In London, if you have a thing and it works, someone near you probably wants it. If you don’t want your thing any more, it is common practice to put it on the street. Sometimes you might put a little encouraging note saying “take me.” It’ll be gone in no time. It really will be.
I was standing outside RADA once waiting for a van to carry a theatre set to Earls Court. We had a load of lovely old furniture for a play at The Finborough. In the twenty minutes it took for the van to arrive, three people assumed that our set was up for grabs and tried to help themselves until I explained it wasn’t being dumped. Each one of them was a little passive aggressive with me, as if I shouldn’t have put it on the street in the first place if it wasn’t up for grabs. They left a bit huffy, looking back longingly at the cuckoo clocks and old cabinets.
With this this mind, I walked past an expensive members club today and saw a load of lovely furniture things including a marble top liquor cabinet out on the street.
“Are these up for grabs,” I asked the bloke I identified as the “me” role in this version of events. Joe. Sitting in a high backed armchair. “Take what you want mate,” he said. So I booked an uber XL. Ten minutes later Mohammed showed up and we filled his Citroen full of things. I now have a lovely writing desk, a marble top liquor cabinet, an unnecessary lamp, a something thing for somethings and ooh what a pretty little table. I’m thrilled with that result. Even if I throw some of it out later, the cabinet looks like it was made for my flat.
Then I go back. Joe has told me there’s loads more. But he wants it gone tomorrow. I am off to Wales tomorrow. I’ll see if he can wait until next Tuesday, as all the stuff he has will do well at Gatsby and it’s going to end up in landfill. I can likely take it on Tuesday. There are a few more desks, an amazing table, bits and bobs, pictures, and loads of old lamps. The club is being refurbished. New lamps for old. Some eejit thinks old things look bad, or has a business arrangement with some chancer who makes modern furniture. So they’ll rip the character out of the place and replace it with ostentation, but delboys like me will end up with nice things. If he lets me come back next Tuesday I’ll sort him out with Gatsby tickets.
The problem is, getting back to my block, I realise I can’t carry the two biggest pieces up all the stairs on my own. Mohammed got them inside the front door with me, because I immediately tipped him £20 and he wants to be helpful. But I can’t co-opt an uber driver into getting it all upstairs, big tip or not.
Either way, good on Joe for being so chilled about me loading an uber. At the end of the day his mate showed up with a van and there was virtually nothing left. “I better take some stuff or I won’t get paid for moving it,” he says, so we bring another desk down. There’s so much stuff up there. “I’m just dumping it with some people I don’t know.” says the guy with the van. “I need the van empty at the end of the day. I drive every day for Louis Vuitton.”
I return home once more wishing I had my own van. I contemplate the communal downstairs corridor crowded full of antique furniture like a junk shop, and I manage to persuade a friend who lives locally to hump the two biggest items up and inside, in exchange for takeaway curry. We have a lovely chilled evening. I write this. And now I’ll get back to packing for Green Man. What will I forget?