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The Scrivener: Raising The Tone Of The Neighbourhood

When Brian Barratt put out items for Melbourne City Councilís annual hard rubbish collection one of his neighbours commented ďIím most impressed. Iíve never seen so much rubbish come out of one house in this street. Youíre definitely raising the tone of the neighbourhood.íí

Brian has ruefully come to the conclusion that not everything will come in useful one day. On the other handÖ

To read more of Brianís more than useful and always welcomed words please click on The Scrivener in the menu on this page. And do visit his intriguing Web site The Brain Rummager www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas/

I staggered to and from the nature strip (grass verge), putting out items for the City Councilís annual hard rubbish collection. Two computers, a 12-inch black and white monitor, and a 9-pin printer were included. Iíd diligently tried to find homes for them. Alas, they were not only dysfunctional but also obsolete. The date on the back of one of them was 1984. Twenty years is ancient history. Out they went!

While I was eating my lunch, a gent pulled up in a van, raked over the assorted junk, and went off with them plus one of the three old typistsí chairs (for old typists, of course). He picked the nicest looking one without realising that if you sit on it, it collapses. We donít give refunds.

The best part of the annual hard rubbish throw-out is watching the kerb crawlers come along and peck like vultures at the discarded evidence of your domestic history. Technically, they are breaking the law, but they still do it. But who on Earth would want:
ß A bundle of bent curtain rails?
ß Umpteen broken pieces of polystyrene packing?
ß A kitsch wrought-iron magazine rack originally used by Noah to store his inventory lists in the Ark?
ß A steel filing cabinet with permanently jammed drawers and no key?
ß Half a table? (ah, but it did have four legs)

But there is a certain type of status arising from all this. One of my neighbours commented, ĎIím most impressed. Iíve never seen so much rubbish come out of one house in this street. Youíre definitely raising the tone of the neighbourhoodí. I quietly preened myself while glancing at the paltry offerings outside other houses. After 30 years in the crescent, I had been granted social status.

But Iím not so sure about the tone of the neighbourhood being raised by the appearance of 20 old biscuit tins, with picturesque rust, and a dozen plastic containers with the embedded grime of years. Funny, isnít it? When plastic containers are new, they shine seductively. Then the more your wash them, the more grime sticks to them, and they soon look distinctly unhygienic. When the gunk appears to be crawling, or at least quivering, itís time to discard them. Of course, if they happen to have been at the back of the fridge for a few months, and have sprouted a crop of iridescent green matter, itís best to throw them out straight away, isnít it?

Actually, one of the biscuit tins rattled, so I checked. It was full of wine-bottle corks from a very distant past era. Within a few weeks of deciding that I did not need them, that they would never come in useful one day... you guessed ó I wished Iíd kept them. In Summer, the flies bother me when I go for my healthy walks in the reserve at the back. I have a floppy old straw hat, and wanted to hang corks from the rim in true Aussie fashion to deter the flies. It was not to be. The flies won.
The vultures didnít take the items that I believed would definitely come in useful. Among them were quite a number of nicely sawn pieces of plywood, chipboard and veneered Masonite. Perfect for the home handyman. Sorry, handyperson.
And there was a sort of bookshelf-cum-cupboard-cum-room-divider thing. Because the doors fell off, and one end collapsed, and a shelf split, I decided that I must be charitable and offer it to some less fortunate person. Unfortunately, I couldnít get it out of the door of the junk-room, let alone down the passage. So I sawed it in half. The two portions of it went onto the nature strip. Perfect! A two-piece bookshelf-cum-cupboard-cum-room-divider for the handyperson to stick back together again. Ideal! But its value remained unrecognised, and after a few days it was officially scooped up, with the other remnants, by the Council truck.

One of the sad lessons in life seems to be that not everything Will Come In Useful One Day. Not to worry. Iím already collecting items for the next annual hard rubbish collection. Well, not the next, as such. I think Iíll just hang on to them for a few years. You never know.

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2007


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