Scary stories from a lovely place
Here in Australia we love a good Council Clean Up. This is an arranged time when residents can leave a pile of stuff outside their house and a representative from the local Council come and collect it to take it to the tip.
Back in the good old days, these were arranged by suburb and everyone in the locality would amass piles of stuff on their front lawn at the same time. This was great because everyone could deal with the dual embarrassment of having their crap on show, and excitement at being able to see their neighbours crap and sneak out at night to secret something on the pile into their own house.
Now, in an effort to streamline things, residents can arrange a personal date with the council when they are allowed to leave out their pile of stuff, and on their allotted ‘Bin Day’ it all just gets chucked in the back of the garbage truck.
We’ve had a few great finds from Council Clean up piles. Our worm farm that makes an audible wriggling/copulating noise because it’s so full of life was our first find since living here in Australia. We’ve also garnered a non-functioning keyboard that the boys like to jam on, a rocking horse, single stroller, toddler’s car (the kind that is like a big plastic dome that the kid sits inside and rolls along) and another car that a kid can sit on and be pushed by a big handle, a step ladder, retro bathroom chair, a lovely art deco mirror and a stack of plastic pots. I nearly scored an amazing ladder that would have made any builder proud, but in the time of pulling into my parents driveway, sticking one awake child in a swing and running back down the driveway, it was being loaded into someone else’s car.
One of our neighbours here in Woonona recently had a Council Clean Up. It’s an elderly lady who often has raucous grandchildren to stay. We call her ‘Grandma’. Our lounge room and balcony look directly into Grandma’s living room and at night we could sit out on the balcony, ask her to turn up the volume and be able to enjoy her sizeable television. It’s okay that I’ve spied this much, I often notice that she is watching me struggle up my stairs to the front door with two squirming toddlers.
Anyway, Grandma’s pile was e-normous. Seriously, it was about 6 metres long and 1.5 metres high. A couple of times after the kids had gone to bed Stephen and I snuck out to have a fossick but I was too scared/embarrassed at the prospect of Grandma busting us that we didn’t find much. Although we did score the keyboard and pile of pots, but I reckon there was much more booty to be had.
As much as I love Council Clean Up, and I clearly do, it also makes me sad. Each pile I see has one or two or three rear projection TV’s that probably still work, a couch and mattress (that aren’t festy until the first pour of rain) and myriad other things, most of which still look fairly functional. Some of the stuff is genuine crap, but a lot of it is just a bit faded, dusty or dated.
Early in the morning on Bin Day in South Africa hundreds of guys walk around wheeling trolleys, rifle through the bins and take out anything recyclable, metallic or sellable to make some cash from. It looks like hard, dirty work. But they do it tirelessly so they can make a bit of cash. Even on a non Bin Day it’s easy to leave just about anything out on the street and be guaranteed that it will be taken in under half an hour.
So Australia’s Council Clean Up’s strike a twinge of sadness because I see a pile of great, but expendable stuff, that would delight people in Joburg who have little. But here, unless a few items are discreetly grabbed, the rest goes to landfill.