I started to get to know (or at least know about) the handful of top glass dealers, most of whom were bitten by the bug many years ago and were forced to become dealers in order to feed their habit. It's a very small world, and if a glass dealer farts in Scotland, the reverberations are felt in South Sussex. Unless, of course, they fart in secret, or they are so adept at controlling themselves that they never fart at all.
I have learnt a great deal from these covert characters, but only because they cannot resist displaying their superior knowledge to anyone who will listen, but even that has a motive attached to it. The more you know about glass, the more right to ownership you have - or so it seems. The other drawback is that every auction house in the country now posts up photographs of each lot on the Net, so it is not very often that a good glass slips under the radar and into my sweaty hands.
There is a man who sits on a giant web somewhere not a million miles from here (nowhere in the UK is a million miles away) and does his best to control who acquires what at auction or private sale, and - over the years - has got very good at it. He has even been known to influence the normally impeccable behaviour (!) of auctioneers, simply to ruin the day of a rival dealer who has has had some minor falling-out with. I would not go so far as to say that he would rather break a glass than see it fall into the hands of a rival, as we all know how Gollom behaved when entrusted to destroy the Ring in order to save the world from darkness.
The sad thing about all this for me is that my erstwhile, innocent enthusiasm for these fragile and beautiful objects has been tainted and sullied by all the skullduggery attached to acquiring them, and since I am neither collector nor dealer, I am standing on the brink of an obsession which could turn me into either or both, and I cannot afford either - in psychological as well as monetary terms.
Obviously, I need to just hang onto a few nice ones and sit back to watch the others fighting over all the others in the future whilst contentedly sipping wine from mine. But have I the strength of will? It's either that, or never go near them again, and go back to drinking my wine from old jam-jars.
There's an auction coming up this week with a few nice 18th century glasses, about 3 miles from my workshop. I can feel the dark riders starting to congregate before sweeping their way towards it from all points of the compass. You might see my baleful eyes peering out from a dark corner of the room and hear me chattering and muttering to myself as I clamber over large items of unloved furniture...