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The Unconventional Guide to Work

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Work from Anywhere: Work from a Hobbit Hole

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

With those immortal words, J. R. R. Tolkien started the journey into his own imagination that became one of the most loved fantasy tales in the entire world. Although Tolkien considered his elves his most impressive creation, there was a special place in his heart for his halfling heroes.

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This is me, on the set at Hobbiton, Matamata, NZ.

In fact, he often compared himself to a hobbit, saying, “I am in fact a Hobbit in all but size. I like gardens, trees, and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humor (which even my appreciative critics find tiresome); I go to bed late and get up late (when possible). I do not travel much.”

If this sounds like your idea of heaven, then perhaps it is the hobbit’s life for you. But even a hobbit needs to earn a wage. Luckily, cloud tools like WorkflowMax make it possible for you to work from anywhere, including your underground hobbit hole.

Here are ten tools and tricks you’ll need if you want to create the ideal hobbitish office:

1. A well-stocked larder

One of the most enduring scenes from the Hobbit book is the opening, where the unexpected company of dwarves show up at Bilbo’s hobbit hole and expect to be fed. Bilbo is running back and forth to his pantries, bringing out mince-pies and cheese, pork pie, seed-cakes, buttered scones, raspberry jam and apple tart. Gandalf even has the flummoxed hobbit fry up a few eggs, and orders him to bring out the cold-cuts and pickles!

Hobbit fare is homely, simple, and delicious - the essence of good English fare. If you intend to work like a hobbit, this means a well-stocked larder of hearty fare within easy reach, and frequent breaks for tea and cakes. It also means you might have to invest in a gym membership if you want to retain your pre-hobbitish figure.

If you head over to Amazon, you’ll find plenty of delicious recipes in Chris-Rachael Oseland’s An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery to help you cook (and eat) like a Halfling. And, for the scholars among you, here’s an article (written by me, actually - I am SUCH a geek) from a 2008 edition of the science fiction magazine Strange Horizons, on the food and diet of hobbits.

2. A cosy fireplace

Nothing makes an underground hole more cosy than a fire blazing at the heath, especially when the day outside is cold and stormy. No hobbit office would be complete without a comfortable chair pulled up beside a blazing fire.

I’m in the process of building a cosy living extension on to my own home, and one of my must-haves was a beautiful fireplace. I chose one from the Studio Series range from local Auckland company Fires by Design - especially because I can have it any colour I like! (Mine is going to be bright red).

3. A Supply of the Shire’s Famous Pipe Weed

“There is another astonishing thing about Hobbits of old that must be mentioned, an astonishing habit: they imbibed, or inhaled, through pipes of clay or wood, the smoke of the burning leaves of a herb, which they called pipe-weed or leaf, a variety probably of Nicotiana. A great deal of mystery surrounds the origin of this peculiar custom, or ‘art’ as the Hobbits preferred to call it.”

Hobbits are very particular about their pipeweed, and The Shire in particular is known for its fine varieties. Tolkien enjoyed smoking a pipe and so, of course, gave his hobbits the same habit.

So grab yourself a replica Hobbit, Drawven or Gandalf pipe, and enjoy it with some Longbottom Leaf, Old Toby, or Southern Star - visit Tewksbury & Co, for some fine Hobbit Weed (you must be 18 or over to purchase pipe tobacco).

4. A beautiful fountain pen

I know we do most of our work on computers these days, but anyone with hobbitish tendencies will harbour a particular joy from handwriting letters, postcards and stories, and signing their name with a flourish.

No hobbit office would be complete without an exquisite fountain pen and inkwell for perfecting the lost art of letter writing. A fine example are these beauties from Ryan Krusac Studio, a Georgia, US design company creating handcrafted pens in a variety of styles. You can even have a custom pen designed.

5. A Small Comb for the Feet

“As for the Hobbits of the Shire ... they seldom wore shoes, since their feet had tough leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads, which was commonly brown. Thus, the only craft little practised among them was shoe-making; but they had long and skilful fingers and could make many other useful and comely things.”

Hobbits are fastidious in their habits, and like things to be just so. Their notoriously hairy feet are no exception, and a fine hobbit would not imagine heading to work without ensuring his foot hair was neat and tidy.

A little mustache comb, like this one from Beardbrand, should do the trick. And if you want to keep the foot hairs tidy all day, try the remarkable Odin Spiced Beard Oil & Conditioner from Bath Sabbath, the internet’s only heavy metal bath and body store.

6. An ornamental waistcoat

The hobbit fashion is very traditional, but they love bright colours, shiny buttons, and lovely waistcoats.

From Weta Workshops you can buy many official licensed Lord of the Rings collectables, including these Bilbo Baggins brass buttons, the perfect accessory to jazz up any waistcoat.

7. A Disdain for Technology

Tolkien describes his hobbits as having no understanding of machinery more complicated than the watermill, forge bellows, and the hand loom. They are simple, pastoral folk, and there is not a tablet nor iPhone in sight.

Of course, simple folk still need to get work done, and no hobbit is going to have much time for elevensies if he/she is sorting through mountains of paperwork. A hobbit workspace needs some simple, intuitive tools to get them through the more tedious aspects of work. We suggest Xero for accounting, WorkflowMax for project management, invoicing and reporting, Dropbox for file sharing, and Hubspot for inbound marketing.

8. A love of throwing parties

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." - Thorin Oakenshield, to Bilbo (The Hobbit).

Hobbits love to socialise and join their friends and family for outings and parties. If Bilbo’s Eleventy-First Birthday celebrations in the opening of Fellowship of the Ring are anything to go by, a hobbit party is an occasion of hearty food, plenty of ale, great dancing, and some rather dramatic fireworks.

Hobbits know that life should be celebrated, and I imagine any hobbit overcoming a particularly thorny business challenge would put on quite the shindig!

And where better to celebrate than under the party tree itself! The Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand, offers tours through the Shire and Bag-End, with plenty of time for cavorting beneath the party tree before heading to the Green Dragon for a drink and a bite to eat. Tickets at $75NZ per person and trust me when I say they are worth every cent.

9. A “No Admittance Except on Party Business” Sign

The days in the Shire are long, but they can be filled up rather quickly with entertaining unexpected visitors, soothing the ruffled feathers of nosy relatives and having smoke-ring-blowing competitions with recalcitrant wizards. It’s amazing a hobbit gets any work done at all.

If you have to get shit done, you need to keep out the well-wishers, nosy neighbours and fence-sitters - a No Admittance sign from Weta Workshops should do the trick.

10. A Hardiness and Steadfast Good Cheer

“We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!” - Bilbo Baggins

Despite Bilbo’s assertions to the contrary, hobbits are just the sorts of creatures you want to have along on an adventure. They are eternally optimistic, quietly courageous, able to see the best of any situation, and they can’t be waylaid by the promise of treasures or riches - for hobbits know what is truly important in life: friendship, and company, and wine, and song.

‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.’ – Bilbo Baggins

Are you a hobbit at heart? Do you love the simple things more than riches or fame?

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