Posted by: musinganorak | June 30, 2010

Keeping Lists & Collecting Stuff

Call me an anorak, call me anal, call me autistic, or call me all of the above. I’ve certainly been called of these when I reveal to people what some of my pastimes are. It used to bother me, to the extent that I would be evasive when asked and I would never reveal the full extent of my interests. Not any more. Maybe it’s just because I’m older, maybe I’m more secure within myself, or maybe it’s the realisation that no matter how odd you think your interests are there is always somebody out there with more bizarre interests. I also like to think that having a wide range of interests makes me a more interesting person, but that’s not for me to judge. From my perspective I can never understand those people who list their hobbies as watching TV or shopping, but hey, each to their own.

As I guess the bulk of this blog will centre around my hobbies, it is, after all, meant to provide a window into my world, I suppose it makes sense to come clean at the outset and provide a list of my interests. And there you have it, I have a list of lists. Obsessed? Me?

Natural History

I have my parents to thank for introducing me to the great outdoors when I was a child. They instilled an enduring love of nature that will never leave me. It started off with birds but has since become all encompassing.

Birds. Like all birders I keep a lot of different lists of the birds I have seen. The big one is my overall world life list which is exactly that, a list of all bird species I have ever seen anywhere. This is currently just under 2000, or approximately 20% of all species. All of the other bird lists I keep are merely subsets of this one master list. I keep a list of species seen in each country I have visited and they range from a few hundred in places like Britain, Ecuador, South Africa down to a handful of species seen in places like Monaco, Liechenstein and Andorra. After my life list it is my British list that means the most to me. For a number of years I was a very keen twitcher and would be out chasing birds at every available opportunity and I once managed to break 300 species in a calendar year. In recent years I have slowed down on this aspect of birding, preferring instead the greater return of visiting new countries, although I will still head off to see a bird that isn’t on my British list.

Mammals. A list of all mammal species seen around the world.

Butterflies. A list of all butterfly species seen in Europe.

Moths. A list of all macro moths seen in Britain. Macro moths being the larger, easier to identfy, moths on the whole.

Dragonflies. A list of all dragonflies seen in Europe.

Orchids. A list of all orchid species seen in Britain.


I grew up near Crewe, a town that owes it’s very existence to the railways, and my dad worked in Crewe works. It was, therefore, inevitable that I would develop an interest in the railways. Due to dad’s staff travel concessions a large number of our family trips were by train to all corners of the country. Even being involved in a major derailment at 100mph wasn’t enough to dampen my deep seated enthusiasm.

I still make a note of train numbers whilst I am out and about and have extended it to include the railways of some other European countries that I visit regularly, Italy, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. I also keep a record of which railway lines I have travelled on in Britain.

Since travelling throughout Europe I have grown to love trams, a form of transport that is much underrated in Britain.


It is only relatively recently, within the last 10 years or so, that I came to appreciate real ale. I now keep a list of all of the beers that I have had both in this country and around the world. This ‘new found’ love of beer has opened up a whole new dimension to holidays and as well as specific birding holidays we also now take regular beer holidays throughout Europe.

There is also my list of pubs that I have visited. Each new edition of the Good Beer Guide sees me updating my spreadsheet so that I can track what percentage of each counties pubs I have visited in each edition.


Like most people I used to go to football matches to watch a specific team. Now I go to football matches to visit a new ground. Occasionally I still get to see one of the teams I follow but more often than not it is just two random teams. The other point to note here is that unlike a large percentage of football followers in this country I am aware of a world of football outside the Premiership, and indeed the 3 football leagues below that. I prefer the lower levels. The ones that most people only briefly become aware of around FA Cup time, although in my world the FA Cup begins way before any of the league teams become involved. The first round of the FA Cup in November is in fact the 7th round of games to be played in any season’s competition. Don’t get me wrong, I still visit league grounds because after all they are just another gap in my list, but I don’t enjoy it as much these days. Finishing “The 92” has become more of a chore. Once you discover the pleasures of lower league football it really is difficult to go back.

I do keep a record, obviously, of grounds I have visited to watch other sports, but football is the main interest.


Stamps. I have a number of different stamp collections. All of them are works in progress and this is one of my hobbies that quite happily sits in the background for months on end before I revisit it. My collections are used GB, mint Faroe Islands, used pre-Republic Italy and mint birds on stamps issued by Commonwealth countries.

Natural History Books. Again mostly, but not exclusively, bird books. I have field guides, site guides, family guides and any number of other general wildlife books. Some cover the places I have visited and have been extensively used, others are for places I have yet to visit, or indeed may never visit. You can never have too many books!

Football Programmes. I collect a programme from each game that I go to, assuming there is one which isn’t always the case at the lower levels.

And that is just about it. I think.

Maybe this mere task of writing it down is the start of my therapy. But that assumes I want to stop, which I don’t.

Maybe it’s just a male thing but there is something ever so satisfying about adding to a list. Nothing beats the feeling you get when you fill in a gap in a checklist, and then you realise that there are still some gaps remaining and off you go again…

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