Second Hand Store

“Oh my goodness, that looks just like something I made in wordwork class thirty-something years ago” was my first reaction when I saw the shell-covered jewellery box in the second hand shop on Oxford Street late yesterday. On closer inspection, I noticed this one displayed a greater level of professionalism (you might say) than might have been evident in the craftsmanship of a 12 year old. Besides, I know THAT particular piece of child-craft (hipsters would love it) remains safely back home in Lismore. I haven’t looked closely at it in over twenty years, though I might do so when I head back home in a couple of weeks.

This particular second hand store on Oxford Street is quite an oddity. Located in the midst of a stretch of bars, restaurants and sex shops, it really stands out. As you enter the doorway, you never really knowing if you’re entering a legitimate shop or maybe the overcrowded house of someone with hoarding instincts. Like the famous overcrowded bookstore in Newtown, you’re never really able to walk very far in the shop without the need to excuse yourself as you pass by someone else. When I popped in there late yesterday for a look around there was just one other. As I left, two others were coming in.

The shop is a wonderful collection of items. Some of it is plain junk, of course. But as I looked around I saw some things I found genuinely very interesting. There’s a painting on the wall, for example, which I asked about, and told the bloke I would come back in over the weekend to purchase. There’s also some lovely old radios in good condition. If you’re ever on Oxford Street, it’s definitely worth a look.

Toby O'Neill Cricket Bat


I found this piece of 44 Gallon Furniture in my back laneway.
I found this piece of 44 Gallon Furniture in my back laneway.

Although I know for a fact a lot of people in my ‘hood really hate it (our Body Corporate sends regular reminders the City of Sydney has regular pickups for large items), I really quite like that people use our back lane-way as a short-term dumping ground for items they no longer need. By doing this, hopefully other people might be able to find some use in them. At the moment, for example, there’s a couch that’s in pretty good condition there for taking. If I didn’t already have a couple of very good couches, I’d consider it myself. A few years ago I remember seeing a washing machine which was also in pretty good nick. But yeah, I understand the argument discarded items like these have the capacity to attract vermin, as well as being unattractive.

Amazing Lounge snapped in Surry Hills
Amazing Lounge snapped in Surry Hills

What I quite like about these items is the potential stories behind them. Over the last few years I’ve tried, as much as possible, to document and share on this blog, some of the more “interesting” items, and to imagine/reflect on how they came to be discarded. The last time I wrote was when I discovered a wheelchair in the back laneway. Wow, what was that about? I also remember seeing, and being very touched, when I noticed some items discarded from the house of two older women who lived closeby when, presumably, one of them had died. But there were also some funny items. I still laugh about the furniture made from 44-gallon drums and the leopard-skin lounge.

I don’t know what to make of the cricket bat I saw in the laneway earlier today. Has Toby just grown up or has something happened that means he no longer needs his cricket bat?

Discarded Wheelchair

Discarded Wheelchair

I found this piece of 44 Gallon Furniture in my back laneway.
I found this piece of 44 Gallon Furniture in my back laneway.

Although it’s been quite some time since I posted something in my “Discarded” category, I was instantly compelled to do so tonight.

My “Discarded” category of posts is about the interesting and unusual things often left in my back lane way for other people to take away. Although I realise the dumping of old furniture and rubbish in the back laneway causes distress to some, I’m quite sanguine about it. I already think there’s too much crap in the world, and we’re putting too much stuff into landfill (including a disturbing amount of food), that I’m happy for people to offer up “something to the universe” in the hope someone else will take it away and do something with it.

On occasion, I’ve brought the items upstairs and have made them part of my own life. The lamp in the corner of my lounge-room for example was something I found in the back laneway, and with a little dusting off, found it was just perfect for my house.

Other times there have been some things which I’ve truly wondered about. For example, there was once some furniture made out of 44 gallon drums. Yes, seriously. That’s taking recycling to a whole new level, especially since they were neither interesting or attractive. I couldn’t imagine anyone who would want them. And so on that occasion, I thought they should have simply been sent off to the dump. Seriously, who could find a home for these chairs?

