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Money for old rope

April 28, 2013

My husband is away this weekend at a ‘Boat Jumble’. To the uninitiated, this is like a huge carboot sale for boats, held every year in a landlocked field, where boaty types don smocks and thigh high gaiters to flog off old fenders, anchors, rusty bits of unidentified metal and rope. Lots of rope. You can’t come home without a nice bit of rope.

We went together in our early courting days, when I was given the impression it would be a romantic weekend away, perusing bric a brac and antique collectables for a couple of hours, followed by a night in a cosy B&B with a roaring fire. I ended up in a muddy field, being drizzled on for 36 hours straight, discovering how unwaterproof a pair of Converse sneakers really can be, and just how uncomfortable it is to sleep two people in the back of a Citroen ZX. I sat, fascinated, at just how long two men could string out a conversation on portholes, and amused myself by trying to find the most useless piece of metal on display. Many a time I would think I had found the ultimate piece (a mushroom vent missing its thread; a wrench without the monkey) only to be amazed anew at the next stand where someone was selling – for good money! – an algae-encrusted, half-eaten anode, that was no more going to save a boat from electrolysis than I was to ever get the cowpat stains off my shoes. This annual event has never featured again on my calendar.

Instead, yesterday morning, I packed the husband off with a bottle of whiskey, a change of underpants and strict instructions not to spend more than £200, and to consult me on acquisitions worth more than £50. His phone can’t have very good reception because so far I’ve not heard a word, yet a photo of three expensive-looking brass lamps has appeared on his Facebook page, captioned with a very pleased ‘Purrr-chased!’. They must have been bargains.

My husband is a perpetual bargain-hunter and will not be able to go shopping for the next three months now without attempting to haggle on the price. Even in Tescos. “This cheddar looks really nice,” he’ll say, motioning to the deli counter girl to get her attention. “Let’s see if they’ll give it to me for a sensible price.” It’s why he is such a big fan of EBay, as the auction-style of purchasing allows him to fix a maximum price he’s willing to pay for an item, and then be pleased when he gets it cheaper. It’s a shame they don’t sell cheese.

So, with a whole weekend to myself, I decided to go about my normal chores, and with hubby’s imminent arrival this evening with something large and leaky, the first on the list was to get rid of the recycling that has been stacking up under the steps, so that he would have room for his new toys. And the rope.

And it made me realise – with not a little dismay – just how many bottles we have got through since the last run to the bins, and this despite me being on a ‘weekday soberthon’ since last weekend (excluding Thursday as I couldn’t be expected to sit through a charity quiz for work without a reassuring plastic cup of warm white wine in hand. And Wednesday, because I had dinner with my brother. It’s possible I also put some wine in the Bolognese on Monday too but I can’t quite remember.). The amount of bottles, cans, cartons and tins we have stacked up over a couple of weeks is really quite staggering, and I worry for the planet, for the trees, and for my liver. Obviously there are other things in there than alcohol, but all these boxes, bags, packets and cartons come from consumable products that we collect from just a short distance down the road and consume almost immediately, satisfying a basic need before dumping it all in the ground. I pride myself on the fact that, as a house(boat)hold, we throw away only one black sack of rubbish a week, but all this extra stuff, even though it will be recycled, is a colossal sum of effort, money, waste and time, from the beginning of its lifecycle to its ultimate end. Just so we can eat individual pork pies that have probably been halfway up the A1 before coming back down to form my picnic lunch, and drink wine that has been grown the other side of the globe and shipped thousands of miles. It all seems a little… unnecessary.

And, suddenly, whilst pondering all this, I realised that the boat jumble was actually an excellent idea; a useful way of recycling old, unwanted goods; a chance for someone’s no-longer-needed items to form part of another’s essential possessions. One man’s buggered old engine is another’s spare flywheel for his generator. People always like to see ships’ wheels on the side of pubs. Dinghies with holes in the bottom make excellent flower pots on roundabouts.

So whilst we may be forced to throw away a small mountain of packaging out of necessity, we can also choose to balance this with a healthy amount of creative re-use and recycling – taking things that others no longer need and utilising them for our own purposes. A bit like the Wombles but with a little more rust. And I’ll be proud to hang those brass lamps on our walls and wonder what former vessel they lived upon, and know that our 107-year-old barge is contributing to the environment in a small, unmeasurable way.

And you really can’t ever have too much rope.

From → Blog

One Comment
  1. sue davies permalink

    He is, indeed, his Father’s son. You have my sympathy.

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