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Collectors should go find a life.

Byline: JASPER CARROTT BRUM'S BEST-KNOWN SENIOR CYNIC WRITES FOR THE MERCURY

HAVING signed a few autographs in my time I always wonder what the heck people do with them.

I've signed photos and records, fair enough. But what do people do with signed fag packets, bog roll or scarves even? Surely it's not to make money? Well, not with me it's not. I once checked on ebay to see what I was worth.

There was a signed photo of myself with a starting price of PS1. There were three minutes to go and NO bids.

I can't tell you how demoralising that is, so I bid PS20 and, not surprisingly, won it.

I was hoping to set off a rush for demand, but collectors are not so gullible.

It takes a certain mentality to collect things which I'm just not attuned to.

I can understand stamps, say, or coins to a degree - at least they don't take up too much room.

But lawnmowers? Garden hammocks? Jukeboxes? Heaven forbid.

These hoarders are odd, very odd. They could be living proof of alien abduction.

Perhaps they were waiting for a bus in Rednal and were spirited away by a laser infarction machine and subjected to a complete orifice examination by purple lizards in tights. Makes more sense to me than collecting fridge magnets.

Practically every collectable item has some elongated Latin name that gives a gloss of intellectualism to the activity.

A philatelist sounds so much more interesting than stamp collector, or a numismatist for someone who collects loose change.

But there's no end to what these dimble brains will store in their air-conditioned stuff rooms.

They include - and this is for real - cheese labels, sugar sachets, matchboxes and, would you believe, air sickness bags!

Yes, it's a fact! What title they masquerade under is anyone's guess - ryanvomitist, easythrower, make your own up. In the same category come potholers and those peculiar types who go metal detecting.

Yes, there might be a chance of finding a Viking shovel worth millions, but why spend your entire existence trying? In my own way I have been trying to help them out. I have had hundreds of metal discs made which I am going to bury in the sand on Bournemouth beach.

When the loopies find them and dig them up they'll see that written on each one is the instruction "Get a Life!" Worryingly, there can be a sinister side to all this. An oologist is a collector of bird's eggs and not the ones you dip your soldiers into.

In the main, they are not destructive but there are some extremely sad and selfish criminals out there who think it is perfectly OK to threaten the extinction of rare species just so long as they can indulge themselves in whatever kick they get out of it all.

Neither am I a fan of visiting houses where dead animals are peering at you, heads thrust through the walls, while you eat your dinner.

However, there is one sort of collector we couldn't do without. And I wouldn't dream of taking them to task.

They are the refuse collectors. It's unwise to upset them unless you're prepared for a plague of rats - but can I ask if anyone knows what the heck to do with household waste? What are the garbage people supposed to collect and what can they refuse, so to speak, to collect? Every couple of months the rules change.

What was desirable in November is now toxic to dustmen, so you have to place it in the bin with the nuclear sign on it.

Plastic comes in many forms but not all of it is wanted. I am not allowed to put plastic caps or plastic bags into the plastic recycling bin, oh no.

But I can fill it up with plastic bottles and Lego if I am so inclined.

All this means there is not much chance to build a relationship with the men and women who collect the rubbish.

Time was they would dispose of anything if there was a drink in it. Now, I never see them unless I have incurred their wrath because I have put some garden waste in the blue box instead of the green one.

When I point out I've filled the green one full of asbestos they get all shirty.

Hold on. In case you think I have no anorak tendencies, I will admit to one habit.

I cannot pass a skip without peering in it.

I'm just fascinated by what people discard.

A lot of the time the stuff in there is of much better quality than you would find in a car boot sale - and it's free!

They may have outlived their passion for fondue parties and dumped the set, but some of us are still stingy enough to throw a feast based on a cube of bread and a bit of Cheddar. To serve it using a skip reject gives extra added pleasure to the evening.

Problem is, you scavenge so much in the end that you have to hire a skip to get rid of it.

It's a dangerous pastime, too, because most tips are so overflowing with gunk that you have to be careful when trying to extract a TV ariel or an old hostess trolley that you don't get brained or, to put it another way, discovered, by an irate neighbour.

Just to show what a fickle lot we all are, there is a true story going round about the chap who wanted to get rid of an old fridge.

He left it outside his house with a sign saying 'Please take this fridge away for free'.

It stood there all week and no-one took him up on his offer, so he removed the sign.

An hour later it had disappeared.

Probably those aliens from Rednal.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 14, 2013
Words:978
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