Games people play Pandora Melly learns about the beauty of Staffordshir e dogs and dustbins

Polly Devlin, 52, writer

My game is collecting, and I'm powerless to resist it. When you start, it's not just "Oh, I'll have that extra little Staffordshire dog to add to my collection", because you forget that you have any other dogs; it's the only dog in the world you've ever wanted. Then comes the moment when you get the object and a kind of unholy peace descends for a while; then you need to do it again. You never reach saturation point.

If you talk to an alcoholic, they'll tell you their addiction is an adjunct to their life, which isn't true: it's the biggest component: where the next drink is coming from. For a long time, collecting had that sort of importance in my life; a pathological torturing for my friends and family.

The sort of collecting I do is finding things by using your eye, rather as some people collect old clothes. They'll produce the Dolce & Gabbana and say: "Look what I have!" There's a wonderful book called The Unruly Passion by a New York psychiatrist who observes collectors and talks to them. What they're really saying is: "Look how clever I am; I found this; nobody else noticed this, and it's mine!" so in that sense it's a game, because one wins approbation like a small child.

I've stopped playing that particular game. If I see something absolutely lovely, I'll go in and look at it, and perhaps I will acquire it, but I'm no longer irked by the need.

I move through a wrack of possessions. The thing that I can't believe is when somebody comes into my playing-pitch; somebody who hasn't an eye and doesn't understand. They'll look around your room, which is exquisite in its beauty, and they'll ask: "Who does your dustbins?"

Staffordshire dogs are available at any good antique shop. Enquiries relating to dustbins should be referred to your local council.

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