I showed a list of my 150 odd CDs to a fishing mate. 'Blimey, that's a bit anal-retentive, isn't it?' he said, astounded because they were listed in alphabetical order. I tried to defend my penchant for orderliness - only on paper, though, you should see my cupboards - explaining that with so many cds, tapes and vinyl, the only way to keep track of 'em (no pun intended) was to list the darned things and keep them stored as per the list.
He and his mates took the pee, something chronic, until I had to go to one of their bivvies to get some cooking implements. 'The cooker,' said Tony. 'Is on your left as you enter the bivvy. Just under the table and two and a quarter inches to the left of the throwing stick.' OK I'm exaggerating, slightly, but that home from home was absolutely pristine.
There was not a trace of mud on the groundsheet. Everything had been stashed with the aid of a set-square. Not a speck of dust, a blade of grass or a dead leaf spoiled the symmetry - nothing out of place. Made me feel really uncomfortable and, as a result, clumsy. I knocked the throwing stick as I went for the cooker - in its own little pouch, drawstring tied in a perfect bow - and worried in case I had replaced it a 'thou' out. He would notice! I kid you not.
And he has the nerve to call my CD list anal-retentive! I strolled thoughtfully back to the 'social' swim where I was to cook their dinner. 'Found it, Tone,' I said casually. 'Couldn't find the tongs though.' He was incredulous. 'You didn't look properly, then,' he said. 'I know EXACTLY where everything is in that bivvy.' The man is proud of the fact that his tent is a shrine to orderliness and woe betide anyone who hints that there is a flaw in his system. 'I didn't like to poke about,' I said defensively. 'Everything is so…..shiny.' He retrieved the cooking tongs himself and, to my relief, didn't comment on the position of the throwing stick.
An after dinner, and several glasses of something, discussion revealed that his own home is not as tidy but this made it all the more fascinating as we watched him polish a bank-stick to perfection. Fishing, I deduced, is similar to religion and we had among us a disciple of such fervour that he treated his living quarters as a temple.
His tackle box, being the altar from which all good catches originate, is an example of extreme obsession. Everything is filed in its proper place and he has everything labelled. He even has a row of PVC string, meticulously graded in sequence - left to right - from summer to winter, rain through to 80 degree heat, interspersed by 'turned out nice again', 'pleasant for the time of year,' 'a bit dodgy over Will's Mum's' and finally 'if all else fails, I'll use this.' If an item of tackle is removed from the tackle box, it is used, then immediately polished into gleaming cleanliness and replaced in exactly the same position from which it was taken.
Don't get me wrong, I've just read this through and it sounds as if I'm criticising the man for his organisation skills. I'm not, I promise you. He's a lovely bloke and I admire his methodical approach - I just don't think he has the right to call me anal-retentive when he is clearly withholding far more than I!
And, despite any rumours you may hear to the contrary, I am not at all envious of his state-of-the-art, portable DVD player with 5" screen and mini-surround sound. Hardly at all. If he wants to watch 'Dances With Carp' while waiting for a screaming run, that's up to him. I'm quite happy with my charity shop paperback. I will just mention that this fairly decent bit of kit is constructed almost entirely of lustrous stainless steel and there is not a finger-mark to be seen upon it! It lives, a quarter inch to the right of a transistor radio, facing south-east in a perfectly tensioned bivvy. We swear he's into Feng Shui.
By comparison, the 'social' bivvy, around which we all gather at every meal-time is a complete tip - like my cupboards and drawers - and yet the man who owns it is just as fervent about his fishing and catches just as often as his tackle-tart friend. He feels more comfortable and relaxed if he doesn't have to be forever tidying up, he says.
Each to their own.