Here's a strange story for you, one that I suddenly just remembered while looking at the photo in a previous post (click here). I'll say why in a moment, but the tale I'm thinking of dates back to 1964 or '65, when I was going home for my dinner at noon one day, and saw a 'rag and bone' man parked outside the primary school gates. No horse and cart like STEPTOE & SON, but a blue or grey van with the back doors swung open to display his wares. I enquired how long he was going to be there and he replied that he'd be 'on site' for the whole dinner hour. So I ran home, had my grub, and asked my mother whether she had anything she didn't want that I could give to the rag and bone man. Usually, all you got was a balloon on a stick, so they were actually not so much rag and bone men as 'con the kids out of stuff that's worth money' men, but my mother gave me one of her old coats to swap for a balloon.
It was a blue coat if I recall rightly, and off I set to school with it, but a funny thing happened on the way to the cruel place of confinement that tortures children with enforced learning that they neither want or need. (Am I showing a prejudice here?) I started to feel sorry for the coat, and shame at my cold and callous attitude in being prepared to part with it. I'd once felt like this before when a toy metal bus I owned suddenly separated in two because of a loose rivet. I flung the bus on the grass and walked away, but was then overcome with a sudden remorse and rushed back and reclaimed it. I felt like a parent abandoning a child, and the feeling was too much to bear. It was the same with this coat - I simply couldn't give away a 'member of the family' to a stranger, so it sat under my desk until 3 o'clock and then I took it back home with me.
So cut to a few years later and another house or two down the line. I heard a rag and bone man blowing his horn and rushed to ask if my mother had anything she didn't want. I think it was another coat (maybe even the same one), so I ran out of the house just in time to see the van driving away. I followed it on foot as best as I could - for quite a length in fact, but it got away from me. If you look at the photo in the post at the link above, you'll see a bus stop in the distance, and it was around there or just past it that I gave up the chase. (Bear in mind that the photo was taken from my bedroom window and you'll realise just how far it was I trekked.) As I trudged back along the road, I felt a sudden sense of relief, as I realised that, once again, I wouldn't have been able to part with the item of clothing my mother had given me anyway, so I wasn't too downhearted.
Even today, I find it extremely difficult to part with things because it's almost like I'm rejecting them, and that's not something I want to be responsible for inflicting even on inanimate objects. Who knows what deep-rooted psychological reasons are responsible for me being this way. Maybe the time my dad took me for a run in the car miles out of town, gave me money and asked me to go buy a newspaper, and then drove off as I entered the shop - well, maybe that has something to do with it, who knows? (Pick your jaw up off the floor, you gullible ninny - I'm only kidding of course.) Being a collector, I sometimes replace comics with better-condition ones, but it's extremely difficult passing on (or selling) the lesser-condition items to someone else, and I can only do it (and even then reluctantly) if I haven't had it too long.
So readers - do you have any strange peccadilloes that you don't quite understand, but feel yourself in thrall to and are unable to resist? If you'd care to share, you know where the comments section is.