Discarded Wheelchair
Discarded Wheelchair

But other times, I’ve been truly curious about what’s been dumped in the back laneway. There was a time a few years ago when I noticed a LOT of furniture in the back laneway. As I wrote at the time…

Just a few doors down from my place there was an older wardrobe, a couple of matresses, a bedside table and various other items probably from somene’s bedroom. As soon as I saw the furniture I knew exactly what it probably meant. It probably means one of the two old ladies from that house has passed away, which is very sad. I could be wrong, but you just kinda know when someone has passed away. The beds, the matresses, the furniture no longer matters. And for a lot of people it’s important to discard these items as quickly as possible. I remember when my dad died, for example, and my mum burned some of dad’s things the following day. I didn’t really understand it then. I thought it was all too sudden. I turns out, though, it’s a fairly common cultural norm amongst many cultures all around the world.

And so tonight as I went downstairs to the garbage room to deliver some of my own crap back to the universe, I noticed there was a wheelchair in the back laneway. “What’s the back-story there? I wondered to myself. Someone who used to personally need a wheel-chair but who no longer does? Good news? Someone who had cared for a family member for a while but no longer does? Maybe sad news? Someone who had been doing a Bette Midler or Lady Ga-Ga tribute show?

Although it looks like “junk”, just about every piece of discarded furniture presumably has a good “back story”…

Mannequin Leg

Communal Garbage Rooms

Only in Surry Hills would you find not one, but two, “artificial limbs” in the communal garbarge room of your apartment block. Calling them “artificial limbs” is a little dramatic, I know, as they’re just part of a mannequin. But using the phrase “artificial limbs” sounds a little more dramatic. And I did feel a sense of drama as I entered the garbage room last night. “Oh my goodness, it’s a body”, I thought to myself at first.

I have to say one of the great things about living in an apartment block of thirty two is the communal garbage room. Although sometimes it can be stinky, and you have have to hold your nose, other times it can be absolutely fascinating. You get to know when someone new has moved into the block. You get to know when someone has bought a new appliance. You get to know when it’s party season by the large number of bottles in the recycling bins. And you get to pick up the odd piece of discarded furniture or clothing.

As a child, I would often go with my dad to “the tip” (as we called it then). Dad was a collector, too, and we would often bring home items as diverse as furniture and musical instruments. Many years ago, I understand, dad used to play in bands at restaurants and cafes around Lismore, and so even into retirement he maintained an interest in collecting instruments – everything from bass drums to piano accordians.

I also carried this trait into adult-hood. Memorably there was an occasion when Damien and I were living together when I noticed a full collection of Encyclopaedia Brittanica outside our apartment block. With a dozen in my arms, I made my way to the front door and knocked, asking him please to open the door. “You’ve got those fucking encyclopaedias, haven’t you?”, he shouted back from the other side. He knew me too well.

Even now, I’m a “collector” of things. I have five suits, for example, that I wear to work, and all of them were bought from second hand stores.

The desk I’m writing on, for example, was “found” on a nearby street four or five years ago. I’d spent the afternoon with Damien and was telling him I’d been looking in vain for “the perfect desk”. I wanted something reasonably large, but without drawers. As we made our way to a friend’s place for early evening drinks, we spotted two or three desks left out on the street corner. “That’s the one”, I said, and so we picked it up, and brought it home.

Philosophically, I think there’s far too much crap in the world, and so if there’s something that can be recycled, I think it should be. But in the last year or so I’ve been trying to collect less, and I’ve also been de-cluttering. I’ve realised there’s not only too much crap in the world, there’s too much crap in my life.

Ten years ago I might have picked up the “artificial limbs”, but not now…

Discarded bar stool in my back laneway

Fully Sick

Discarded bar stool in my back laneway
Discarded bar stool in my back laneway

As I left the house I couldn’t help but notice the rather exotic looking bar stool in the back laneway. There were shades of “The Sound of Music”, I thought to myself, with the material looking like discarded 70s curtains.

