colourful collection 

Forgotten Festivals-

The kerbside clean-up


Ritual and Routine have always been the twin poles

around which human society revolves. Even the wanderings of the nomads, apparently aimless to the sedentary folk of the cities, follows a strict observance to the seasons and the Sun,

regular as clockwork in their peregrinations.

So it is, if I might continue the analogy, that on the great Clock of our Life, whilst the Minute-hand of day to day-Routine ticks by unremarked, there comes a point in the Great Cycle of the Hour-hand where it comes round to the top of the clock once more, and is there joined by the Minute and Second hands. (this is an old-fashioned “grandfather-clock” kiddies, none of your hokey digital readouts for me)

On such auspicious occasions, regular tho infrequent, it is only right to mark the occasion by the ritual setting off of the “Chimes of Festivity” (and perhaps also a ritual springing of the “Wooden Cuckoo of Absurdity”).

Anyway, all this tortuous analogising is by way of introduction to the real subject of today’s sermon; the annual Council “kerbside clean-up”.

For it is a condition of modern urban life that all but the poorest amongst us collect far more stuff than we can fit into the rubbish bin. “Stuff” just accumulates the longer you stay in one place it seems. Packaging, stacks of newspapers, appliances that don’t work, furniture that’s been replaced but you can’t quite bring yourself to throw it away because it might come in handy one day, lumber off-cuts, exercise bikes used once then discarded, outdated computer monitors, etc., etc.

Now despite their own tendencies to anal-retentiveness, Brisbane Council bureaucrats can’t stand the idea of people living quietly in their own midden heaps, and so once a year thereabouts, a Council Collection occurs, where people can drag out onto the footpath anything that doesn’t fit into a bin and contractors hired for the occasion haul it away.

Now this of course is not a “real” or recognised Festival. In theory it is no more than a mundane civic service provided by a Council focused purely on reducing fire-hazards and rats’ nests. But human nature has transformed it into a sort of Potlatch, or perhaps communal swap-meet.

In theory the Council sends around a leaflet a couple of weeks beforehand telling you what date the trucks are coming down your street and instructing you to put your stuff neatly (2 x 2 mtrs only) on footpath the weekend before. Then the contracted removalists appear promptly on said date, toss it all into huge trucks where it is compacted and taken away to become toxic landfill.

Neatly stacked?

Neatly stacked?

What really happens is that at the first whiff of a kerbside Collection people start hauling their old couches and refrigerators out onto the street. Someone leaves a couple of boxes outside their house, someone else sees it and thinks, “Must be time”, and does likewise. Other copycats follow suit and soon the footpaths are narrowing like cholesterol thickened arteries.

Untidy barricades of chicken wire, offcuts, and old plastic plant pots are erected outside every house. They make me want to stand astride them, legs akimbo, waving a Black Flag and crying “Non Pasaran! Viva Anarchia!”

rubbish theres that chair


Anyhoo, as I said previously, in theory the contracted Council trucks turn up on a certain day to remove said rubbish. In reality they just get to pick at the bones of this moveable feast, cleaning up after everyone else has finished. For the Kerbside Collection is an unofficial Festival where we all get to sort thru everyone’s rubbish to see if there’s anything we can use. Because a lot of the time the stuff isn’t actually broken, people have just upgraded and this is their way of sharing. Indeed, in my younger student days many is the shared-house I lived in that furnished itself largely through the Kerbside Collection.

Gavin and John from the Council removing whats left over. Nice guys.

Gavin and John from the Council removing whats left over. Nice guys.

First up usually are the professional scavengers, cruising the streets like sharks in old Utes and battered flat-top trucks. This species follows the Collection from suburb to suburb, looking for raw materials to recycle. Some specialise in metal, some in timber. Some look out for battered washing machines to fix up or old computers to cannibalise.

The ones that really piss me (and others) off though, are the scavengers after copper wire. This species of bottom-feeder come along and cut the copper power leads leads off any appliance on the heaps, whether they work or not. This is extremely annoying as many people put such items out still in working order in the hope that someone else can use them. It’s not unusual thus to see a hand written sign on an old TV or stereo, saying something like:




But the copper scavengers have a poor sense of etiquette and generally ignore such signs.

"You want this?" "Nah mate I've got one at home."

“You want this?”
“Nah mate I’ve got one at home.”


You start to notice more of the neighbours taking walks, sauntering along, discretely surveying the commodities, and coming home as often as not with a lampstand or a fishtank. The weekend before the pick-up the party atmosphere reaches a peak as the rubbish piles engulf the footpaths and everyone in the area is out and about sorting through the debris. Some are looking for something in particular – corrugated iron for a chook shed say, whilst others are just “browsing”. Some objects make their appearance many times, as first one person then another takes it home only to subsequently discard it.

This chair has been tossed out-or has it?

This chair has been tossed out-or has it?

One such case is a circular glass table top I picked up at a KC several years ago, thinking to use it for an Art project. Somehow the project never materialised, so this year in a fit of house-cleaning virtue I tossed it back out onto the street.The next day of course it was gone but subsequently I spied it sitting in the yard of a student-house down the street, along with a decrepit barstool that my next door neighbour had discarded.

I expect I’ll see that tabletop on the street again someday, after this lot of students have moved on.

Glass table-top and chair-taken off the streets and given a good home.

Glass table-top and chair-taken off the streets and given a good home.


The Council bureaucrats of course frown upon this habit of the townsfolk creating their own Festival of Recycling and do their best to discourage it. I believe they even made it an offence at one stage to interfere with the mounds of others’ discarded property. The good people of the town of course couldn’t care less and carry on regardless. Some with middle-class pretensions perhaps will wait till after dark to steal out and make their acquisitions, but myself I’m not so proud. I see it as a virtue to re-use something that was being dumped instead of buying something new. However I do try to make it a strict rule not to bring home more stuff than I throw out.

Unless I see something really good of course. Like that old couch down the road, it’s still in pretty good nick. And those timber offcuts next to it could come in handy too ..and that roll of chicken wire is…

I picked the blue carpet up at the  last KCbut put it back this year. Gone in two hours.

I picked the blue carpet up at the last KCbut put it back this year. Gone in two hours.


nofly zone

Happy Magpie-swooping season! Make sure you wear a hat!


And for those of you in the vicinity of Brisbane next week..

Poets Breakfast posterJPIGwith border



The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet, President of the Kurilpa Institute of Creativity Inc., and an ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanism AND the Church of the Universe .

“The Poet is the Priest of the Invisible”-Wallace Stevens.



~ by reverendhellfire on September 1, 2013.


  1. Here in Canberra we don’t have a formal ‘council pick-up day’; in fact we don’t have a council. Just the same, we can put stuff out on our nature strip and in a day or two it’s gone. Scavengers. My wife died in January; now most of her things are gone, many out there on the strip. I have also had a cleanup of old unwanted chairs and tables and other stuff. I have actually gained a whole new lounge room that was until recently so cluttered you couldn’t get in, and it’s now my proper sun rooom with big windows and a lovely view of the grassy back yard.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: