Tuesday, 24 July 2007

The Collectors

It's a peculiarity of the English that we like to collect things. Of course, it's not confined to us, but there's something about our psyche that means we take easily to assembling - often in huge quantity - stamps (and call ourselves philatelists) or useless lists of train numbers (and are called, by others, 'sad').

I was reminded of this during my research for the Wetherspoon Guide Book. Falling easily into conversation with what I took to be a 'regular' in The John Laird, I soon discovered that I had encountered that rare phenomenon, the Wetherspoon Collector.

Readers might well be aware of my professed love of this pub chain. But I have always kept myself 'this side of the line', resisting the urge to collect their hostelries, as if they were a beermat, or a Dinky car.

Not so, Alan Mason. When I met Alan, he was enjoying a pint as he perused his guide book, listing the 600+ Wetherspoon outlets in the UK, plotting his next conquest. He'd travelled from Byker, in Newcastle, and was staying near Formby, just up the coast from the Wirral. When I quizzed him about his hobby, he admitted that he didn't rank the pubs in any sense - it was enough to be able to say that he had visited them. And so, he crossed them off his list, one by one. He didn't even have a favourite, as if that would be invidious.

He combined his hunt for Wetherspoons with the collection of football badges which he made en route, killing two birds with one stone. He was also, it transpired, a trainspotter, so his journey across the land in pursuit of football badges and Wetherspoons was always done by train.

What possessed a man to collect things in such a way, I wondered, and couldn't resist the urge to ask him. "Ah diven't knaa," he said (which, loosely translated, meant that he wasn't entirely sure). He'd been a collector of one thing or another most of his life, and now that he had lost his job he had the time, and the strange inclination, to develop his collections more systematically.

You have to admire the dedication - the sheer, unmitigated obsession - that would take a man to the far ends of the kingdom in the ruthless desire to tick a guide book, pick up a piece of cheap enamel and note down the number attached to a railway train.

And so, wherever you are (most probably having a pint in a pub near Blackpool FC's ground - and I'll leave it to you to guess the name of the pub) I salute you, Alan Mason. Without you, the world would be a slightly duller place.


the domestic minx said...

Ahh, obsessive behaviour...
I know it well.

I take my hat off to you, Alan Mason, and my 36 pairs of boots...

Shinade said...

Speaking of collecting...I should like to report a corcern of mine. It seems my highly intelligent daughter has discovered a new love...and, it is not Oxford ...it is England's Pubs...and your ale!! Now as she has never been a drinker...I must say that this is starting to worry me somewht. I have very little about her trip thus far, other than descriptions of your lovely pubs and wonderful ale:)

AEIB said...

So pleased to see my old stomping ground mentioned and a map of the area I know and love as a late teen and way beyond to now Bill.... Yes Alan is certainly one of our quint(is that how it is spelt??) essential English wonders that does make us so unique.. good on you Al :-)

MoonDanzer said...

We vote for you because we all love you....everything about you is simply charming:)~jackie