Hullo John. Thanks for your reflections on knappetting. I wonder if you’d picked up that the ‘experimental’ footage of Jack Hargreaves that you’ve up-loaded to ‘restless peasant’ is an exercise in marrying a recording of my stepfather’s voice to his image from a completely different introduction to an episode of Out of Town. The original film for Jack talking about Rachel Knappett has vanished, recorded in the 1970s on very expensive quad tape typically re-used soon after broadcast. We had only a studio sound recording on reel-to-reel tape made under broadcasting regulations. A transatlantic friend and fan of OOT, called Dean Eric Hoffman, sent me those three minutes as a suggestion for restoration of old OOT episodes where Jack’s studio introductions existed only as sound recordings. That you don’t mention this ‘trick’ is quite encouraging.

    • John

      Hi Simon

      Delighted that you found my little blog, which hasn’t been updated in a while and which has always been a sporadic affair in any case.

      I was only aware of the mismatch in film to sound after you pointed it out, I think under the film on Vimeo.

      The work you are doing to restore the OOT archive for new generations is wonderful and I’m looking forward to Volume 3, hopefully soon, which I understand is to feature your good self in front of the camera for the shed sequences.

      I spent many of the rainy days last January watching the new DVD’s of Old Country and Volumes 1 & 2 of OOT after dropping hints for Christmas presents.

      Jack’s programmes really were a big thing for me and I know plenty of others when I was a young angler and wannabe countryman. It wasn’t always easy to see them, as STV always chopped and changed days and times of broadcasts and programmes like OOT seemed to be dropped out of the schedule at short notice to be replaced by more interesting content

      There must be many more series still to dig through and work on, which I’m sure is rewarding but laborious, but I for one look forward to them all.

      I enjoy your updates on Democracy Street.

      All the best


    • John

      Hello Simon

      Just to say I received my pre-ordered copy of Further Out of Town yesterday and it is a triumph, well done.

      The restored footage is excellent as are your introductions from the allotment…great idea to do it that way and very natural in keeping with the material.

      These memories are getting ever more important and all the more poignant for the added time that has passed since the original programmes

      I’m up to the Brassy Searle episode already. Remarkable to see even a small part of Spain and Spanish farm life as it was back then and the amazing dedication to horsemanship. That must have been quite a road trip for Jack, Brassy and Stan.

      Hoping that you are well and working hard on the next release.

      Good luck with the project and thank you for some very high quality memories Out of Town.




Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.