Hard Rubbish Hunting
Our great mates the Gregory Five (2 adults, 3 kids) have just bought a renovator's delight: quite literally the 'worst house in the best street'.
Over the weekend, they had been given pre-entry rights by the family of the dead Aunt who used to live there. "Hey Dad, what room did she die in?" asked 9 year old Patrick, with genuine interest. The deceased's family were more than happy to let the Gregory Five swarm in, clean up and remove any of the furniture not already taken by the Aunt's various nephews, nieces and great-versions.
Love Chunks, Sapphire and I offered to help. LC would help Kent move out the furniture and knick-knacks left behind and Jill and I would get to work wiping out cupboards, scrubbing loos and kitchen benches in preparation for some of their stuff to be stored. Sapphire, at age seven (yesterday!) had the best job: just play with the Gregory Three: either outside, in their empty in-ground pool or inside the transportable rumpus room.
A couple of hours into the afternoon saw most of the house clean enough to unpack Gregory Five gear, and the worst of the furniture out onto the footpath. As luck would have it, their posh local council was having their twice-yearly 'Hard Rubbish Collection' this week. Residents were able to fling out anything that wasn't a) poisonous, b) a danger to the environment (macrame excepted), c) green matter (put them in the bin you pay for, idiot) or d) car tyres.
Love Chunks and Jill looked at a copper and tar indoor pot stand, both commenting, "That's about the ugliest bloody thing in this house, and that's saying something!" Indeed it was. The house may have had some beautiful art deco brick features, glass, interior doors and fabulous ceiling roses but for some reason, Auntie decided to give her entire home a facelift. Sadly, it was one from the 1970s. This was the particular decade that gave us the Bay City Rollers, cork platforms, burnt orange and mission brown laminates, Womens' Weekly Recipe Cards and the Sonny and Cher show. Suffice to say it also gave us Number 7: The Home That Taste Forgot.
The main bedroom was painted a thick layer of lilac which went well with the brown berber-striped curtains, home-made white built ins and gold-flecked lino. The second bedroom was, in LC's words, "wall-papered in a golfer's trousers". If I hadn't seen it for myself, I would not have believed it - some fat guy died so that this room could resemble his putrid plus fours.
Mercifully, the bathroom was too compact to stuff up too badly style-wise, but she had given it a red-hot go. White 'equipment' (bath/shower,toilet and handbasin) were all acceptable, but the technicolour floral wallpaper we could all have done without, as with also the busy mosaic blue floor tiles, not unlike my local swimming pool changeroom. Hell, she'd even added a wallpaper border at the bottom of the mirror - why?
Undertaking the cleaning of the kitchen gave me far too much opportunity to see this cack-inducing room up close and personal. Despite having three doors off the room (to the dining room via two sexy saloon doors, the laundry/back door and front hallway), it felt about as open and bright as a troll's cave. She'd gone for the look of 1978 and had obviously gone the whole hog, food preparation area-wise. Pine cupboards were everywhere so that the troll's cave resembled the inside of a caravan and were decorated with matchbox-sized, sun-yellow tiles for handles. These were almost poo-brown with nearly 30 years of accumulated grease, food and grot and make me queasy whilst scrubbing ineffectually at them. The rangehood was - of course - a fetching beaten copper job, overlooking an electric stove with fawn-coloured hot-plate covers. Let me digress here - what on earth do metal hot plate covers do? Protect an unsuspecting idiot from the heat - No - they'd conduct the heat, so you'd still get burned but at least have a fetching leaf print design on your palm instead of a hotplate spiral! Do they prevent dust - what? Since when has a dusty stove top ever been a problem for anyone other than Nicole Richie??
These silly-but-entertaining thoughts were interrupted by someone calling, "Excuse me? Anybody there?" at the front door. An obese version of Where's Wally was standing there, trousers held up with baling twine. "Is this pot stand out here supposed to be in the hard rubbish?"
"Yep," I told him. "Help yourself."
Wally beamed. "WOW! Thanks! I can't believe my luck!" I couldn't believe his taste. Wouldn't you know it - the thing we hated most was the first to go. Admittedly to a total oddball, but there you go. Seeing as I'd made the unconscious mistake of still standing there, daydreaming, Where's Wally decided to make his move. Hitching up his trousers, he whispered into my ear, "You know, if it was this week I was moving into my Housing Trust unit, all of this" ---- he spread his arms wide --- "would go right in!" He looked at me with a 'Hey hey, nudge nudge wink wink' look on his face.
"Oh, that's nice," I said weakly. Oh, is that my HUSBAND, Love Chunks, calling me?"
It wasn't long before Kent was assailed by a Father-Son duo looking most like twin Gollums on steroids. "These dining cupboards here - how much do you want for 'em?" The look of surprise on Kent's face said it all really - you mean you want to pay me money for those three butt-ugly, woodgrain veneer monstrosities with smokey glass and spray-painted gold knobs? "Oh, go for it, they're yours." Kent shot me a look: if that poor loser thinks he's won the furniture lotto, then so be it.
Jill and Dean were trudging back and forth from the shed with various collections of chairs - all in good nick, just uglier than a beer-goggled bushpig at 2:00am. I joined in, flinging several dozen home-embroidered lounge cushions, quilts, platters and coffee tables into the fray. A third ute pulled up and the soft furnishings were snatched up by Ma Clampett before the cigarette in her mouth had a chance to drop any ash. "See yers," she croaked, her gnarled old face cracking into what she thought was a smile but in actual fact reminded me of a handbag with the zip broken.
Where's Wally was back again, this time with his dog, a jack russell puppy. He made a beeline for me. Unfortunately. "I've left a note on the units, saying that they can't be taken, 'cos I'm gunna go back home and get my van." He noticed the tree growing smack-bang in the middle of the front lawn. "Are they grapefruit? Do you mind if I take one?"
"Take FIVE," offered Jill, who'd only just told me a second ago that the bloody tree would be the first living thing whipped out at this address. Any thoughts I had that he'd now favour Jill, weren't to be. He sidled closer. "Did you know that a grapefruit costs almost as much as a banana?" I didn't know that, and thought that it was very interesting but hey, I'd better head back inside to get back to work, so enjoy the fruit....
Worzel Gummidge called out, "These CHAIRS are great - you should be SELLIN' 'em, not leaving 'em out 'ere for us to get!" His beady eyes spied the three dining units. He took a few moments to read the note that either the two Gollums or Where's Wally had left on them. "HEY!" Kent wearily wandered back outside, struggling to appear faintly interested. "You live 'ere?"
"Y-e-s," Kent answered warily.
"These dining cupboards here. Who says you can leave a note to 'barleys' them? It's first in, first-in-the-trailer as far as I'm concerned."
"Oh, I don't really know----" Kent began.....
"Look mate, why don't I give you twenty bucks so that I get to take them off your nature strip right now?"
"That's a kind offer mate," Kent replied, "But I'm not really prepared to get into arguing over who gets to have them. Once they're out of my house, they're free rein as far as I'm concerned." Worzel removed his Port Power beanie to give his head a good scratching. "Hmm, so if I shove them in right now, then they're all mine, aren't they?
"Er whatever," said Kent, disappearing back into the house.
Sadly, we never did get to see the scene when Gollum x 2 and Wheres Wally turned up, full of anticipation and hopes for their latest furniture acquisition. By that time, the house was clean, locked-up and empty of all of its treasures. Including us.