Posts Tagged ‘secondhand’

Since I found out about it
I’m gonna make my point and shout it
– Mince Meat / Spencer P. Jones, 1994

couchI noticed this couch out on the naturestrip recently. Gorgeous vintage vinyl, I was quite prepared to install it in my loungeroom in place of the ageing beast lurking in the corner (the present couch, not the Bald Man). Sadly, closer inspection showed why it was abandoned – the timber and horsehair insides were literally rotting, the legs snapped off, the stitching unravelling. It was beyond my rudimentary furniture repair skills to save.

As well as tragic neglect of a marvelous bit of vinyl history, the couch represents an informal disposal/recycling phenomenon unique to the Berra. If one has an item that’s no longer wanted but which could reasonably be appreciated by someone else, one leaves it out on the naturestrip. Passers-by are free to take the item, gratis. In my immediate neighbourhood in the past 12 months I’ve seen office chairs, lounge suites, prams, desks, and electonic equipment of indeterminate age and dubious functionality all offered up this way. All of them eventually disappeared, presumably to good homes.

It took me a while to cotton on to this silent swap system. At different times I thought I was observing a) an early start to hard rubbish collection; b) untidy neighbours; c) people moving house; or d) white trash extending their living area. The silent swap is a lovely example of people acting to fill a gap, but the more I think about it the more it emphasises this gap we have in the Berra. Everywhere else I’ve lived offers local residents either an annual hard rubbish collection, or else reasonable tip access for disposing of large items (ie. one or two tip tokens for free disposal per annum). Here in the Berra there’s no collection, and when I asked the real estate agent for tip tokens she looked at me like I’d asked for a month’s free rent. I’m not sure where Berran residents’ rates go, but it isn’t into hard waste management (nor footpaths or potholes, arguably). It’s no wonder an informal recycling system has started up.

Mind you, it makes it very easy for the Berran Government to trot out a very green line. They’re proud to be the first Australian Government to set a goal of sending no waste to landfill, by 2010 no less. That could be possible, given how hard they make it for residents to throw things out.

You’ll excuse my sceptical tone, but refusing to take people’s rubbish isn’t actually reducing waste, it’s just ignoring it and hoping it will go away. Waste, like emotional conflict or things in the fridge, does not improve by refusing to deal with it. I was amazed, and envious, to discover how much better they have it up the road.

Queanbeyan is a town just that side of the ACT border; local Berrans typically look down their noses at Queanbeyan, and of course it’s governed by the basket case government of NSW and a local council. Yet on a recent visit there I learned that Queanbeyan Council works a lot harder to deal with rubbish, recycle and minimise landfill, use water resources more wisely, and really encourages locals to do the same. Things Queanbeyan residents get for their rates that we Berrans don’t, include:
* a three-bin system that includes a bin for green waste, as well as one each for recyclables and rubbish;
* up to two large/hard rubbish collections per year, which you book according to need;
* an annual hazardous waste collection;
* a plain-looking website with straightforward and useful information about how the systems work.
Queanbeyan residents are also entitled to a range of benefits under Council’s Waterwise program, including:
* a free dual flush toilet;
* a free AAA-rated shower rose;
* various subsidies for rainwater tanks, washing machines and other water-saving devices.

Things Berran residents get for their rates that Queanbeyan residents don’t, include:
* a nice-looking website that’s chock-full of a lot of words, fact sheets and some ‘useful’ hints, including how to donate unwanted goods to charity (in case this is a new concept to you), and a number to call if your ‘no junk mail’ sign is being ignored. (I did try to find some more good things to say here but the TAMS website kept timing out.)

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see who’s getting the better deal. The Queanbeyan system certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s much more hands-on and practical. It’s not a load of rubbish.


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Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

– Nina Simone, 1964 (The Animals, 1965)

One of my guilty interweb pleasures is the LOLcats site I Can Has Cheezeburger. Nothing like a dose of goofy to help one’s day through the lumpy bits.

If you like LOLcats, maybe you’ll like The Guardian‘s LOLBush. Here’s two of my favourites:

Dubya is doubtless a man who thinks himself misunderstood.

I just have trouble understanding myself. Like, why did I drive 1300km at the weekend, to play croquet? Well actually, that one’s easy. It was my dear friend Miss Penny’s birthday and I’m never one to pass up several tumblers of Pimms & dry on a Saturday afternoon with old friends, even if it is a bit further to the esky than the next block. It’s been a better season out there on the Breeza Plains, if the road kill is anything to go by. The dead roos by the side of the road were monsterous. I was in a sweat as I drove through the dusk.

