Once upon a time, teenage boys liked to collect stamps. Other people collected coins, postcards, or cards from cigarette packets. Some people pinned dead butterflies on cloth and put them in glass frames.
Personally I never felt an urge to collect things. I'm not naturally a hoarder. In fact, I often long for a minimalist lifestyle, though life is far too interesting and complex for such simplicity!
About 18 years ago, a nice English man invited me to lunch with his family. I didn't realise at the time that I would marry him... and that these nice people would become my English in-laws.
The house we had lunch in was full of clocks. When I asked about this it became clear that one couldn't have too many clocks. In fact, everyone seemed to be an avid collector of something: antique pencils, thimbles, fridge magnets, dolls' houses, anything to do with ducks, jelly moulds, wind-up toys... the list was endless.
Someone turned to me kindly and asked, 'And what do you collect, Madeleine?'
I was tempted to answer, 'Men' – but, since this was not true and they were not yet familiar with my sense of humour – I thought better of it.
I had a lot of books, but since these were a motley crew, and not First Editions, I felt they didn't quite count as collectibles.
'Nothing,' I replied, a little abashed. Perhaps my life was missing something?
More time with my husband-to-be meant many trips to car boot sales, junk shops, salvage yards and antique shops in England and later in Ireland, while he acquired things and I plotted to get rid of them. (Oh, the high of delivering a bunch of stuff to the Cancer Ireland Charity shop!)
But one day, I found a few Babycham glasses at Rathcormac Car Boot Sale. Small, delicate, gold-rimmed, each emblazoned with a giddy cartoon deer in mid-leap, the glasses reminded me of my first ever alcoholic drink and I had to have them.
Babycham was a tiny, ladylike bottle of sugary fizz – an acceptable and indeed glamorous drink for women in 1970's Ireland. The bottle was cutesy and glamorous at the same time, with a pleated silvery-blue foil sockette on the bottle top.
Now I've got ten Babycham glasses I suppose I have to admit I've joined the ranks of collectors, though I'm a mere spring chicken at this stuff, compared to the greats. It's probably heresy to suggest that ten is enough, but I think it is.
One of the best birthday presents I ever got was from my friend Colette Sheridan, who gave me the little Babycham deer that's at the front of my photo. I love it.
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