Men can truly be weird and I speak as a male myself. Three books that I’ve recently read provide an uncomfortable insight into the psyche of men who like to collect things. Women hoard; Men collect. This passion leads to destitution, the break up of families and social isolation. Inevitably the day comes when he has to choose between giving up the pursuit or going insane.
Simon Garfield begins his autobiography as a stamp collector on the doorstep of a counsellor’s office, with his album under his arm and a divorce pending. He charts his fascination with British stamps that have errors in printing that has has led to him spending thousands. Worst of all, as he nears completion, he starts to wonder what he will do with his life once he has succeeded. Perhaps the worse fate to give a man is to fufill his dreams.
The father in To See Every Bird doesn’t hoard things, but has an equally expensive and time involving hobby that plays havoc with his social life and sanity. He merely wants to catch a glimpse of every species of bird that currently exists. Not only does this take him around the world, over the decades he also gets to see several species that are now extinct. Again the question is asked at the end – what is it all for? We leave dad musing on beginning a new and equally enthralling subject of study: butterflies.
Achtung Schweinehund is a much more humorous look at the author’s fascination with military toys from Action Man, through Airfix fgures and the bloodthirsty novels of Sven Hassel, right up to the rigorous demands of wargaming and military modelling.
At the end he too wonders, when he calculates how much time he has spent painting and assembling model soldiers, if it has been all for nothing. Yet when one considers that the average Briton will spend ten years of their life watching television we have to ask who and what exactly is a waste of time?