Contains eccentric hobbies, why Poldark would make a lousy boyfriend, Birch Water tasting sessions, Ewan McGregor’s BT ads, Vote Poppy the Dog

Scottish Daily Mail May 5 2015

So farewell, single-minded Keith Sivyer, who passed away leaving behind a record collection of every new release that entered the UK single charts from 1952 until Mr Sivyer reached his final groove.

45,000 records means that as well as the Beatles, Abba and the Stones, Keith also purchased Joe Dolce’s Shaddapayourface, Madonna’s Hanky Panky and Laurie Anderson’s 1981 hit O Superman, a pretentious exercise in vocoding of interest only to heavy LSD users, Dr Stephen Hawking and anyone who thought Christopher Nolan’s Transcendence was far too short and snappy.

It’s not the quality of Keith’s hobby that impresses; rather it’s his determination. Every week during the analogue decades he went out and bought records, whereas nowadays the internet mutes that kind of dedication.

Somewhere in here is a copy of There’s No-One Quite Like Grandma

Thanks to eBay, I could probably assemble a championship collection of My Little Ponies in less than a fortnight, if I put my mind to it. Unfortunately, I lack Keith’s focus, which is why I’m not into collections, or chess or trains. I don’t even have a sport, because that would mean having to discuss it afterwards, and TalkSport is solid proof that sporttalk is sometimes boring — unless it is golf, which is always boring. Playing golf can be interesting, although not the bit where you are hacking at the little ball; only the part where you get to drive a cart.

However I do envy people who take a deep interest in a subject that can absorb decades of their lives. My father loves history, reads hundreds of books about it, and is an easy fix at Christmas and birthdays, when he tries not to blanche at the brick thick volumes that rain down on him.

So my hobby is other people’s hobbies; the more obsessive the better. One of the first people I ever interviewed was a woman who loved Luciano Pavarotti so much that as well as displaying all his albums, walls of posters, a treasured copy of Yes Giorgio, Pavarotti’s dreadful foray into film acting and a collection of discarded Nessun Dorma hankies, there was a life-sized paper mache Pavarotti at the bottom of her bed, so that Luciano was the last thing she saw at night, and the first thing she had to squeeze past to get to the loo in the morning.

Over the years, I’ve ferreted through other people’s fandoms, collections of fossils, dvds, airsick bags, postcards and toilet lid art (this is a thing, although you may query the hygiene), but my current favourite hobby centres on an internet forum where men, and some women, gather to discuss World War 2 leather jackets with an expertise that goes beyond types of hide. They are on first name terms with people who make them, and when one of them buys a jacket, they take pictures of themselves from all possible angles and post them online for strangers to look at. Lady Gaga in her meat dress gets less intense scrutiny.

There are heated debates about zips, ageing processes and stitches per inch. One thread concluded with a poster being banned for life after going apocalyptic about pocket positions, and I adored one lengthy exchange where counselling was offered on how best to smuggle the umpteenth purchase past watchful spouses and disguise the smell of new leather (“I haven’t smelt that one before. Did you buy another jacket?”).

Is this a bit mad? Possibly, but they seem delighted and invigorated by their hobby, cheer each other on, and forge firm friendships. That sounds better than collecting dust.

***

Since the last, bleak, episode of Poldark, friends, male and female, have been suffering withdrawal symptoms from terse brooding, gratuitous shirtlessness, and symbolic horserides. There’s been a lot of talk about the allure of Aidan Turner, despite the fact that Ross Poldark would be a dreadful person to date. He’d be fine on his home turf having an enthusiastic argument about smelting schemes, or being forced to burn his clothes on a beach after a visit to a disease-ridden jail but on a Saturday evening, with a new series of Strictly, and mug of tea on the way, the last thing you’d want on the sofa is Ross, smelling of horse and glowering meaningfully until you reluctantly switch over to Yesterday’s documentary on tin mines.

You won’t be needing feminism for at least another hundred years

Why are so many literary romantic heroes so irritable? Heathcliff, Mr Darcy, Rochester — all of them are furious and controlling Mills and Boon personalities that no-one would consider dating in real life. You might hope that love could melt their grumpy patina, but really — who fancies going around Ikea with Edward Cullen, or a summer afternoon in Portobello having a go on the dodgems with Christian Grey?

Ross Poldark will be back on TV soon, and in the meantime maybe we should ponder whether a dream man is the one who is compatible on the first night, or the fiftieth. Perhaps then instead of lusting after someone tall, dark and cross, we’d be more inclined to opt for a romantic prospect who is sunnier and more fun , like Gordon Kennedy, Omid Djalili or Des O’Connor.

***

On my way to visiting a pal in the south side of Glasgow, I noticed that the tattoo parlour on his street has been joined by a tattoo removal clinic four doors down. If they had a pub at the top of the road, a whole bodyart adventure could be nutshelled in one street block

***

These are indeed exciting times we live in, what with the election; a royal baby sister for George that I was hoping they would call Mildred; and of course the arrival of birch water.

Have you tried birch water, which is apparently drawn from the sap of Finnish birch trees? I was given a free bottle at a train station this week, along with the promise that it would sort out liver disease, flu, headaches, dandruff and eczema. For about ten minutes I was too offended to take a swig, but I am a professional and it was free.

The problem with birch water and it’s bang-on-trend cousins maple, cactus, aloe, coconut, and — I am not making this up — artichoke, is much the same as its predecessor in hipster health drinks, the herbal tea. That is to say that while they are probably healthier than a can of something fizzy, they are also much less palatable. All of these H20verloads are expensive drinks with vague, astringent flavours, as if someone took a mouthful of Ribena or lemon barley water and dribbled it into a well. Coconut water is particularly vile, since it has the gloopy texture of saliva, but I can now report that magical elixir that is birch water tastes like sour watery grapes. It may be perfect for serving on election night.

***

How sad that the impeccable, prodigious crime writer Ruth Rendell has passed away. Not just because her books were as precise and chic as the rest of her, but because the Queen of Darkness has left us just when some major mysteries are peaking — like why have Ian Duncan Smith and Grant Shapps disappeared in the last week of electioneering.

***

For the last few weeks, I’ve being casting about for a snapshot of this current election. Is it a woman in a purple helicopter, or a pink bus? Or one of those leadership debates, where a string of politicians stand onstage in a line that suggests the worst Westlife keychange ever?

My vote goes to Poppy, who featured in a youtube video over the weekend, being dragged around the carpet by Labour candidate Tom Harris. Much like the exhausted electorate, Poppy seems to have been through this game quite a lot lately, and has figured out that the best way to get by is to lie doggo until its all over, or go barking mad.

Poppy: it’s a drag

***

Ewan McGregor’s career choices are perplexing: for years he has resisted hooking up with a Trainspotting sequel, yet now he’s connected with BT for a series of funless ads.

Even odder is Sylvester Stallone pushing Warburton’s, when he clearly hasn’t been near a carb since 1975

***

Good on Gerard Butler for buying a pad in Scotland. We’re now trying to puzzle out what persuaded the lead of Playing For Keeps, where Gerry plays a washed-up star who is constantly hit on by doting middle-class mums, to relocate to Giffnock
And there’s a Greggs just down from Morrisons

*****

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