As I whistled my way home today, with 4 bags of Tesco shopping swinging tightly from my fingertips, my work clothes at that uncomfortable-but-still-wearable state of sweatiness, I spied a strange but welcome sight.
Between two of the large commercial rubbish bins down my front driveway/ the shops I live above’s back alley…was a BIG pile of belongings that someone clearly didn’t want.
Rooting through all the garbage were two chefs from the Italian restaurant who’d come out back for a smoke. I nodded my greeting and set my groceries down to peruse the unwanted possessions.
A whole box or two of kitchen utensils, some rugs, a few dresses, a cordless phone, some vases, two or three glass ornaments, blankets, cushions, several pairs of sunglasses (including a pair of expensive “Police” ones in a pouch)…the whole thing was like the “conveyor belt” at the end of The Generation Game .
So we laughed and joked together as we sorted through the stuff, wondering just who the heck could have lobbed out so much good nicker. Rummaging in a bag I found a wallet. In it was a photo of some unhappy looking dude and a load of credit cards (all out of date by about 5 years). We surmised that maybe the guy in the photo with the expired Barclaycards had felt the wrath of his wife or girlfriend’s pre-menstrual fury after he dissed the Diamond Jubilee and she had done what a lot of birds do (and my ex did to me) and chucked his stuff out. I took it and said I’d take it down the police station later.
Me and a big Iranian chef reached for a crystal ball each and I went “you want them?”
“No, one for you. One for me” he replied grinning and we clinked them together like beer glasses. I pushed it over near my mail box for later, before I trudged upstairs with my shopping.
After a shower and a change of clothes I came back down with some black bin liners to take the usable junk to the British Heart Foundation charity shop and get what I wanted. A couple of minutes into this and a voice went angrily “leave our stuff alone!”
I turned to find an Indian lad of about 18 walking towards me. “I said leave our stuff alone, that’s ours. We’re moving in!”
I stood up and went “so it’s yours is it? You normally leave your possessions out amongst other people’s garbage? Fuck off!”
He looks embarrassed but repeats. “It’s our stuff!”
“I found a wallet in there earlier. Bloke in the photos looks fuck all like you. What’s your name?”
He blanches and then says, “My father is up there, I’ll get him to come and tell you to leave it alone.”
“I think I’ve just shat myself. Who do you think you’re talking to? This isn’t your stuff any more than it’s mine. It’s crap that’s been left here by someone else.”
“I’ll get my dad to come and tell you to leave it alone.”
“Stop invoking your dad as a deterrent! And stop trying to play me as a fool.”
Suddenly an older Indian guy leans over a balcony further down the alley and yells “don’t you DARE touch our things!”
I feel my temper rising and shout back “don’t you leave your fucking shit outside my flat. If you’re moving in why the hell didn’t you leave it outside your flat?!! Come down here and talk to me.”
He marches down the fire stairs to speak to me just as a hairdresser from the salon I live above comes out for a fag. “Everything alright?” she asks looking worried.
“I’ll let you know in a minute.”
The guy marches up to me. “Like my son said, leave our stuff alone!”
I look around. If he’s telling the truth, which I doubt, then he’s genetically stupid as he has left what appears to be the entire contents of an apartment, unbagged, unsigned and unattended in an alley full of garbage bins and right up against a load of wooden boards, that one of the shops couldn’t fit in the bin and the garbage men later refused to take away.
“This is really your stuff?
“I’ve just told you that. Stop arguing, why do you need to argue?”
“Fuck off and stop yelling at me,” I shout back. “If this really IS your shit, why leave it here. We all thought it was rubbish.”
He relaxes a little bit and says “sorry, we didn’t mean to be long, thought it would only be a few minutes.”
I stare at him in disbelief. The hairdresser is looking at us and laughing. I turn around to find the two chefs have come back out and are grinning at what is happening.
“What’s your name?”
He tells me and it’s the name of the guy on the credit cards in the wallet I now have upstairs. I look at him and realise it’s an older version of the photos.
“You left your possessions that you WANTED TO KEEP in an alleyway destined for rubbish…and you’re annoyed I was going through it? Jesus tittyfucking Christ!!!”
I move and his son starts taking stuff into the flat while his father puts a load in a hire car at the end of the alleyway and then drives away.
I go upstairs and get the wallet and go up to their flat. The son is there.
“What?” he asks defensively but relaxes when he sees me holding out his dad’s wallet.
I look at him, he is clearly embarrassed. I say, “just think in future ok? No one was trying to steal from you. You’ve lost half your stuff now. We all thought no one wanted it. And the police wouldn’t help you as…well, do you see now?”
He nods, “yeah, if I’d known my dad was going to leave the stuff there I’d have stopped him.”
I go back down and the lad comes after me to get the last of his things. He finds an apple shaped cookie jar lid. The jar is gone. I get back into my flat and look out the window. He is still looking for it.