As everything in life becomes greener and more environmentally aware, if not friendly, there is an interesting site in the UK called ‘Freecycle’. Its aim is to link people who want to get rid of unwanted items to find people who need them, and vice versa, with the result that less rubbish ends up in landfill. The only catch: no money is to change hands. You give and you receive, but you do not pay or receive payment.
As Freecycle’s community is split up into areas, I belong to the one nearest my home. A digest is sent through to my personal e-mail and there I can see at a glance if anyone needs something from my Bin Department, or if I might have a use for something in theirs. The digests make for interesting reading, especially as it’s quite astonishing how many people can be so specific in their requests:
“WANTED: A copy of Marriage Inside Out by Clulow and Mattinson”
“WANTED: John Handy live at the Monterey Jazz Festival – CD”
There’s no harm in asking, I suppose, but how many people do you think will have these exact items lurking in a drawer somewhere? Hmm. Not convinced.
Then there are people who really push the boat out. One subscriber asked for “Booze and baking stuff”. The reason? She couldn’t afford to celebrate her birthday without donations of flour and baking soda and other store cupboard items (presumably to bake a cake?) and was happy with donations of half-bottles of alcohol left over from Christmas. Honestly. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I can’t afford to celebrate my birthday, I don’t.
Some people ask for the strangest of things: “a fertility monitor – any brand is fine, as long as it works.” Given that measuring fertility usually involves peeing on a stick, I do wonder at the wisdom of taking one second hand, even if the sticks do end up in the bin.
It’s also surprising how many people ask for cars “in good running condition” or plasma screen TVs. Remember, everything is free here. Epicurus would lecture such folk on the flaws of acquiring happiness through acquisition. Cheeky acquisition, at that. Still, if it works, there seems to be no harm in asking.
The people offering items can be incredibly generous: I’ve recently seen two pianos up for grabs, and lots of baby items are handed down to new parents through the network. However, the offers can also be a bit unusual. A cement mixer? I guess if you’re working on a new patio, it could come in handy. A very large, thick cardboard box? The odd thing about this is that the person making the offer is living with said item until they can find a willing person to remove it from their lives. An envelope, C4 size? This has been re-offered on a number of occasions and perhaps the offer-er isn’t getting the fact that it’s not worth anyone’s time to travel across London to collect a single envelope just to keep it out of the bin.
Occasionally, there will be an entry which makes me stop and smile. “Terrapin, age 7, looking for loving, long-term home and friend,” or “WANTED: Inspiration, imagination, compassion” – this was a concerned citizen looking for practical help for a local homeless man.
But my favourite all-time entry is the following:
“I have for offer…My Mum!!!!!!!!! First come first serve, collection
A 1949 model, comes with own teeth and slippers.
very fast with a zimmer frame and won’t cause you a problem.
we have decided to up grade to a more slender model and with more
we will also throw in the dad too, he is an older model a 1947, very
fit, may need a MOT, as I don’t think he would pass…for no extra
charge I may be able to service him ready for pick up.
Go on give a home to those past the sexual age of errrrrr My Mum & Dad
don’t do that any more.”
I wonder if the parents ever found a new place to park the zimmer frame?