Victoriana and junk

While I have custody, the van sleeps in the same spot every night. I can see it from my bedroom window. I’m jumpy about it. Every time there’s a bang in the night, poor Pickle gets ejected suddenly from whichever warm bit of me she’s chosen to nestle into as I pop up like a suddenly activated string puppet. I glue my sleepy eyes to the window until I’m certain that nefarious types aren’t causing damage to the van I’m supposed to be looking after.

Normally it sits empty, apart from a ghost light and a bedside table full of mystic knick knacks from the show. Suddenly today it’s full to bursting. Crammed. I don’t even know what’s there but there’s a lot.

My phone rang at about 2pm. It’s a friend of a friend. I have not been in touch with him directly but I put him in touch with Brian because I’d been told there was a grand piano that was going to the dump. It’s now going to be repurposed, but everything else was on its way to the dump. They were emptying multiple full storage units. They had been working since 10am with a bunch of guys who load up, throw away, charge you for the weight, and return for more. Brian had suggested I follow up, and get the van involved.

These parents worked in theatre. The guy had saved loads of theatre books for us. But the gold for me lay in the random stuff. When I heard it was all going to the dump I got myself up there FAST.

The parents did music hall. There was so much Victoriana, and it can all find its way into Christmas Carol, particularly the mismatched ceremonial Victorian plates. We need plates for carol. Every year we rent them from expensive catering companies, and they’re vanilla. We might just have hit upon all the period catering items we need for a full audience to go “oooh is this authentic?” Golden.

But I’m going to bed without the foggiest idea what’s in the back of that van. I need time and help to sort it. Sure I noticed when I took in an entire leopard skin with head and claws. Sure I clocked the plates, the lovely Shakespearian character tiles. I’ve got box after box of sheet music. A few nice old books. A shitload of smoke damaged busts. I had to move fast. The other guys were just ferrying stuff back and forth to the dump. Throwing it out. Getting it weighed. Charging for the weight. Coming back. Getting more. They were paid by the hour, but their working day finished at 6, and the dump was taking money in exchange for the weight of things with value. I have no idea what they chucked before I arrived. Nor did they.

I liked the dumping guy a lot though. We got talking about how this is what happens to our lives. We all accumulate stuff. It has such value to us. And then we die and it all goes to the dump haphazardly. Ok, my friend in the dump from two days ago might have ended up with some of it in his house. The big prop store might have got a load of it with whatever deal they’ve struck so they can rent it out to movies. But the bulk of it would’ve been landfill. It might still be. But I’m going to sort what I saved, and distribute appropriately to shows, friends, charity shops etc. I’m tempted to follow up on my impulse from a few days ago to start my own limited prop storage company. Although the acting is about to explode for me beautifully.

Still, all these lovely things saved from destruction. At least I can honour their owners. Storage units… They’re stupid and expensive. This family apparently spent £100,000 over ten years storing whatever was there. I’ll have to be smart about what I keep and what I let go. But I’m so glad I have the van right now.



Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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