A problem I can solve

Saturday August 28, 2004

For some weeks now I’ve been keeping my eye on one of the village diary dates published in the “Stickford Newsletter”:

Saturday 28th August Green Waste Skip
9.40 am – 10.20 am Stickford War Memorial

This is the time, twice a year, when those villager gardeners who can’t or will not shred and compost garden waste line up with their bags of unwanted hedge clippings and tree prunings and dump them in a large truck provided by the council. The truck transports the whole lot off for shredding and composting and everyone is happy.

We’re among those who can’t compost our hedge clippings and excess grass cuttings because our back garden is not large enough to accommodate anything more than a minute composting bin. So we’ve been bagging up the excess, waiting for the Green Waste Skip day like other responsible villagers.

It was quite an event. We got to meet people we’ve only waved and smiled at in passing. Everyone exchanged greetings, and said polite things to the guy in charge of pressing the button on the back of the truck to compress the growing mountain of waste so there was room for more.

I had the feeling I should have made cucumber sandwiches and put up a couple of flasks of tea so we could make a party of it.

It’s strange, the kind of things that make up village life in England. Most people are obsessively concerned with the neatness of their house and garden and scornful of those who do not ‘make an effort’. Yet these same people will defend those who through age or infirmity can no longer keep up with the work and are obliged to let things slip. There is, however, no obsession greater in village life than gossip and ‘fitting in’. If you wish you can listen to the most scandalous things about those of your neighbours who do not ‘fit in’. I prefer not to, mostly because I’ve learned that most gossip is based on cruelty, meanness or jealousy. If there were a ‘live and let live’ party they’d like as not get my vote.

So, anyway, we joined the queue, the little blue Ford groaning slightly under the load of quite a few bags of half-rotted
green waste. The inside of the car smelt rather like a fresh cow-pat even though we’d not packed it until minutes before we set off. The job was quickly done, and we returned to the house to change wash up, change clothes and have a nice cup of tea while the open-doored car aired on the drive outside.

Next port of call was the weekly car boot sale at Stickney where, ably assisted by Graham, I scoured about a hundred small stalls looking for nice china or porcelain for my eBay venture. Believe it or not, there wasn’t a single piece worth more than a cursory glance. About half-way through, we sat down for a well-earned cuppa at one of several refreshment stalls.

“How are you doing?” Graham asked.

“Not good. I think we’re seeing all the end-of-season junk here.”

“Could be. I do know that we’ve thrown away better stuff than anything I’ve seen.”

“Well, it was only a scouting expedition. I think I’d better check up on the antique fairs and sale rooms.”

“I think you’d do a lot better there, especially the sale rooms, but I don’t think you should give up on the car boots.”

On the way through the rest of the stalls Graham caught me fingering through a display of glittery costume jewellery. This is another of my weaknesses. I do not and never have had an urge to wear jewellery of any kind but I do love the stuff, and I admire it when it’s worn well by other people. As a kid I used to beg broken and cast-off glittery stuff for a collection I kept in a small box designed along the lines of a pirate’s chest. I liked to play pirate games back then, sailing the rolling main, fighting bad people, sinking their ships, and burying my treasure under palm trees on desert islands. Goodness knows how many times that old box got buried under the privet hedge in our garden. And goodness knows what became of my collection or the box that contained it. I probably swapped it for something more suitable at about the same time I discovered that pirates weren’t nice people at all.

All that’s left of that childhood memory is a fascination with glittery stuff. It’s not unknown for me to pick up a piece when I’m scouring secondhand junk stalls, haggle over the price and bring it home to put up in one of my memory boxes after it’s gathered dust on the shelf for a while.

“Why don’t you get a couple of pieces of this to auction on eBay?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Not really my bag.”

“Go on. I dare you.”

So I did. I never turn down a dare. I found a couple of pairs of rather nice earrings, one amethyst and one garnet, mounted in sterling silver, and I shall clean them up and put them up on eBay just as soon as I’ve got the time. Just to see if PayPal works, and to add to my seller’s transaction count, which runs at a pathetic ‘2’.

It’s all part of the scouting expedition. I know that I’m going to enjoy selling stuff over eBay, but I’m still working on the fine detail. Like, how do you pack a nice bone china tea cup and saucer so it’ll survive a trip through the mails? And what do you do if it turns up at the other end broken? That’s a worry to me. I shall work it out, though. This, unlike a poetry drought, is a problem I can solve.


 Garnet and Amethyst in sterling silver
Treasure trove



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