WE were standing in the middle of the road in the semi-dark like sweaty ducks who’d lost their way, or the world’s worst middle-aged lady robbers.
There wasn’t much said for a few seconds because, like ducks that blindly follow the leader until the leader stops, those of us in the rear weren’t quite sure what we were doing, but we weren’t going to do anything about it.
I didn’t mind the pause.
The street we were in wasabout 50 metres from the beach. The houses were huge, the gardens were beautiful, and there were worse ways to spend a few minutes than wandering around in the semi dark checking out how other people lived while they were –we hoped –asleep.
We’d been running for about 20 minutes by the time we turned into the beautiful street and came to a halt, which accounts for the sweat.
Then the leader –and I’ll call her Tiffany because she hates it –spoke.
“Is that a surfboard under there? It looks like a surfboard,” she said.
Ahead of us was a pile of junk waiting for a council garbage collection.
It was neat enough, but in the semi-dark before dawn all I could see were broken garden implements and a three-legged chair, a rusty bike, a floral lounge that was probably comfy back in 1967, bags bulging with fabric things, plastic pot plants and the kind of pool toys people buy for kids that end up on footpath garbage collections within a week.
I saw a pile of junk, is the long and short of it. Tiffany, on the other hand, saw opportunity.
“It is a surfboard. I knew it,” she said from somewhere behind the pile, which suddenly collapsed at one end aftershe heaved on something and stepped back into a hedge with a grunt.
Tiffany doesn’t surf. Her husband does, but after decades of pounding the waves he doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would botherwith a board found at the bottom of someone else’s junk pile.
“What are you doing?” I finally asked.
The other sweaty ducks had moved on tolook at something interesting ina garden two doors up –a garden gnome, a strange cactus, a cat,it doesn’t need to be much –while I was left with Tiffany and the junk.
“What does it look like I’m doing? I’m rescuing a surfboard so Barry (hubby) can mount it on the wall in the courtyard behind the shower,” she said.
If you can’t quite picture what the hell she was talking about from that description, join the club. But I’m used to these conversations with Tiffany so I soldiered on.
“What?” I asked.
“See this surfboard? Barry and I were at a place near the beach where someone had mounted an old surfboard behind an outdoor shower and when people came back from the beach they washed themselves off there. It was great. Now Barry can do it at our place,” Tiffany said.
Tiffany and Barry live near the beach, and their house isn’t very far from where we were standing beside the junk/opportunity pile.
Barry has been on extended leave from work and Tiffany has had him doing projects on a list. I’m not sure that’s what Barry had in mind when he took extended leave –the small sigh of resignation that escapes him every time Tiffany refers to The List suggests he might have had other ideas about passing his days –but that’s what he’s been doing.
And now he was going to be mounting a surfboard on a wall at the back of his house while somehow not stuffing up the outdoor shower head and pipes that arealready there.
“I thought you said Barry wasn’t much of a handyman?” I said to Tiffany as she grunted and carried on while trying to heft the surfboard on to her hip.
“He’s not, but how hard can it be to put a surfboard up on a wall?” she said.
I was going to say something, but there’s a point you reach when you’re standing in the semi-dark and your friend’s making a mess of someone’s junk pile that you just want to run away quickly. I imagine robbers might feel the same way at times. So I picked up the heavy end of the surfboard and we walked it back to her house.
Barry didn’t say much when we placed the surfboard in the courtyard and Tiffany outlined her plan. They’ve been married for more than 30 years. Barry not saying much seems to be the key to their success.
And it must be said that Tiffany’s eye for finding things and giving them new life is impressive. Their home is a monument to the found object. While I’m quite happy to leave an outdoor shower as an outdoor shower without a funky surfboard mount because I’m basically lazy when it comes to that kind of thing, Tiffany and Barry create beauty out of, well, junk. And they’re not the only ones.
Early morning runs with some of my friends have a certainurgency on council garbage collection day. The race is on to beat the garbage trucks before they consign the junk/opportunities to oblivion.
“Get away from the cupboard,” I said to another friend, and I’ll call her Beryl, as four of us ran past a small pile of junk on the weekend and Beryl peeled off to check out a chest of drawers that, even from four or five metres away, looked like it was well pastits use-by date.
“I just needed something small-ish for the spare bedroom,” said Beryl, who gave up on the drawers with a shriek after a pile of creepy crawlies appeared as she prodded and poked.
While I regularly turn my nose up as we headpast junk piles on our runs, I have to admit to one early morning score. My neighbour twodoors up is not, by his own admission, a gardener. Thus he couldn’t see the need for a number of lovely big terracottapots that were lined up on the kerb in front of his house one day.
I swooped like a hawk.