Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Landfill 1: Wombles 1 (Landfill win 5:4 after penalties)

Moving house inevitably generates a lot of rubbish for disposal, and my recent move was no exception. It also uncovers a number of items which strictly speaking aren't rubbish, but which can't be left in the house and which you have no desire to move with you, and this being a Sunday, you are unable to donate to your local charity shop or leave out for recycling. Such things are sadly destined to find their way to landfill.

Such was the fate of a disowned, rusting can opener. It did not belong to us, perhaps left hiding at the back of a cupboard by a previous tenant, or perhaps even left behind by the builders after finishing off their Spam and beers. Who knows? Without an owner, it was consigned to the refuse sack for a future of propping up the topsoil.

Or so we thought. However, moving house also uncovers fundamental differences in philosophy between the "I can live without it - chuck/sell/donate/get rid of it" school of thought and the "better not get rid of it, it might come in useful one day following the nuclear holocaust" school of thought. Moments following disposal, an adherent of the latter school, no doubt horrified at the prospect of a perfectly good can/bottle opener being thoughtlessly discarded to a future of slow oxidation and biodegradation, had retrieved it from the sack. It was in a perfectly usable condition, but we all have can openers with better functionality and which looked less likely to be harbouring Clostridium tetani, yet to wantonly re-discard the thing seemed a little, well, decadent.

As previously intimated, moving house exposes divisions and also brings difficult decisions. Rusty yet serviceable can openers fall into the pile of stuff classified as "collateral damage". The unwanted opener was returned to the rubbish sack in a swift, cloak-and-dagger style operation, as soon as the wannabe Womble was out of sight. Though glad to have got rid of the damned thing, I had a sneaking suspicion that the wanton disposal of usable implements was bound to come back to haunt me eventually.

It didn't take long.

All last week I had been opening the fridge door, parched after a long day of work (i.e. days of sitting in meetings whilst occasionally gently cajoling people towards my point of view) to find bottles of very lovely and enticing beers sitting teasingly at eye-level, chilled and just waiting to be drunk. Ready to drink, that is, but for want of an implement to remove the bottle tops. The image of the rusty can opener danced before my eyes, as did images of landfill sites being pored over by hordes of Wombles, triumphantly waving their rusty yet serviceable finds.

After a week of pathetically hunting through boxes for a bottle opener, I eventually succumbed to the need for instant beer and searched instead for alternative implements with bottle opening features. Exposed (trendy?) brickwork in the kitchen looked promising, but the mortar left no exposed edges suitable to open the bottle on. The granite worksurface looked like the sort of the thing the landlord probably would rather not have crown scratches on, the table likewise. The forks were too rounded and broad to get under the crown to prise off. I eventually found a small and fittingly rusty flat-heat screwdriver, which worked perfectly.

A beer later, I felt completely vindicated by the decision to chuck. Two beers later, my mental film reel of the goading Womble wielding a rusty can opener was replaced by a scene of Womble carnage - thousands of Wombles lying dead or dying on landfill, fatally stabbed or mortally wounded courtesy of the rusty can opener and its C. tetani population. I didn't think a third beer was required...

On another matter, I have no idea why on earth I thought a late night and a couple of beers was excellent preparation for spending four hours rowing on the Tideway early the following morning. Three days later, everything still hurts.


KindaBlue said...

Never mind towels; everyone out there hitch hiking across this daft galaxy of ours ought to know where their bottle opener is.

I'm glad you left it at two beers, though. I shudder to think where that Womble fantasy might have been heading.

Casdok said...

Drinking again?!

But Why? said...

I thought I knew. I was sure I did.

I didn't.

Repentant sinner that I am, I have learned.

I'm glad I left it at two beers as well, otherwise I think I'd had been in a far worse state after a double outing in an eight. As for the womble fantasty, that rusty screwdriver certainly did for them. It will be replacing the axe as my weapon of choice. Perhaps Cluedo should be updated to include Dr Why on the landfill with the C. Tetani... xx

If only... Having now discovered a suitable implement to gain access to the beautiful beers, I am deeply pleased. They make the politics so much more bearable. xx

trousers said...

I haven't read this piece yet. I'm not sure whether I want to: how on earth (or anywhere else) can it possibly match up to such a singularly wonderful title?

