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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Re-inventing wood

It is the start of my third and final term at University. Things are looking good - I am cruising towards a First, pummelled the opposition (ie other students) in my Innovation module last year and have been approached by a Department vis-a-vis a funded PhD.

Admittedly, there are a few things found the house I would have preferred to have completed (I have photographs of the progress we have made, but will only publish them at the start of November) such as my office and the second bathroom BUT last week we were hit by disaster. I was working on my deck. I should explain - previously outside our rear door was a sheet of chipboard resting on a pile of rubble. Not a design affection from the Brutalist school, its just that we didnt have the money to buy a deck. Quotes revealed a price of approximately 350 pounds for a simple 2metre x 5 metre affair. Wood is expensive in the UK, but I guess that's the price of deforesting your country in the name of building an Imperial navy. Anywood, recently, in the yard of the company I occasionally work for (most of September slogging the highways of UK} was a whole bunch of decking. Discrete enquiries revealed that this nearly pristine material - which is actually the most expensive kind being treated, thicker and wider than the normal stuff - was destined for the skip. I took advantage of the fact that as part of the job I was working on a truck was in my possession, and paid for by the company, and loaded the truck until it groaned with decking. With the exhaust pipe scraping the floor (I had overloaded the truck by about 50%) we made it the sixty miles to Hull.

THe end result, and all a visitor will see is a shed, a deck and a pagoda type thingy in our back yard, that were otherwise all destined for the skip. Obviously, I'm delighted I got all this stuff for free, and it did take a lot of effort, but to me getting the stuff was a no-brainer. I just did what my father (and most Dads of the time) would have done. I'm not inclined to see the past with rose coloured spectacles, but my father's generation re-used things as a habit. I can clearly remember, as a wee pup, spending a whole afternoon hammering used nails straight so they could be re-re-used. String would be saved. PLastic was valuable - especially large plastic sheets - and my Dad's shed is still waterproofed using the wrapping from a new sofa they got in the Seventies.

I was telling a neighbour, who was observing my deck-work-in-progress how I had acquired the materials, and if she and her husband wanted some of the surplus, they were very welcome. This same neighbour asked me if I had ridden the length of Hadrian's Wall in aide of Charity and was surprised when I replied negatively. As I completed my explanation my neighbour droooled:

"Oh, I love Freeganism. I love it. You should make some street art with what's left over"

At this point I curtailed the conversation, curtly. I dont really mind that she's fallen victim to the phenomenon of branding and therefore has to re-label a pattern of activity that humans have engaged in for two hundred thousand years, but at Street Art, I draw a great big line. Art, if it is to be conducted at all, should be done for a purpose, thoughtfully and conducted by a skilled artisan. In respect of much street art, the fact that this doesnt happen and is instead a community activity conducted by amateurs, or an assembly of old junk or conducted just because a street thinks it should have some street art means that the Street Art is, more often than not, actually vandalism.

None of this is the disaster reported in the opening paragraphs. The disaster is that as I was trundling towards a completed deck, revelling in the fact that in this house I am finally building stuff for pleasure and not just structural necessity, I discovered that we had a leak in the water pipes below our ground floor. I used the word 'disaster' but in truth it was nothing of the sort - it was merely very inconvenient. A disaster is being trapped in a Chilean mine. The result of our inconvenience though is that when the next visitors come, they may be sitting on a half built deck, with half a floor under their feet, not to mention an uncompleted fireplace.


Grasshopper said...

I had never heard the term "freeganism" until this post. Not two days after reading it, however, I saw an advertisement for a TV special on "freeganism"!! Wow. I guess the up-side of this ridiculous terminology is that it makes reusing old materials fashionable. (As an aside, a post on YNWA also taught me the word "staycation" before it had ever made its way to Nova Scotia...additional proof that we run behind the times - or that you're well ahead of the times...maybe YOU'RE the one making up these words since I hear them from you first!!)

MJN said...

I promise I am not making up these words - they unfortunately come to me. And I think you're correct - at least if people get into "freeganism" as a fashion trend, its less crap in the landfill. Although I do wish there was a landfill for some of this ugly language - and incidentally some of the terms I am beginning to encounter in my final year - there's the old chestnuts "reflection" and "learning styles" but these year I have been forced to encounter "grounded theory", "action research" and "the curious notion of "social capital" if evolutionary anthropology hadnt already caused me enough stress!!!