Communal Garbage Rooms

Only in Surry Hills would you find not one, but two, “artificial limbs” in the communal garbage 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.

Mannequin Leg
Mannequin Leg

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 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 a 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 accordions.

I also carried this trait into adulthood. 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 encyclopedias, 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…

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