My visit does not start well. I haven't got £2.50 for the car park and I'm being beeped by a woman in a Skoda Octavia. Not only that, I then find myself being chased on foot by five men on penny-farthings.
"What's going on?" I mumble to myself as I cross a bridge to Teapot Island. Everyone is wearing plus fours, Pringle socks and flat caps. It's like I've gone through a wormhole and travelled back in time.
I'm in Yalding, near Maidstone, Kent, to meet Sue Blazye and her son Luke. They own Teapot Island and, until this year, had the world's largest collection of teapots. "We didn't get the Guinness World certificate this year," Luke says with a shrug. "There's some bloke in China claiming he's got over 30,000 teapots. I'd like to know who he is. I bet he's just got multiples – not like us. Every teapot we've got is different."
The Blazyes' collection is nearer the 6,580 mark, with another 2,000 pots in storage. I sense there is some controversy about this man in China, but I don't press the point.
Luke was only a boy when his mum started collecting teapots. It started back in the early 80s, with a pair of blue teapots gifted to Sue by her grandmother and aunt. A year later, she bought her first novelty pot, a Cardew Royal Albert, and 30 years on their lives are dominated by teapots.
I can't quite believe what I'm seeing … there are so many teapots it's overwhelming. There's one of Prince Charles with Camilla on his head, a teapot of Morrissey, a teapot of a Buddha with an erection, and a teapot of a pole dancer – she's on her back with her legs in the air.
"Have you tried making tea with every teapot?" I ask. Luke laughs. "No, you couldn't, not with the Chinese-made ones – they make them with porous clay. The tea would all run out the bottom."
I shake my head. "Who would do such a thing? What's the point of a teapot that can't make tea?"
Sue smiles. I am instantly in her good books. The pots are arranged according to subject to make viewing less chaotic and more enjoyable. There are teapots based on transport, sport, celebrities, music, Disney characters, animals … you name it, there's a teapot for it. There are even Kama Sutra teapots.
"Teapots used to be the eighth most popular collectible," explains Luke. "There was a real community. We had our own magazine, the Teapot Times. But it's different now. There's still a few of us left – we have an open day for the teapot collectors once a year. They can come in for free and touch any teapot they want."
I feel a bit sad about the demise of the teapot industry: only three manufacturers remain. The Blazyes get around this by employing their own onsite teapot designer. He's called Gary Seymour and he looks a bit like Phil Mitchell from EastEnders. The air in his workshop is heavy with the smell of clay, and everything is covered in a thin layer of pale cream dust. Gary used to be a classical sculptor but he's turned his talents to teapots. At the moment, he's working on a design so secret I can't even tell you about it.
"Have to be careful," says Gary. "The Chinese nick our designs and flood the market. I do speciality pieces. I can't compete with the numbers they can put out."
"How much do you think you've spent?" I ask Sue, as I stare at a pot that's got the head of Saddam Hussein on an oil barrel. Her eyebrows rise and she puts her hands on her hips. "I wouldn't like to say," she says, shaking her head. "Almost impossible to put a figure on it."
"Roughly," I ask. "Tens of thousands?"
"More like hundreds of thousands," says Sue, quietly. "I wouldn't be surprised if the figure was nearer a quarter of a million."
I can't quite take this in. A quarter of a million pounds on teapots? I feel concerned for Sue and Luke. They're only charging £2.50 entrance fee to their teapot collection – the same as the car park. Can that be right?
"I don't want to put up the entrance fee," Sue explains. "It's not about the money, for me. I just want people to enjoy my teapots."
Thankfully, they also own the cafe next door, where they serve meals, cream teas and Sue's secret recipe bread pudding – which, I can confirm, is something to behold. It is here that Luke turns to me and asks quietly, "Are you here because of that book?"
"What book?" I ask.
"Crap Days Out," he says. "The bloke wrote rubbish about us. And he's clearly never been here."
They show me the book. Their entry is one sentence, and it's pretty disparaging.
"It's utter rubbish," says Sue. "He says we're dressed as cups. I've never dressed as a cup in my life."
I feel a protective surge. I've had a lovely afternoon with the Blazyes. Teapot Island is the exact opposite of a crap day out and I've never met people less likely to be dressed as cups. They'd be dressed as teapots.