“Years ago, I was inexplicably given charge of my school house junior netball team. I have had a lifelong zero interest in sports and absolutely no knowledge of how, or even why, they function. Aged eighteen, I led a group of intensely keen eleven-year-olds whose house had never won anything. They were a motley, mainly bespectacled crew in ill-fitting navy games uniforms, but they had hope in their hearts and I knew I couldn't let them down.
In the library I found a book entitled ‘Netball — Know the Game’, and my crew and I resolutely went through it, chapter by chapter. The eleven-year-olds learnt the basics, I mastered shouting certain key phrases from the side, such as 'mark up' and 'go wide' with no real knowledge of when would be an appropriate time, and the rest of the story is frankly cup-carrying triumph.
Since then, I have been confident that anything can be learnt from a book. The Reader's Digest Plumbing and Heating Manual has changed my life. After just a few sessions with my printed mentor, I found myself waking up thinking I must pop to the shops for some jubilee clips, an olive and a 15 mm push-fit connector valve.
Misspending my youth in libraries means that I know that NASA once experimented with tilapia, a sewage-eating fish also called the 'toilet trout'. There was a notion that the fish could live in a space station swimming in waste water and eating the product before finally being eaten themselves. This year, someone gave me a Delia cookbook.
The first recipe I came to? Oven-roasted Tilapia with Mango and Pawpaw Salsa. I just can't bring myself to cook it, but maybe as an unusual sideline in my plumbing work ...
(Source: Sandi Toksvig in The Chain of Curiosity)
So her learning (seen from this passage at least) included Netball, the ways of NASA, plumbing, and cooking. So let’s lay out a menu of things you might or might not know about – and most of these can be picked up on the Internet – and they start from very simple and short learning things, to those things that might take months or longer! This is an ‘off-the-top-of-the-head list so it’s not meant to be complete; it’s just some vague ideas to start you off. Many things you’ll laugh at or look down at – but do you know how to do them – opportunities to learn!
1. Things around the home
How to lay up a table
What cutlery to use at a big meal
How to clean shoes
How to adjust kitchen cupboard doors
How to mend cracked plaster
What to do with burns
What to do with a fire on a gas hob
How to light a coal fire
How to clean windows
What polishes to use on different materials
How to change a fuse
2. People things
How to greet people formally
What it means to be polite
How to write a CV to apply for a job
How to prepare for an interview
Do’s and don’ts of ‘polite’ conversation
What to wear on special occasions
(These are all things that will build confidence in you)
3. Simple Skills
How to use a washing machine or tumble drier, at home or in shop
Basic sewing skills
Ability to read timetables, read and fill in forms
Handling a bank account, handling your personal budget to avoid debt
Safe use of knives, scissors, chisels, saws.
Safe use of electricity
Handling broken glass
Using or cleaning up bleach safely
Basic food hygiene & basic cooking skills
Knowing how to return faulty goods to a shop
4. More long-term learning
Learning a foreign language
Brushing up on your understanding of your own language and its usage
Brushing up on your maths
Brushing up on other ‘school’ subjects you wish you knew more about – geography, history, etc.
Learning basic accounts
Learning wider computer skills
Learning practical skills – carpentry, painting, plastering, plumbing, furniture repair
Learning recreational skills – painting, quilling, sculpting, crochet, patchwork, quilting
Take up gardening, or photography.
Learn to write short stories etc. etc.
5. General Knowledge that helps understand modern life
Learning about local government
Learning how central government works
Learning how the national health works
Learning how your local library works .
As we have said above, these are just a variety of “off-the-top-of-the-head” ideas and you could multiply this list fifty-fold. To extend your thinking capacity for each one ask yourself where you would find this information. The Internet may be your starting place.