Swine flu or a 2nd-hand bonanza?

Did the early morning walk today – early to bed, early to rise and all that guff.

Someone had kindly parked a shopping trolley outside my house. A teenager walked past as I came out of the front door, his music tinny through the headphones and audible from 50ft away. I contemplated tying him into the shopping trolley with his own headphone wire and pushing it down a hill. Perhaps I’m not a morning person…

As I walked through town I realised that, at the risk of being mistaken for a reasonably well-dressed homeless chap, if I’d brought the trolley with me I could have half filled it with the number of dumped pub glasswear lying in doorways and on window ledges. Perhaps I could sell them back to the pubs. Actually, given that my lazy workmanship recently resulted in almost every single glass I own being smashed, I could have restocked my own kitchen several times over. Then I saw a girl’s cardigan draped across a bench. Then a pair of sunglasses. Not for the first time, an assortment of beads strewn across the pavement from some cheap and flimsy costume jewellery. A flip-flop. That struck me as odd. Who loses one item of footwear and strolls on nonchalantly?

Is that more or less odd than leaving BOTH shoes in a corner?! Which is what I saw next. Bizarre. I could’ve opened an admittedly completely rubbish second-hand store from the discarded items on the streets.

In picking up innumerable pennies from one section of roadside (I think that someone had quite literally just thrown their small change up on the air “This is just too heavy and I must be rid of it!” – there was about 30p in pennies), I remembered a comment made by a good friend of mine a week or so back. She said I should really take a bag or something to collect the coins because they might be covered in all sorts of germs – perhaps even swine flu. True…true. But on the other hand life is fraught with risk anyway, and the very reason we have a generation of kids suffering with asthma and so on is because we’ve created this monumental fear of bacteria. We need to encounter bacteria, germs etc in order to build our immune systems. Kids need to handle crap, and so do we. Not ACTUAL crap; I’m not recommending encouraging your child to juggle dog turds while you nod approvingly and tell your partner the boy won’t get a cold THIS year.

And talking of kids – they’re the worst litterers. Bizarrely, on these early morning strolls, I’ve seen a huge quantity of kids’ stuff cast aside: dummies, those cups with the lids that stop children spilling drinks, bibs, baby booties, tiny sunhats, Kinder Egg toys and more. Can’t blame them for the Kinder Egg toys I have to say… But there are clearly dozens of babies toddling the streets late at night, rejecting the gifts of doting grandparents and well-meaning friends of their parents. They’ve evidently recorded their own breathing to fool the baby monitors so mum and dad watch TV blissfully unaware that their 1yr-old is currently on the rampage, hurling teats from artificial milk feeders into doorways and emptying the contents of their tiny sock drawer into the gutter. One day one had even lobbed his or her nappy at a car. Honestly, something needs to be done about these toddlers – they DO say each generation is getting worse…

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People know how to party

It’s a Saturday early morning, and I’m still awake. So, consciously acknowledging a lack of social life this weekend I make the stroll through town as dawn breaks.

The usual scene greets me – I’m not going into detail, I’m keenly aware that I rant all too often on the hitherto unnoticed debris that greets the street cleaners on a weekend morning.

Coins of varying values are dotted around, and I’m reasonably pleased with a 73p haul for the Small Change camper van (the money-box receptacle kindly given to me by a lovely person after subscribing to the Small Change concept). I haven’t added it up as I go, but I’m aware it’s not a bad taking.

Then I stroll through the car park of the local supermarket. I started adding this into my occasional dawn walks because I’d so frequently see a dropped 5p or copper coin when buying shopping during the day. Nothing. There are several shopping trolley shelters dotted around the car park – those perspex tunnels. Several pizza boxes, discarded crusts and an empty Pepsi Max bottle lie in one of these tunnels. I grimace at two things: the abandoned rubbish, and the thought that this was actually several people’s Saturday night. Thank God I’m such a grumpy sod. In gazing in such a judgemental and negative way I see coins beyond one of the pizza boxes. Four pound coins, a twenty pence piece and a fifty pence piece.

I instantly forgave the messy pizza-eaters, embraced their finale to a great night out, and pocketed the coins – a personal best Small Change collection after a week which had until that point seen not a single forgotten penny come my way.

Post-apocalypse

The Saturday night of Rhythms was a late one for me – my friend went home at obscene o’clock in the morning, and I walked off the last of the alcohol in my system ambling into town. And oh my god…

SO much rubbish strewn around it looked like people had just been incinerated where they stood, leaving only whatever they’d been holding at the time. Pigeons picked among broken glass for titbits, strangely avoiding the glaringly obvious and available piles of takeaway trash. That’s quite a comment on the quality of the food that a broken Budweiser bottle (of all the lagers to choose) holds more appeal…

ROTW weekend did result in a couple of pounds’ worth of coppers and silver however, but I may have missed far far more because there was an infinite amount of detritus to draw the eye.

I’m told actually that Rhythms even warranted a front page story of a Sidney newspaper in Australia. That’s quite some reach…but then, leaving aside the unfortunate aftermath, it’s a great occasion.