“The chair underneath must have been REALLY bad”, a mate commented when I showed him the photograph later in the day.

I was on my way to a friend’s place to continue to help him organise and pack boxes ahead of moving house this week.

I was already running a little late though. I went to bed on Saturday night feeling a little sick. And even though I woke early, I’d gone back to bed for a few more hours to see if my health could improve.

It’s nothing serious, just a bit of a cough/cold/flu thing that seems to be going through my workplace at the moment. A colleague tweeted earlier that she too was feeling a little crook. Presumably something she had picked up from her husband who also works with us. She further noted that another colleague had been coughing earlier in the week.

Despite my illness, we managed to do a fair bit of work today, and it’s looking like he’ll be okay for the removalists on Monday morning.

In record time I made it back from his place at Hurlstone Park, via Ultimo, and then via Surry Hills, to Crown Casino where I had tickets for the opening night of a new production of “West Side Story”.

Discarded bar stool uncovered
Discarded bar stool uncovered

Unlike many of the revived musicals, these days, there were no “headline acts”. Instead there was a good strong cast, with an especially strong actor playing the role of Tony. He had a lovely voice.

Although I’m familiar with the music, I’ve never actually seen a production before. For that reason I guess I enjoyed it doubly, as it was something both familiar, but also quite new.

A good show, and a good production.

He stayed around for a drink and snacks at the party afterwards until eventually I began to fade.

On arriving home I couldn’t help but notice the bar stool was still in the back laneway. This time, however, it was sans cover. Underneath it wasn’t so bad afterall.

Britney on the Wardrobe

Discarded Wardrobe

Britney on the Wardrobe
Britney on the Wardrobe

As I walked to work this morning I snapped these shots of a wardrobe which has been literring the back laneway.

I can understand why it hasn’t been taken away already, as it’s pretty old and crappy on the surface.

But then as you look closer, you notice the Britney Spears stickers, and you really understand why it hasn’t been taken. There’d be just too much work in getting it looking good, I suspect.

As I looked at the wardrobe I was reminded of my own teenage wardrobe.

First there were Sherbet posters. Darryl, Garth, Alan etc with their hairy chests (yes, even that young) collected from the middle pages of TV Week and TV Times.

They were later replaced by ABBA (posters everywhere), until finally also discovering the delights of Corey Hart (another hairy chest poster from TV Week, or was it Smash Hits).

Discarded wardrobe in the back laneway.
Discarded wardrobe in the back laneway.

In these days of built-ins, I wondered if the teenage wardrobe still existed as depository of adolescent fantasy and desire?

Or maybe I’m jumping to conclusions? Maybe it actually belongs to a thirty year old gay man?

In other news, I went out for lunch with one of my former bosses today which was great, and my friend Sue has arrived from Melbourne for work for a couple of times.

Life’s good, eh?

Ikea Staff Sloppy-Joe

So Cold

Ikea Staff Sloppy-Joe
Ikea Staff Sloppy-Joe

Another day, another discarded item.

Yesterday I mentioned the terrific sound system I found in the back laneway. Today, it’s a lovely sloppy-joe I bought at the Salvation Army store near Oxford Street.

And tonight I’m wearing it for the second successive night. Winter has arrived in Sydney (well, autumn really, but it’s chilly enough to start to bring out the winter clothes).

As I mentioned on Facebook and Twitter, I figure the Swedes know best how to cope with winter, and so a second-hand IKEA staff sloppy joe, though made in Vietnam, is probably the best way of dealing with the next few months.

I’m approaching winter with a bit of dread, actually. I know how grumpy, and downright unhappy I get when winter comes around, such that it is in Sydney. Yes, I know I’m complaining about something which isn’t that bad after all.

Last year I went overseas for three months.

This year I’m spending a week or two with my friend Sue (visting Darwin), and I’m currently hunting around for flights to Beijing (to visit my friend Kate who is living there at the moment).

I’m hoping the combination of both will ease the winter pain. In the mean time I have my sloppy joe from IKEA.