Sunday, 19 August 2018

It's all about the hunt

I was recently watching the comedian Stewart Lee on TV. He talked about his love of music and how, when touring the country, he used to visit the local record shops in the hope of tracking down the albums that populated his 'most wanted' list. After twenty years of this devotional persuit he still had many gaps on that list, and each time he unearthed one it was a delicious victory. He left the shop clutching the newly possessed vinyl with a sense of pride and achievement. Then along came the Internet and within 24 hours he had bought all of his 'missing' albums. Their ownership was hollow. The joy of the hunt had gone.

I can identify with that. As much as instant gratification is bestowed upon you the anticipation and, at times, lengthy wait to possess whatever it is that you have been persuing, is missing. Our hunter gatherer urges have once again been cauterised. Take this object of desire:


I have been scouring all the second-hand book shops that I come across, and have done so over the past six months, from Edinburgh to London to Brighton. I know that it is rare and that my chances of finding one are slender, but the hunt is half the fun. I could go online tonight and buy one (£100-200 for a good conditioned original) or order a modern reprint for £65. But where would the fun be in that? No, instead I will enter each and every ramshackle, dusty and musty book dealers that I come across, seek out the natural history section and - while holding my breath - find the New Naturalist shelf. There usually is one. When the day comes and a copy is there - well, it will be an itch that has finally been scratched. I might even get it for a good price as well.

I could draw an analogy here to patch-watching and twitching, but that would be too predictable, wouldn't it...

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