Skip Diving made Easy
Pop gets the opportunity to show his skip diving skills on TV...
We lived our lives on other people’s trash. Oh, not the squishy black bags full of unspeakable stuff, but just about anything else. Tinned goods, frozen TV dinners, packets of dried foods – all of them a little past their use-by date and nearly all of them just as good as if bought that day in the supermarket. Our furniture came from the same sources, slightly chipped chairs. Ruffled, ragged rugs and tatty televisions. Any excess items were disposed of in our permanent yard sale, generating the cash needed to pay for stuff we couldn’t hunt for. But it was amazing what people would throw away and my prize possession was a nearly new laptop that someone had spilled coffee all over. A bit of a clean and it worked beautifully.
We lived comfortably enough on what we found and anything else we needed was traded through the Circle – like minded individuals who, for example wanted the espresso machine we’d found in exchange for three boxes of soup. It was a neat arrangement, but sometimes we needed a little extra boost to our finances so when Pop had seen the advertisement for participants in a new TV series ‘Trash ‘n Treasure’ and a large pay-out, he had signed up.
It was a little past one O’clock in the morning and the TV crew were getting a bit itchy. So far, we had had little which was film worthy and the director was looking at his watch more and more frequently.
“Look, John, “he said as kindly as he could although it was through slightly gritted teeth, “I think we may have to call it. There’s not been much in the way of content and really I think we could…”
Pop waved his hands placatingly. “No, no! Look, do you want to see the good stuff? I mean the really good stuff? I’ve got this place and it’s cool because they’ve got all these gates and dogs and things.”
“Ah, listen, we can’t condone anything illegal, you know. It’s just…”
No, it was not illegal, explained Pop to the growing interest of the director. The site was actually on public grounds, he had the proof if it and the only reason it was so well protected had something to do with the greed of the corporations that regularly dumped their unwanted items there rather than share them out to those in need, like Pop. Honestly, it’s clean; edgy enough to be interesting to film.
The director gave in and we all bundled ourselves into various cars and vans; a small cavalcade seeking out something worth seeing.
I asked Pop where we were going because I had a foreboding – a bad feeling as the Americans would say.
Pop gripped the wheel and stared straight ahead.
“Hunters yard,” he murmured.
I looked at him like he had just said ‘I am a penguin’. It made that much sense.
I told him so. Hunters Yard? Really? I felt more than a little anxious.
Because Hunters Yard is where the big bad boys of skip-land put their unwanted stuff. Unwanted but wanted. To be buried or burned but not taken. By anyone. On pain of pain.
Because the bad boys were not just bad in the corporate giant sense of the word. No. they were bad because the corporation they ran was one of the biggest crime syndicates in my part of the world. And being rather naughty people, they tended towards naughty things like controlling theft, murder and narcotics. Like any corporation this generated a great quantity of items that were no longer needed. Sensitive emails, Call logs, bloodied handguns - you know – trash. Being civic minded citizens, these gentlemen needed somewhere to ‘recycle’ such trash and Hunters yard was their recycling centre. They even made money out of it because if you had an item that was, shall we say, soiled or had any other imperfections like nasty DNA or fingerprints on it you could, for a fee, take it to Hunters who would ensure it was responsibly disposed of. Guaranteed satisfaction.
So, you can see why the idea of visiting to take anything out of their trash would not be a career enhancing move.
“It’ll be just for show, OK?” Said Pop. “I’ll make it look like I’m taking something, pretend I’ve been spotted and leg it back. Look good on camera. Then we can collect the fee and that’ll be it.Easy.”
That little word jangled in my ear. Cooking an egg is easy. Falling off a log is easy. Breaking into a secure facility run by a criminal syndicate could result in appreciable agony. Pop would not be swayed, though and there was a kind of inevitability about it as we cruised the edge of town on a collision course with fate.
My heart was hammering when we drew up in a darkened side street. The TV crew pulled up behind. Pop led the way, all the while talking quietly into the camera, the boom floating over him like a little grey cloud.
“This place is crawling with guards, or so I’ve been told. But it’s important to show the people the kind of corporate excess that leads to valuable items being thrown away when they could just as easily be given to those in need.”
“And what kind of things do you expect to find here,” asked the director.
“Well, you know it could be just about anything, computers, laptops, office equipment – even food. Those lavish hospitality parties can dispose of trays full of prime stuff…” He lowered his voice to a whisper as we approached a high concrete wall.
“It’s on the other side of this wall,” breathed Pop. “there are some small trash cans further down there, so that’s where I’ll climb. I shouldn’t need to ‘cos this is municipally owned land. But the gates are always locked just the same.”
We scurried down the alley and watched as he climbed onto the trash cans, raising his head slowly above the parapet. After a moment or two he climbed back down, frowning.
“I can’t see anyone in there. Come on over.”
With varying degrees of difficulty, we hauled our bodies and various pieces of filming equipment over the wall and onto a low platform. The yard wasn’t terribly large but contained a lot of skips, all a uniform dark grey. To one side stood a small portacabin, darkened and shuttered. The director cast about for something worthy to film, streams of security guards, ravening dogs – anything, but was severely disappointed. Pop had already clambered to ground level and was starting to look inside the nearest skip. Empty. So was the next and the one after that. In fact, the entire yard of 24 skips appeared devoid of the laptop haul Pop had been expecting. There wasn’t even the sniff of a vol-au-vent. Nothing.
Except for one thing. As was the way with things it was in the final container he looked into. Slightly smaller than the rest. Not locked but closed by a heavy metal lid. Pop and heaved at it whilst the TV crew sighed and paced nearby. The noise of the lid coming back onto its’ support caused them to start. Pop raised himself over the side and paused with his body half in and half out.
He pulled up slowly and looked at me. “Empty – apart from this,” he said.
It was a box, a couple of feet long, maybe 6 inches deep. There was nothing remarkable about it but the director was grateful for anything.
As the camera rolled, Pop slid the top of the box open.
12 little bottles looked up at us, each one bearing the label ‘Mullets, a malt-based drink’.
Pop grinned. “Jackpot. A nice little selection of whisky miniatures.”
The show aired a week later, although Pop was disappointed to find that his part in it was confined to about 2 minutes. The sequence at Hunters had, at my insistence, been heavily edited to leave out anything that might show its’ name or location, despite that the little box seemed innocuous enough.
“Curious name,” he said, twirling one of the tiny bottles around in his hand. “Never heard of ‘Mullets’ before.”
“Probably Japanese, Pop.” I replied, emptying our most recent haul carefully onto the floor, mostly packets of biscuits and nuts.
“Yeah,” answered pop thoughtfully.
“Why don’t you try one?” I asked.
Pop looked shocked and shook his head vehemently. “Can’t do that, son. It would detract from the value of the box.”
“Well, what are you going to do with them then?”
Pop grinned. “A nice little offering for Mr Plessent, I think.”
©Nick MacIneskar 2020
In part three, strange events signal the start of an unusual week for the Dunghill Skippers.