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Hoarder or Collector?

(September 2020, from the Travels with Guido series #328)

motorcycle collection

by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen


Living life on the edge of intervention

A mate of mine, Lee, put this out on Faceplant: at what point does a collector become a hoarder? She got plenty of responses. Some serious, others not so much.

One, tongue firmly planted in cheek, said: “If it’s shoes, it’s hoarding, if it’s motorcycles it’s not”. That got a smiley face, despite the implied gender twist…

I watched the discussion with great interest. Having recently admitted to owning 20-ish motorcycles and a small herd of cars there was reason to. Though not greatly troubled by how other people see my foibles (or failings), you do secretly wonder if there’s a point at which the populace feels it’s reasonable to call in the idiot squad and sort out your life.

In many respects the debate was serious and somehow disappointing. It spoke variously to the mental competence of the owner and their financial situation. All very sensible.

I like the alternative view, which is if you can point to a worse example, you’re okay. For me, it’s a Moto Guzzi collector not far from home and, frankly, I’m a rank amateur in that company. He’s my sanity goal post – if I shoot past him and his hundreds of motorcycles, then we’re in trouble.

I’m not alone in this. Several times over recent years I’ve been asked for a shed tour by a motorcyclist, with his partner in tow. (I look forward to the day when I can say ‘her’.)

It took a few such occasions before I worked this out. This wasn’t about seeing the motorcycles – and there are some nice ones that are worth chatting over – but about letting the unwilling (and often bemused) partner see a real lunatic in his natural environment.

The subtext was clear: “See, Dear? I’m not so bad. You could be married to him!”

This works best if they have a brief visit. It tends to go a little awry if they’re here at Chateau Conrod for lunch, because we do a halfway decent meal and vino. At the end of which the debate gets more complicated because the partner (who’s usually sozzled by now – we’re good at inebriating guests) wants more cars/bikes/cats or her own. “And, by the way, big nose,” she says, turning on their increasingly baffled spouse, " why can’t you cook like that?” (Did I mention I used to flip food for a living? Long story…)

Still, it’s good to know you at times provide a public service. I’m now getting used to the idea that sometimes people drop in ostensibly for a cuppa, when what they really want is to take their partner for a quick shed tour as a reminder of how out of control their lives could have become. I’m thinking of charging admission.

Then I have other friends who just want a current body count: how many motorcycles do you own at the moment? Twenty-ish. Check. They can report back to the spouse: “See, I’m still the model of restraint with only five.” That has to be worth a tariff at my end – a bottle of claret, surely!

So I wandered back into Lee’s Faceplant post: at what point does a collector become a hoarder? Someone else asked a companion question: what’s the difference?

That’s tricky. My definition is when the non-runners in the vehicle herd out-number the runners. At the moment it’s about 20:2 in favour of the runners.

But I have a couple of dear mates for whom the ratio is the opposite. And I’m not at all sure they’re hoarders. (Okay, I have my suspicions.)

Lee posed her question to the ‘brains trust’. Being a smart-arse, I disputed the term, given what I know of the people involved. She fired back that her question was inspired by a recent photo of my shed. Oh dear…a hoarder? Me?



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