There’s other things I haven’t understood in the past week though. For example: why does the Qantarse Club force one to use plastic knives, when all the other cutlery is stainless steel? Damned things don’t even cut the cheese they serve. It’s not logical. I’m sure I could inflict more personal damage with a fork than a rounded butter knife, if I was so inclined. Or indeed with one of the glasses or wine bottles available at the bar. What a stupid over-reaction to the so-called terrorism threat. (This whole line of thought just goes to show how long the delays are at Quantarse these days. Two hours seems standard. There’s going to be a mass exodus of customers before long.)

And if I have trouble with comprehension, then so apparantly does the giant Salvos at Fyshwick, where they have an entire rack for donations they can’t quite get their head around. The heading should probably have read “Be Afraid” rather than “Be Surprised”. I looked, and amongst the masses of 80s tat there were indeed a couple of inexplicable items, including a dress consisting of a beautiful floor-length burgundy velvet skirt, attached to a hideous high-necked and long-sleeved red-and-green tartan bodice, complete with stiff ruffles. It was the sort of garment that might only be countenanced by certain religious minorities. Wheels turn, though, and I’m convinced that there will be something of interest there one day, so I’ll keep an eye out.

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I see trouble on the way
– Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969

Human beings are mostly water (or, after last Friday’s dinner party, mostly wine; I am meeting some very hospitable Berran locals). It’s no wonder then that so many of us seem, like the tide, subject to phases of the moon.

The full moon is the one we discuss most, usually in terms of weird complaints and aberrant manic behaviour from the public and colleagues alike. But I reckon that there’s a corresponding effect in the days at the opposite end of the scale, around the dark of the moon. I’m still studying it, but it seems to bring out a sort of negative, cranky-pants streak, a helpless-belligerent, passive-agressive sullenness, or else a kind of deer-in-the-headlights cluelessness.

On the weekend the road users were all nutso. In Fyshwick, despite having the right of way I slowed down for a bike rider who clearly hadn’t looked towards me. When he did, and noticed I had slowed for him, he pursed his lips and shook his head at me, to signal I was clearly a villiage-idiot-Volvo-driver who drove too slowly. What, he would rather I barrelled through the intersection dragging his mangled bike and person because I had right of way? Well, I rather wish I had, he made me feel so small.

I was still fuming sullenly a little later when, while cruising a narrow road beside Lake Curly-Gherkin, a fellow in a very large Landcruiser leaned over to fiddle with something and began driving directly at me. Too shocked to honk, I took evasive action and narrowly avoided a head-on with both the Landcruiser and various walkers and ducks. Really, it was too much. I had to go home and have a lie-down on the couch.

And I’ll spare you today’s details; a Monday from hell, the kind of day that makes one wonder how it is people don’t go postal more often.

All the tramping around on the weekend was in search of an item of second-hand furniture: a dressing table, to compensate for the dab of a bathroom in my funny little house. I’ve realised a curious thing about the Berra that is unlike any other city or town I’ve ever lived in before. There’s almost no second-hand furniture. All the usual sources, like the Salvos and Vinnies, are wastelands of 80s clothes and 70s pottery knicknacks. No furniture.

Wow. What do the Berra students do? In my salad days I would have slept and studied and ate and everything on the floor if I had not had second hand furniture. In fact, as I look around the loungeroom now, the only item I bought new was the couch. Once I would have thought, I should grow up; now I am embracing my inner recycler. Why do I need so many new things made from stuff freshly chopped down or dug up, when oftentimes there’s a perfectly good old thing that has outlived its original purpose and needs a new home? And if acquired for a bargain, so much the better.

Not that I run an orphanage for old unloved stuff. Much. Except for a lovely vintage bookshelf from a garage sale in Armidale. CD shelves made from recycled timber and copper by a clever friend in Nundle, that somehow go with a wing-backed timber and green vinyl armchair. The TV / stereo stand from the junk shop in the former Walcha theatre. Some funny old stools from those Melbourne salad days, a green vinyl footstool from the Hobart tip shop to go with the armchair. A little round dining table I don’t much like except that it was my Grandma’s, and I still miss her. And now – well, while I’m still searching for the dressing table, I didn’t come home empty handed. Check out this example of the Berra’s style heyday: a 70s coffee table, all dovetailed timber and curves. Delicious.

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