Challenge yourself and broaden your horizons in 2020 with these unusual pastimes

Every January it is the same rigmarole. We promise ourselves well get fit, that well learn Spanish, be more organised. This year we are giving up on the usual resolutions. This year we are getting out of our comfort zone. We are going to challenge ourselves and broaden our horizons. Picking the right hobby is a great way of doing just that, so here are a few suggestions to get the brain juices flowing.
Why not become a fully-fledged beekeeper? It is not as outlandish as it sounds. Photograph: Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters
Everybody loves bees. Their decline has been well documented, and lots of people are doing what they can to help from re-wilding their gardens to buying organic fruit and veg. Why not take things a step further and become a fully-fledged beekeeper? It is not as outlandish as it sounds. The Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations (irishbeekeeping.ie) has all the information you need to get started, including handy tips on protective clothing and how to get your first colony going. There are 48 local associations throughout the country, each with their own programme of lectures and helpful demonstrations.
Rediscover the lost art of calligraphy. Photograph: iStock
Picture this. It is a bright sunny Sunday afternoon and you have the house to yourself. You turn off your phone and close the laptop. Sitting at your kitchen table you unfurl a pristine sheet of exquisite French writing paper, and using a pointed pen and dipping ink you begin. The only sounds you hear are the birds singing outside and the gentle scratch of the nib as it glides gracefully across the page. With every ornately curved letter and nuanced flick of the pen you feel your worries slowly evaporate. Calligraphy is not just a fancy way of writing, it is an art form, and as such it can enrich your life in unexpected ways. Peannairí, the Association of Irish Calligraphers (calligraphy.ie) has all the information you need to get started. The National Print Museum (nationalprintmuseum.ie) also hosts regular workshops and classes.
Whether you are a musical prodigy or a complete beginner, the rewards of learning to make your own instruments are the same. The Dún Laoghaire Further Education Institute (dfei.ie) offers a one-year course in musical instrument making and repair, which focuses on stringed and fretted instruments (mandolins, guitars, etc). As well as learning very specialised carpentry and machine craft techniques, the knowledge of how these instruments generate sound will invariably make you a better musician. Throughout the year you will also visit auctions, museums and special collections to learn about the development and history of instruments.
Upcycling is the art of turning rubbish into something useful and pretty. Photograph: iStock
Upcycling probably peaked about four years ago, but thats what makes it a perfect hobby for you to take up in 2020. No one will see it coming! Upcycling is the art of turning rubbish into something useful and pretty. Take your grannys beat-up old armchair and reupholster it in a garish pink (sorry gran, its on eBay now), or turn that rusty old stepladder into a bright bookcase; it is all about frugal creativity. There are plenty of courses around the country, including Furniture Upcycling in Meath (boyneadulteducation.com), Furniture Restoration and French Polishing in Cork (ashton.ie/adult-education), and Traditional Upholstery in Kildare (clanesm.com).
You would be surprised at how many people play baseball in Ireland, and local teams are always looking for new players. You dont have to know a thing about knuckleballs or batting averages to get involved, just check out Baseball Ireland (baseballireland.com) to find a team near you. You will meet new people. You will get fit and healthy. You will breathe in that glorious Irish air and feel truly alive. You will remain calm as you step up to the plate and hit a spectacular homerun in the bottom of the ninth, as your team-mates rush the field in wild celebration. You will believe in the power of baseball.
Sign up to a DIY course in the new year. Photograph: iStock
The dark days of January can make even the best of us feel like particularly useless blobs about the house, but there is a cure: DIY. Think of all the niggly little things throughout your home you just have no idea how to fix. The leaking tap, the wobbly kitchen table, the door that wont fully close in the hall, the crooked shelf in the bedroom. Well they will niggle no more. Dust off the toolbox, sign up for a DIY course, and say hello to self-satisfaction. There are plenty to choose from, including Ashton School in Cork city (ashton.ie/adult-education), Cabinteely Community School in Dublin (cabinteelyadulteducation.ie), and Scoil Mhuire Community School in Kildare (clanesm.com).
Archery Ireland has a list of beginner courses throughout the country, with prices starting at 50. Photograph: iStock
Remember that scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves when Kevin Costner saves Little Johns son from certain death by hanging with a perfectly shot arrow that severs the taught rope? And Alan Rickman just sneers, Locksley? And Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio screams Robinnnnnn? And Morgan Freeman shoots a flaming arrow into a couple of barrels of petrol and the whole place blows up? Well that can be your 2020 in a nutshell; all you have to do is take up archery. Archery Ireland has a list of beginner courses throughout the country (archery.ie/getting-started/beginner-courses), with prices starting at 50.
In popular culture there is nothing more synonymous with geekdom than Dungeons and Dragons (dnd.wizards.com). The dominion of a peculiar sect of hunchbacked, basement-dwelling nerds, it is utterly incomprehensible to the normies. But thats just Hollywood. In reality it is all about getting together with friends and having fun. So what exactly is it? It is a fantasy table-top role-playing game, where players create their own characters and embark on adventures together. Sure, it can be intimidating at first, so pop into your local games shop (Other Realms in Cork and Gamers World in Dublin are both good), where the staff will be happy to set you up with a starter pack and some good tips.