The Wall: A tribute

P1030177As a natural hoarder and a frugal Northerner to boot, it takes a lot to persuade me to get rid of something that ‘might come in handy some day’ or that has ‘nothing wrong with it’. So when I discovered the unexpected capabilities of ‘The Wall’, I was delighted. Let me explain. At the front of my old flat in Walthamstow is a low brick wall marking the divide between my front garden* and the pavement. Unlike many other walls on the street, it isn’t topped by a fence or railings, so it makes a handy stopping spot for people taking a breather, kids chatting on their mobiles, discarded lager cans in need of a final resting place …

Several years ago now, I discovered another magical quality: if I put things out there, things I no longer wanted or needed, people would take them – and, in my mind at least, would take them to another home where they would be used and appreciated. Until recently, I had no real evidence of this. I started cautiously, attaching notes to encourage people to take my discarded objects. And as the traction seemed to build, I didn’t need the notes and I didn’t hesitate to put out a wide range of stuff. So various pieces of china and kitchenware went out, as did plant pots, handbags, belts, empty photo albums, small games, general bric-a-brac as the quaint phrase goes. There were, it has to be admitted, times when my general buoyancy about the effectiveness of this community freecycling were temporarily dashed, such as when I found a couple of things broken and thrown into the gutter at the other end of the street. Despite such crushing setbacks, I was convinced that people generally took only the things they genuinely wanted. The Wall reached a mini-peak one morning when I saw that someone had set out an array of colourful, bamboo-framed African prints out there. My chest puffed with pride: The Wall had arrived! And the prints proved to be very popular.

Recently I moved out of my flat, and in the frenzy of decluttering that led up to our departure, the Wall proved to be a friendly saviour. Glassware, pans, CDs, whole shelves of unwanted business books, picture frames – a kaleidoscope of household items found their way onto the Wall and, in short order, off it into the hands of new owners. The Sunday before we finally moved, and having committed to disposing of my CDs, I optimistically put out a relatively new CD rack. Due to its unwieldy shape – tall, narrow, unforgivingly hard-edged and with lively removable shelves – I joked that someone would need to ‘phone a friend’ to be able to take it, so it couldn’t be an ‘impulse buy’. A short while later, I was chuffed to find it had gone, but didn’t think much more of it.

The following week, I went out early one morning to tempt the passing commuters with books, spice jars and candle holders. A bright-eyed woman was already there, rifling through the paperbacks I’d just put out. We started chatting and it emerged that this was the happy new owner of the CD rack. She showed me a photo of it in situ in her flat, which she’d sent via Whatsapp to show her son in Bulgaria. The snap showed my former piece of furniture holding CDs (unsurprisingly) and also, having ingeniously removed some of those shelves, vases of flowers, framed photos and other trinkets. It’s hard to tell who was more thrilled, her for owning this new and useful item or me for having met its new owner. I actually think it was me. This has to be The Wall’s peak so far. I already miss it. And I have to confess, when I went back to Walthamstow the other day, I couldn’t resist placing an old kettle out there …

* For garden, read ‘narrow pebbled strip for the wheelie bin and recycling bins to perch on’.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s