Okay, so there are exceptions, but on the whole, collecting is a male preserve. Yes, some women buy huge quantities of handbags and shoes, but they do this because they want to look nice, not because they have a pathological hoarding compulsion. I've yet to meet a woman who catalogues her shoes, who can quote the barcode number on the box they came in, or who can tell you the name of the particular operative responsible for stamping out the insoles in her favourite slingbacks. Last weekend I paid an overdue visit to the VIP Record Fair at Kensington Olympia and, when I finally came up for air after many hours inspecting matrix numbers and flipback sleeves, I felt something of a chill when I realised that, with the exception of a few long-suffering wives helping their husbands to 'man' the stalls, there was not a female to be seen.
|Blokes looking at records|
|More blokes looking at records|
It was like a horrific post-apocalyptic vision of a world where women have been wiped out by an awful plague or, more likely, just got fed up with their train-spotter menfolk and pissed off to make babies in test-tubes and watch Thelma And Louise together. And who could blame them?
|Some more blokes looking at records|
|Oh, you get the idea...|
I would like to say that my wife supports my record collecting compulsion, but I think that perhaps 'tolerates' would be a more accurate choice of verb. The danger with being a collector is that eventually your passion fools you into believing that not only is your hobby interesting, but by extension, so are you. I'm sure she thinks she's got away with it, but I've seen my wife's stifled yawns when I've attempted to explain the significance of a George Peckham Porky's Prime Cut, or why the weight of a vinyl LP is of less importance than the depth of the grooves. And, when you're done boring your nearest and dearest with the minutiae of vinyl acquisition, the next logical step is to write a blog about it in the hope of boring complete strangers. To paraphrase the Alien marketing tagline:
"In cyberspace no one can see you yawn".
It would be wonderful if a scattering of members of the fairer sex brightened record fairs with their presence if only to stop me from feeling like such a deviant when I stumble, blinking, back into the daylight clutching bags heaving with vinyl. Do the organisers of the VIP Record Fairs really need to provide such conspicuous, bright yellow, plastic bags which draw attention so loudly to their contents? I would feel less self-conscious walking down the street wearing a gaping flasher-mac and holding a greasy, brown paper bag with the word "PORN" emblazoned on it in foot high letters. There must be some female record collectors out there who, by frequenting vinyl fairs and record shops, can make me feel less like the Steve Buscemi character in Ghost World (if you haven't seen it, you must).
|That bin must be like a Tardis inside!|
I had toyed with the idea of attending the enormous two day record fair in Utrecht later in the year, but I'm not sure I could live with the shame. There's a fine line between enjoying the simple thrill of a train ride and standing on a murky station platform surrounded by other men in anoraks, jotting down engine numbers in a notepad. Utrecht may well be that murky platform.
|The obligatory photo of highlights from my haul|