I didn’t point out to the bizarre elderly preacher I encountered later in the week that the apocalypse he was confidently and threateningly announcing had in fact already taken place. Funny though isn’t it how you tell a chap politely that he’d be wasting his time talking to you, but he persists, asks questions, and when you wrongfoot and outargue him he resorts to sarcasm and insult. Hell hath no fury like a Christian scorned it appears…

We got rhythm…

What a stunning day, and indeed a stunning week. Gorgeous weather, blistering sunshine…

My Small Change pot as grown a wee bit too…since my last update I’ve collected 97p, including perhaps the dirtiest and least recognisable tuppenny bit (who still uses that phrase that isn’t also able to describe rationing or thought the Beatles were modern noise?) which was in my brother’s garden. He’s been tarting it up and I have to say it looks fantastic.

I’ve noticed, weirdly, that I have a habit of looking particularly at parts of the street where I’ve previously found money, as though it actually grows there, or spawns there from some alternate universe. Nope. Fool.

There have been a few extremely useful suggestions for worthy charitable recipients in response to the previous update, and of course I hope for many more. I shall shortly create a page on which to track the various options, and towards the end of the year that page will contain a poll on which we can all vote…so keep suggestions coming. Feel free to brag publicly about your Small Change collection or individual finds – I know of at least one person who’s come across a fluttering fiver to bolster their collection.

It’s Rhythms of the World (ROTW) in Hitchin this weekend, and as ever the atmosphere is terrific. Happy people creating a carnival feel. I myself should be heading tonight into the grounds where the once street-based ROTW festival is now held, and probably tomorrow daytime too. Let’s face it, it couldn’t be better weather for what I overheard one man describe over the phone to his friend as “the best plan: sink a few cool ones and chill out on the grass.”

Who to give to?

It’s a rather overcast Sunday morning, but warm. Yesterday’s sudden downpours and half-hearted thunderstorms brought a little respite from the humidity, but I hear Monday and Tuesday we could get temperatures of over 30 degrees…

The week got off to a good start cash-wise. I came across a pound coin in the supermarket car park. It sat centrally in a parking slot, so whoever dropped it clearly couldn’t be bothered to scrabble around under the car to pick it up again. Good…

Apart from that – a very quiet week – a couple of 5ps, and that’s about it…

So I thought I’d mention the possible charities themselves, and how we’ll go about choosing them. Yes – we. Because I’ll set up a poll later in the year that collectors can vote in. I think two or three charities, and split the money between them…

So suggestions really would be welcome. I would like to avoid charities with any religious affiliation, simply because that might alienate some people. Some people also seem reluctant to give money to charities that support the needy abroad – on the basis that they believe UK charities should come first. I don’t actually buy into that, in part because money goes a lot further in the developing world. If I bung two quid at a homelessness charity, for the sake of argument, in this country, that might buy a box of teabags, but in Africa it will buy text books for a village school. Big difference…in my opinion.

Animal charities divide opinion too. It’s rather a tricky topic, all in all.

The only other proviso I’d like to enter is that I don’t think we should necessarily go for the best known charities. Breast cancer charities, for instance, while obviously enormously deserving, raise millions every year and enjoy an extremely high profile. There again, Save The Earwigs in That Tiny Village The Name Of Which Nobody Can Spell But It’s Quite Near Andover And The Pub Does Great Chips would obviously be rather obscure. Probably doesn’t even exist actually. Just a big con. Someone should investigate.

Hmmm…just something to think about chaps…

Hurty eyes

My eyes hurt. They’re tired. I’m tired. One of the problems with being a freelance copywriter is the ebb and flow of work – right now, it’s flow, which is good for the bank balance, but bad for the delineation between working week and weekend, and actually day and night. But I took advantage of the odd hours I kept this weekend to pick my way into town not long after dawn.

Not a bad haul, all in all – 55p, made up from an assortment of coppers, 5ps and 10p pieces. Certainly made it worthwhile. It’s a funny thing though – you’d hope to have the streets to yourself, bar the pigeons pecking at the discarded kebabs, chips and burgers – but people are around. A shrill motorbike disturbed the quiet, a clattering diesel transit, a strange man who was telling either the pigeons or me to f*ck off. I rather resent all that. Strangely, the motorbike more than the abusive oddball…

Earlier in the week I came across odd coinage here and there, so over the week I’ve added another pound or so to the collection.

One day, while sitting outside my usual coffee haunt, a rude boy car drove by, and the passenger shouted out the window: “G – O – O – H!” He seemed to aim this abbreviation in the direction of a nine-foot blonde with shrink-wrapped clothing. What did it mean?! Perhaps he was dyslexic and reading her his personal ad from the lonely hearts column – GSOH. I don’t know…all very odd…

Jake lives!

Afternoon all…and a beautiful afternoon it is too..

Quick update to let you know that Jake the crow is still with us (see Saturday’s post). I phoned the vet this morning, and it turns out that the wing wasn’t broken, and they’ve stitched up her tail (yes, I decided she was a she and am now referring to her as Jake – live with it) where the damage was, and she appears to be suffering no internal injuries… She’s now recuperating at a sanctuary. Hurrah! I just hope that’s not the same as ‘gone to live on a farm’…

After the weekend’s heady heights of Small Change collecting today could hardly compete, and my finds were restricted to a single 5p piece. On the other hand, while picking up some cheap garden shears I was given a crash course in quality parenting. A small child, pretty harmlessly, but I’m with the mother on the non-handling thing, was starting to pick something up from a shelf. “Get yer ‘ands off it. Gimme that!” shouted the mother. What excellent, if somewhat contradictory, instructions. I was disappointed when she didn’t clout the child brutishly, or impale it on her very sturdy looking spiky hair.