I'll come back to it I'm sure :)

DJ Kirkby said...

Lol...was the rowing worth the pain?

Wayfarer Scientista said...

I've heard of people using their teeth before...I'm glad you didn't resort to that. I'm with you though - I'd be throwing the thing out too (and may get the chance yet as moving is just around the corner).

But Why? said...

I shall bear this in mind in future and supply only the most tedious of titles to encourage you to read further... On second thoughts, perhaps that's not so hot an idea. I'll continue to take the risk.

Definitely. It's part of the attraction. (Yes, I do realise that sounds rather screwed up, but seeing that I spend the rest of my life sitting at a desk, getting out in the rain on a cold morning for a few hours' exertion is enormously satisfying. It's also good to train on and get to know a stretch of water I've only raced on previously. Being able to row for miles without needing to spin is a massive bonus, too. The only downside was that our cox needed to be reminded we had to stop for drinks breaks now and again.

On the move? Where to? Does the disreputable dog know yet? How much stuff do you have with you anyway in the middle of nowhere??

Teeth were not a viable option (This is not because I don't have my own, I do. I'd just like to keep them all in working fashion for as long as possible.)

trousers said...

Well I read it and, I have to concede, it's a good post. Very nicely (sorry for such a bland word) descriptive of the trials and tribulations of uprooting. I'm sure it would be easier, in this particular respect, to move to a different part of the world entirely: you would have to be far more ruthless with what you were to retain and to throw away out of sheer necessity.

Next time there's such a good title though, don't be surprised if I run away from the article again as a first response :)

Pixie said...

people seem to come in two sorts those that throw and those that hoard. And not sure if you can change from one to the other. which goes somewhere to explain my angst at the number of plastic bags that youngest has to keep in his room.... WHY?

But Why? said...

Thanks for returning. I do apologise for having put the frighteners on you with the title. I may have to try moving to another part of the world as an experiment to ascertain whether the tendency to get rid of things rather then horde things is a linear function of the distance moved. I suspect it's sublinear in land distance and exponentially related to the number of oceans which need to be crossed.

I think the reason why is "in case..." The decision to hoard is less likely to have horrible consequences than the decision to dispose, as the parable of the rusty bottle opener illustrates. My grandfather used to hoard. He was a refugee; I'd have thought it odd if he didn't keep hold of items which might conceivably be of use at some point in the future.

Rob Clack said...

Surely there's a bottle opener (and corkscrew, of course) on the Swiss Army knife you keep in your handbag.

What do you mean, you don't carry a Swiss Army knife? It's a vital piece of equipment. Go out and buy one now!

But make sure you put it in your hold baggage when you fly, or they'll confiscate it.

But Why? said...

Rob C,
My Swiss army knife got lost whilst sandboarding in Peru in 2000. So traumatised was I by its loss that I have been unable to find it within me to replace it...

Well, OK, that's not strictly true. I just haven't had a need since then for a Swiss army knife, that was, until I couldn't find a bottle opener. Maybe Santa will bring me one next month?

Wayfarer Scientista said...

well, I'm hoping the Disreputable Dog hasn't clued in yet because he will immediately get anxious that I might forget to pack him. Sadly the details of the move are still up in the air...the wheres are anyhow. The whens are the end of December. I will post about it eventually. I'm trying to hold off until December as a stress management plan. And yeah, I don't have much stuff here in the middle of no-where but what are you going to do when you can't move the handy dandy old vehicles in the yard (just in case the parts come in handy and you can't go to a store that has those parts). No idea if I'll remain in the middle of no-where (but in a new no-where) or if I'll actually join the rest of humanity somewheres.

Maddy said...

I had completely forgotten about the Wombles! I the States they just shoot off the neck of the bottle - or maybe I've just been watching too many Westerns.

But Why? said...

I suspect the rest of humanity is over-rated. As for the DD, I shall be very quiet about the subject of moving when I'm over at your place - I'm speaking in hushed tones as it is - wouldn't want DD to overhear.

Oh, believe me, if I'd had a gun, it would have long since been discharged in the service of gaining entry to a beer. Not that it's that difficult to get access to guns here now, but all the same, I think I'd rather have a firearm-free home.

As for the Wombles, I do miss them. I wonder whatever happened to Orinoco et al.?