Last week, in the pursuit of the frugal life, I entered unchartered territory. Frankly, it’s something I should have engaged in long ago but, surprisingly enough, the opportunity had never really arisen until now. I was walking home after meeting a friend for a coffee in town and, typically, it was pouring with rain. As I wandered past a row of houses, carrying my dripping umbrella, I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. It was an enormous hardback copy of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton and it was sitting in a large skip in somebody’s front garden.
Often when I walk past skips, I have a quick look inside them out of sheer nosiness. Friends and relatives have been telling me for years that they have harvested all manner of things from skips in their neighbourhoods. One couple I know pretty much furnished their home with reclaimed tables and chairs. But until now, I’ve never spotted anything worth nabbing, besides broken filing cabinets and random pieces of wood from building sites. Plus I have always felt a bit awkward about taking things from them. From a legal standpoint, you must ask the permission of the person hiring the skip before you help yourself to anything – someone DJ knows was once arrested and bundled into a police van for helping himself to a kid’s colouring book from one – and I guess there is also a bit of social stigma attached, although it’s ridiculous really when all you are doing is recycling something that somebody else has discarded.
But next to the copy of Jurassic Park I noticed something I did want for a change – a copy of The Victorian Flower Garden by Jennifer Davies. It’s the book from a lovely BBC series which was broadcast in the 1980s/1990s featuring the late gardener Harry Dodson. DJ and I loved the DVD series, along with the other ones – The Victorian Kitchen Garden and The Victorian Garden. He managed to track down the books from the series in various charity shops and this was the only one missing from his collection. Next to it in the skip were at least twenty other books which had been thrown away, despite all being in perfectly good nick, and were now being ruined in the rain.
I was torn between anger that these books which could have been taken to a charity shop were now destined for landfill, and a terribly British feeling of awkwardness about pilfering from a skip in broad daylight. I tried knocking on the door of the house but there was no answer, so in the end I just helped myself and went on my way. By the time I got home, both myself and the book were pretty soggy. However, after a spell in the airing cupboard it recovered and DJ was really chuffed when I presented it to him, so I have no regrets and just might get up the courage to do it again some time!
Have you ever reclaimed items from a skip? Leave a comment and let me know as I’d love to hear about it.
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