I woke up in a hot sweat this morning, having had one of the most transparent dreams of my life. I was in a supermarket with Nathan and we wanted to buy ourselves a little treat – a bar of chocolate as I recall. As Nathan took the money out of his wallet, a gust of wind took it from his hand, across the supermarket and out into the street. We ran after it, but it had disappeared. All our money is literally flying away!
This morning I solved an interesting conundrum. We have a man who walks around Highgate looking into dustbins. He’s not homeless; at least he doesn’t look homeless. I’ve always thought he was just a bit thrifty; or quite a lot thrifty. My Grandmother’s generation kept everything. On Christmas morning there’d always be the scream of “save the wrapping paper” and her drawers were filled to the brim with things that she’d kept; bits of string, buttons, brown paper, bottle tops. Christmas cards were always recycled as gift tags, cut into bizarre shapes with a pair of pinking shears, but I digress. This particular gentleman is maybe in his early 60s. He walks around with his trousers tucked into his socks, like he’s been on some kind of hiking tour. He carries a little bag with him, and periodically reaches into a dustbin and carefully takes something from it, which carry away.
This morning, however, I found him at the end of our alleyway poking and prodding the bin liners which were waiting for the bin men. We had previously assumed the little holes we often see in our bin bags were down to foxes. On one occasion, a load of sawdust and rat poo had escaped and found its way all over the pavement. We were, of course, mortified, but I think it’s now fair to assume that this gentleman was responsible. Poor bloke must have got the shock of his life when he dug a little hole and sawdust started flowing.
It is a strange thought, however. I suppose I’ve always tended to assume that anything I throw away will be somehow anonymous. Yesterday I was binning all sorts of items of clothing and bits of paper that I’m not sure I’d want someone to be rifling through. Most of me says “good on you” to the ueber thrifty man – but the hypocrite in me says; “could you, perhaps, leave my rubbish alone.”
On my way to the cafe this morning, I came upon a South African man who was having a door fitted at the southern end of the alleyway that goes behind our house. I was a bit miffed, really, as it means we’re no longer able to access our house from that end. He tells me that the alleyway belongs to everyone whose house backs onto it, but that we only own the bit of the alleyway that corresponds to our property. It’s therefore his right, or my right, to follow the logic through, to fit a door that prevents drunks from going down there to pee. I have sympathy for him, but if we decided to erect a doorway at OUR end of the alleyway, then no one would be able to access their houses! I thought the least he could do was offer us a key, but he didn't, and I didn’t make a fuss, partially, because the journey down the alleyway in that direction involves negotiating a series of dangerous pavements which become swampy in the winter, but also because I’ve recently decided I need to pick my arguments more carefully. From henceforth, I shall never complain about something, unless I'm simultaneously complimenting someone on something else. The yin and the yang.
350 years ago, Pepys attended the funeral of his Aunt Kite, writing, “besides us and my uncle Fenner’s family, there was none of any quality, but poor rascally people.” It feels very bizarre to judge the worth of someone purely based on the people who attend their funeral! I'd much rather he blamed everything on the fact that his aunt's actual name was Julian!