Tuesday, 30 December 2008
At this time of the year, as the excesses of Christmas fade and the compulsory New Year party approaches, I usually take the time to examine my life and plan improvements for the coming year. I’ve had varying degrees of success in the past. For example, this time last year I promised myself that I would make an effort to embrace my love of creative writing. In the past I had merely dabbled and written the odd short story or rant. In 2008 I decided to start a blog to publish my thoughts to the world and receive some feedback. I thought to myself, why should I suffer the crazy and bizarre thought processes in my head alone? The whole world is mad and my thoughts are there to be shared. It took me three months to pluck up the courage and this blog is the result. And I am happy with it. However, I also promised myself that I would try to teach myself how to play the guitar. That lasted three months. I was bloody useless. In 2009, I will continue to post on this blog (sorry folks) and develop my love of writing.
Nevertheless, I have decided that I need something else, a new hobby of sorts. And it is while researching hobbies that I have discovered the eccentricities of people out there in the wonderful world we live in, people that make me look normal. These people have the most incredible hobbies you can imagine. And I’ve only scratched the surface. I am standing at the zenith of a colossal iceberg of weirdness – and it scares me.
Allow me to start with people who collect things. As a child I was fanatical about Walsall FC and used to go to every home game and as many away games as my dad would take me to. During those years I collected the football programmes from every single game I attended. I still have that collection today. As strange as that may sound, it is positively normal compared to some of the stuff amassed by people out there. For example: airline sickness bags. There are people who actually keep the barf bags that are meant for puking in should an aircraft encounter violent turbulence. Thankfully I haven’t discovered anybody who looks for used ones (yet!).
Other odd items that people collect include:
Garden gnomes whose heads are impaled with spikes and axes: This is a cause of major concern to me. I can vaguely understand folks filling their gardens with gnomes but the thought of buying a gnome and then gluing an axe to its head and painting blood on its face strikes me as perturbing. Am I alone?
Soil samples from abroad: One man I discovered travels the world and whenever he sets foot in a new place, he will scoop up some dirt, store it in a jar, label the jar and then take it back home with him to store in a shed or some other dark and lonely place.
Soil samples from famous graves: One man seeks out the graves of famous dead people, travels there and scoops up soil from the grave itself. How macabre.
Others collect a wide range of strange stuff like: thimbles, handcuffs, fish posters, sugar packets, toothpaste, saw blades, toilet paper, chocolate wrappers and medical antiques.
And I thought stamp collectors were weird.
Moving on, another hobby that people pursue is spotting. I find bird spotting a little strange but I can understand nature lovers enjoying seeing a rare bird. Others, however, are just weird:
Train spotting: I know a couple of train spotters (or “railway enthusiasts” as they like to call themselves) and I just cannot see the fascination of standing on a lonely platform with a book writing down serial numbers of locomotives. To me it is one of the saddest pastimes imaginable. But there is something worse ...
Plane spotting: A few years ago I took my two sons to the observation area at Manchester Airport as they had never seen an aircraft in its full glory. Sadly, we encountered an army of “plane enthusiasts” who had camped out there for hours armed with their radios and notebooks. A Pakistan International Airlines 747 approached while we were there. How did we know? One of the “enthusiasts” listening in on the radio screamed “it’s the PIA jumbo”. It was like a goal scored at a cup final. All of the plane spotters leapt up as one, pulled out their notebooks and binoculars and whooped as the aircraft approached. My boys were keen because they had never seen one but these guys were almost in total ecstasy. They cheered as the metal monster roared past and almost passed out in delirium as the tires hit the tarmac of the runway. I thought these people were the saddest people I had ever encountered until I discovered …
Bus spotting: I live in Manchester, a city that relies on buses as a major form of public transport. Why on earth would anybody want to stand at a bus stop and write down model numbers of each double decker that roared past? I have never seen one of these geeky nerds but I would love to, just so that I can persuade them to acquire some kind of life. However, they do have a life compared to those who are …
Eddie Stobart spotters: Eddie Stobart is the name of a haulage company with a fleet of distinctive lorries that travel the length and breadth of the United Kingdom and beyond. The lorries are distinctive and each one has a unique female name. An Eddie Stobart spotter is a person who sits on the side of the motorway basically spotting these lorries as they go about their daily duties. They even have a website called “Club Stobart” where like minded people can talk to each other. I had a quick peep to get an insight into their psyche but left when I discovered that I had to pay £15 for the privilege. Is that sad or what? Yes it is but even sadder is …
Trolley spotting: I discovered a woman who travels around searching for abandoned shopping trolleys. She takes a photo of them, marks their exact location and then returns home and records them on a map.
Container ship spotting: I’ve asked myself - do I want to travel all the way to Norfolk, stand on a cold, desolate, isolated beach with a pair of binoculars and a notepad and wait for a container ship to drift past? It took me a nanosecond to answer; NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Enough spotting! How about being a fanatic? Recently, Barry Manilow played a concert in Manchester and Mrs PM’s dad was dragged there by his wife, forking out £240 for two tickets. He told me that he was sitting next to five women who were “Fanilows”. These are fanatics of the man who travel everywhere to see their hero. And boy do they travel. One woman said that she has been to Las Vegas to see Barry more times than she can recall and has paid thousands and thousands of pounds to do so. She was in Manchester but she had travelled all the way from Peterborough to see him, having been to London to see him on his previous date. Now that IS dedication. I’m still smarting over paying £45 to see AC/DC in April next year.
If music isn’t your bag then you could become a science fiction fanatic. And there are plenty of science fiction programmes to get excited about. I have to confess that I do love a bit of sci-fi and I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5 and Dr Who. However, my love of the show stops at simply watching them on TV. I do not, for example, watch endless repeats. And I certainly do not dress up as a Starfleet Officer, give myself a Starfleet command title, learn Klingon, turn my dentists surgery into the Enterprise sick bay or go to a convention. I have one thing to say to those that do – IT’S JUST A TV PROGRAMME!!!!!
Fanaticism is out then. At this point I was struggling but did discover a couple of miscellaneous hobbies that made me laugh:
Duct tape artist – a woman who uses duct tape to construct works of art. However, she doesn’t limit herself to mere sculptures; she makes jewellery, shoes and even clothes. I would love to go to her fashion show. Maybe I could buy Mrs PM a duct tape dress for New Years Eve.
Space hijackers – These are a bunch of passive anarchists who stage unexpected events. For example, take the Circle Line Party. Meet on an underground station on the Circle Line in London, board the train and sit down with you fellow space hijackers and wait for the train to depart. As soon as the doors close and the train pulls out – HAVE A PARTY complete with drinks, disco lights, dancing, singing, karaoke and whatever. Carry on partying until the train pulls into the next station and then retake your seats in silence. When the train moves off again, HAVE ANOTHER PARTY! Carry on ad nauseam!
Guerilla gardening – Visit your local garden centre and buy lots of plants, bulbs and seeds. Wait until it is dark and then break into your neighbours’ gardens and plant the things you have purchased randomly. I presume that you may have to wait a month or so for the fruits of your labour but the pleasure of seeing their faces when they discover a rose bush sprouting up from their lawn.
So I need help. I can’t find anything that I want to do that isn’t sad, mad or outrageous. Any ideas?
Maybe I’ll just brush up on my French or write that elusive novel. If anybody has any suggestions, please let me know – as long as it doesn’t involve being perched on a stool by the motorway looking like a sad goon, or following a decrepit old has-been around the world.
Have a Happy New Year everybody and I hope 2009 is a fabulous year for you.