RECREATION: any discretionary activity resourced by periods of paid occupation

Recreation is that activity for which discretionary time and income are allocated, in the fond belief that by this means occupational intensity will be alleviated. For those espousing such a belief, life is cycled between two principal complementary phases. Income is accumulated during an occupational phase, and then dissipated during a complementary phase of activity chosen for its effectiveness in alleviating the workplace stress. Frequently, the tedious is alternated with the perilous, so that classroom teachers climb mountains and alpine guides paint watercolours, but normally it is simply phases of stress and stress-release that are alternated. Thus it is that front-line police, bomb disposal units and some terrorist groups achieve recreational relief in ballet classes and massed choral productions, and many politicians enjoy public kick-boxing and the demanding athletic skills of pole vaulting.

It might be supposed that the set of all the occupational activities of an individual, would define a complementary pool of recreational activities. Thus whatever is not weeding is recreation for a gardener, and whatever is not cooking is recreation for a chef, and so on. Although this is not usually the case, there are certainly circumstances of extremis where this tends to be the situation. Air traffic controllers, for example, front-line soldiers and galley slaves are all usually so stressed by their occupation that they tend to regard any alternative activity whatsoever as a recreational bonus. For many, such a life partition is either unobtainable or unnecessary. Individuals existing at subsistence levels have negative time and income to allocate to such indulgences, whilst other more fortunate citizens claim to have satisfactorily made their recreation the same as their occupation.

By and large however, for the bulk of the relatively affluent, the two phase occupation-recreation partition of life achieves an adequate balance. Airline pilots hit golf balls to compensate for industrial frustrations and tension, whilst professional golfers enjoy flying whatever sized aircraft their competitive success will finance. Actors garden in their time off, and council gardeners rehearse after hours with the local theatrical society. And of course, as might be expected, in order to make the best of the time available, whatever phase is deemed to be recreation is liberally enhanced by any culturally available facilitating substance.

So successful has this life partition been then, that what were once recreations are developed and promoted as professions, and opportunities are provided to attempt... as therapeutic relaxation... the skills of what were once profession occupations. Although sport was once a recreation, innumerable participants now strive to make it their occupation and acquire income by being publicly or corporately sponsored. Urbanized office workers pay handsomely to become amateur stock-men, or crews on old-time sailing ships. Recreational mountain climbers decide to set up business as guides for tourist adventurers. Executives use a little of their income to learn the fundamentals of pottery.

As far as the significant proportion of work enslaved individuals are concerned, they are invariably in need of sympathetic but realistic counselling as to the benefits of overseas travel. They need to be made aware that, however much it is promoted as such, tourism may not be a recreation and can develop into a psychiatric disorder. Being confined to an airport during bad weather or a strike, spending a day or more strapped into a seat at 30,000ft, trying to find a usable toilet or a hospital whilst in the throes of intestinal chaos, are factors to be kept in mind when evaluating the realities of travel. Recreation doesn't have to cost much, and it doesn't have to be on the other side of the earth.