• neil

Day 80 (5 June): Junk Junky

All through my childhood and adolescence, I was decidedly unspoiled when it came to any form of possessions. I had to work for months on Saturday mornings in a printer’s shop when I was thirteen in order to buy an FM radio. So when I began earning a proper wage I became like a child who has at last been allowed into the toy shop. I can have that train set now!

It is always easy to blame the ancestors:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you

Philip Larkin ‘This Be The Verse’

And I am sure I have all my parents faults - but ‘throwing money away’, as my mother would have put it, is distinctly mine - although very much a reaction to her parsimony and extreme thrift.

The first thing I seem to do when I form a new resolution, take up a new hobby or decide on a new leisure activity is to buy the gear. And sometimes this has proved to be the only enjoyable bit. I’m thinking now of last year when I bought the Krav Maga helmet, personalised protective glasses, mouth guard, knee pads, arm pads, shin pads and testicular protection. The purchasing process was more fun than being punched, elbowed and kicked in the head. By a considerable margin, and I'm not sure why that should have come as a surprise. After a while I realised it would be easier to go back on Amazon and buy a sawn off shotgun. I didn’t of course; I just added it to my list for Father Christmas.

Yep. I check out an activity on the internet, look at the available gear, become seduced by the hype and buy all the kit. The next steps are: hardly use it, store it, give it away.

In general I consider myself, mistakenly or not, as a person with a decent sized brain and reasonable analytical skills, but clearly one or both of those beliefs is false. Otherwise why would my attic be full of nearly new stuff I never use?

The answer is, of course, because finding and buying the kit is so enjoyable. Anticipation is half of the pleasure. I do not feel particularly guilty about this. After all, if suppliers had to rely only on the people who systematically apply themselves to the activity in question they would have gone bust a long time ago. And then who would feed their children? It is the same principle as gym membership; the best customers are those who pay by monthly debit and always mean to go.

There is always somebody who has a kid who is interested in doing the thing I am now interested in not doing, so I give stuff away and the world turns. Bye bye my very expensive bike; at least I now know that I am a runner not a biker. The unused bike rack followed the bicycle to its new family. Well, there would not have been much point in keeping it without a bike would there?

Barbecuing was the next thing up last year. I couldn’t just buy a barbecue all by itself. I had to buy all the tat that could possibly be associated with the burning of meat. The forks, the tongues, the pincers and the plate warmers, the special woods and even a solid metal plate which can be added for making American pancakes. Don’t you fire up the barbecue at 7 a.m. to make pancakes?

I have things to cook fish in, even though the next fish to come with six feet of my barbecue will be the very first. I have a thingamajig for making a rack of lamb but due to a lack of ram, I have never used it. You name the barbecue accessory and I have it. Having named it could you now tell me how it works?

I buy books without cease - most of which I read but, glancing round my office now, some acquisitions mystify me : The ‘Complete Guide to Aromatherapy’, ‘Quarter Horse Maintenance’ and ‘Practical Hot Air Ballooning “ are three examples. All unread. I did a season or two of hot air ballooning but my contribution to lighter-than-air flight was opening bottles of fizz; I didn’t need a book for that. And I suppose I assumed that a quarter horse was an ingredient for my outsize barbecue rotisserie.

I have previously mentioned that I have done a lot of long distance walking but that doesn’t require four rucksacks, a tripod which goes over a tin mug to make coffee, a collapsible camping chair which is very comfy but which has never accompanied me anywhere, and a smattering of highly improbable survival devices. I have so far survived without them.

I am now beginning to get over this urge. It only took me until aged 64. Over the last couple of years I have increasingly come to realise that it is the inner me I should be looking after - and he doesn't need those toys.

It is self knowledge, an inner calm and a reaching out with love to others that produce all the happiness I need. But when the others come round the barbecue will be very handy.

Enjoy your weekend and make somebody else feel warm.



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