Tuesday, 30 July 2013
Week 6: the Street
This week, I gave stuff away through a recycling method I've come to love since moving to London 13 years ago. Some might call it flytipping, but I prefer the phrase 'sending it to the street'.
Sending it to the street involves leaving unwanted items on a garden wall - with a note, if you want to make it really obvious that people aren't thieving when they take the goods. Even better, you could leave your stuff on the pavement itself, although this is likely to annoy neighbours and passers-by (especially if it's a large item, like the children's slide we once gave away in this fashion).
Having said that, we've never had to wait for longer than a few hours before the stuff has been taken. Even - and please don't try this at home, as you probably will be arrested for flytipping - when the item in question was a used mattress. We vowed to just leave it outside our house till nightfall, so that it didn't make the place look messy. But within a few hours, a passer-by had claimed it for their own.
We've done well out of the street. On our road, there are several families with children just a little older than ours. We often come across toys that are in very good condition, which have simply been outgrown. And the other day we picked up a manual lawnmower and a natty watering can. We've even furnished our front room with a (new-ish) sofa our neighbours didn't want to lug to their new pad in the country.
The general assumption that anything left outside is up for grabs, can be misused. My cousin's broom, for instance, was taken when she went inside for a ten-minute tea break. The brush was inside the garden wall, so this was a pretty clear-cut case of stealing, but the people involved would probably have claimed they thought it had been sent to the street. And, when my partner D accidentally left our own pushchair on the roadside in a sleep-deprived moment, we knew there was barely any point in returning to see whether someone had delivered it to to the nearest house for safekeeping. No, it was gone, to the first passer-by that understood the law of these parts: send something to the street, and within a short while it will be on its way to a new home.
Ironically, the street law was broken this week, when I tried to give away some mint for Our Time of Gifts. The plant (part of the abundant colony in our garden) was so withered and shrivelled within an hour or two, that nobody deemed it worthy of picking up. So instead, I sent something to the street via a different method: a charity bag.
This form of giving is easy (at least, it is where we live). Once a week (on average), a bag is delivered through your door, from one of a variety of different charities. If you have any unwanted items on the list, you just pop them in, leave them at the roadside on the day indicated, and they magically disappear. It's like taking clothes to a charity shop, without having to go much further than your front garden.
There have been reports of phoney collectors roaming the streets in vans, collecting the bags of used clothes, shoes and (sometimes, depending on the charity) bric-a-brac that are destined towards recycling centres. To be honest, if you were the sort to choose a life of crime, I'm sure there must be more profitable scams than driving round in a white van, looking for bags of old shoes. But, like the police suggested, I dutifully checked out the charity whose name was printed on the flimsy plastic: Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, a bono fide charity whose cause I agreed with.
This time, the street accepted my gift, graciously and swiftly. Natural order had been restored. People in our local streets could now rest easy on their passed-down mattresses, and second-hand sofas.
Update: today (5 Aug), the street regurgitated a gift for us. This shoe rack - perfect for storage in our shed - was dumped just outside our house. Sweet.