books i've been reading

Adventures in Freecycling

Alas, poor Freecycle. No one wants my broken telly, but they aren’t too shy to ask for a non-broken one.

The Freecycle Yahoo group works on a charmingly simple principle: Person A has some crap they will have to put in a skip; Person B would clamber into the skip if they knew where it was because that crap is exactly what they need; Magical Internet C circumvents both skip and clambering, and the crap of the world is recycled. Hurrah!

That’s how it used to work, anyway. There are still noble souls providing everything from the prosaic bookshelves, bedheads and baby clothes to ’12 slim maternity pads from Mothercare (unused)’. There’s even a nice-sounding lady terribly keen not to let a ‘half-used can of squirty cream’ go to waste. (There’s a subtext in there somewhere.) But one couple just moving into their new home have requested ‘*Dining table & chairs (4-6 pref)*Toaster*Kettle*Coffee table*Microwave*Wardrobe (pref flatpacked due to narrow stairs!!)*Small under-counter freezer*Most kitchen stuff minus pots & pans*Curtains*Lamps.’ Apparently I was mistaken about that principle: actually it’s ‘Please deliver your skip of crap to my house, and come to think of it I’d rather nothing in it was crap, and you can make me a cup of tea while you’re at it, two sugars, where’s my biscuit?’ Except without the ‘Please’.

The ‘we’ve just moved house’ handwringing is the crucial change here, though. It’s not enough these days to simply post a mild bit of begging: an X Factor-style ‘I’m doing it for me dead mum, Sharon’ is the only way to ensure only quality crap comes your way. That’s how I know that C wants some size 10 clothes for her young daughter, whose weight problem is preventing her from buying childrenswear; that L’s asking for a Christmas Tree outfit for an 8-month-old because her husband’s in Iraq and she’d like to send him a photo; that ‘Wanted: To see my son’ is in fact a plea for a bicycle to help a newly-separated dad travel to see his toddler. TMI. It’s like online dating, except the punters hope the fleeting attention of strangers will lead not to romance, but some shelves. I blame Facebook. Web 2.0 really has eaten that supposed British reticence, hasn’t it?

(And if I sound unsympathetic, do bear in mind that a suitable bike, clothes and enough kitchenware to restock Ikea were ‘offered’ on the site during the week, if the ‘wanted’ crowd could have been arsed to look.)

Margery Allingham’s Look to the Lady. ‘My dear fellow,’ said Mr Campion with affable idiocy, ‘I have buttered my bun and now I must lie on it. And you, my beautiful, will stand meekly by.’ Like a cup of tea and a hug, in paperback.

The Editathon is over! Apart from the last three pages. They aren’t important, are they? I have (re)discovered that I like editing books the least of all the writerish things there are, which means I feel quite skippy and gleeful at the prospect of writing something fresh and new. Presumably this is how things are supposed to work.

Obsessively reading Freecycle pages (apparently), buying a new telly (delightedly), sleeping (fire-alarm-interruptedly).


2 thoughts on “Adventures in Freecycling”

  1. Well, I love freecycle very much, having got rid of a bigger mountain of crap than I can quite believe (including ALL the packing materials and boxes from our move, to people who were incredibly happy to take them away for us. Hurrah!)I have met some really lovely people, but my goodness, doesn’t it bring out the toerags? And also the illiterate. My favourite was the woman who got really shitty with me because I wouldn’t give her my address until she’d agreed to a pick up time and date, despite the fact I’d put this clearly in the original post, and the subsequent three emails, having already had the joy of a bloke randomly turning up at 8am one Sunday. Or perhaps the bloke who just replied ‘gimme gime gime’ (sic!) to our offer of an elderly playstation. Or, on reflection, maybe the woman who called me arrogant for suggesting she call me on my mobile to arrange a pick up time (spending 50p or something on a call to arrange getting a FREE TELLY clearly being utterly unreasonable.)I’ve seen some cheeky posts, but requesting an entire flatful really takes the biscuit.

  2. Toerags indeed. There was one plaintive post from one of the nice ‘offering’ people, apologising to the person she’d agreed to give a bag of clothes to because someone who’d come to collect a different item had buggered off with the clothes too. Just nicked them off her doorstep! And then there’s the guy who posts at least six requests at a time, the most recent of which were, loosely: a laptop; a desk; an office chair; a telephone; someone who knows about small businesses to help him start one up. I suppose you could say he’s got the entrepreneurial spirit. Assuming ‘I sat on my arse and typed a bit’ counts. People = feckin weird.

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