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16 WHEELER (watercolour on paper Paul Fairweather December 2017)

What goes around comes around, the recycle of life.

I recall a story of a lady cleaning out the home of two deceased spinster aunts. They were frugal and meticulous hoarders and had a box room, where they stored everything in labelled and catalogued boxes. She was amused to find one small box labelled, Pieces of string too short to keep.

For me, that pretty well sums up the challenge of throwing stuff away. I never know when that little piece of string might be needed.

I find the annual January local Council kerbside collection a bittersweet process. Besides the challenge of letting stuff go, it is liberating to get rid of accumulated rubbish, but there is also the guilt of having so much disposable stuff. While not seasonally a spring clean, for me, New Farms’s January collection is a physical manifestation of the yearly resolution to get more organised.

When I was growing up, we didn’t seem to have much clutter. There was just less stuff, and we had a trailer, so there were regular trips to the tip. Those trips were mostly to dump garden waste, but to us, the rubbish tip was a spare parts supermarket in the never-ending pursuit of building the perfect go-cart. We retrieved fruit boxes, bits of timber, wheels, and axles from broken prams, carts, and trolleys. Our creations were rudimentary and powered by gravity and the occasional push. I always envied my father who had a goat-powered billy cart as a boy in Blackall, Western Queensland. The local council would round up the feral goats and auction them off. Those that didn’t end up as goat pies were harnessed for the enjoyment of the local children.

A few years ago I built four go-carts with the kids and their mates. The idea came to me when I was debating whether to throw away some short timber off-cuts that I had been saving in the garage ceiling for seven years since building the house. They were perfect for go-cart chassis’. I lamented that I had discarded the Bugga-boo the previous year, or the missed opportunity of any number of old bikes and prams I often see on roadside collections. In the end, I had to resort to the hardware store to source the wheels and axles, but the rest of the structure was from bits and pieces I had hoarded over the years.

The go-carts were a great hit, though interest has waned over time, and one was wrecked last Christmas when my older brother jack-knifed it while showing the kids how he did it in our day.

I tried to rebuild the broken cart but ended up putting some of the pieces out for kerbside collection last January. A young neighbour darted across the street to ask if could take the old chassis as he wanted to build a go-cart for his nephew. Throughout the afternoon as I dug deeper into the pile of clutter, I found more bits and pieces and spares and delivered them across the street until he had all the parts he would need to build a complete cart.

A year has passed, and I see the bits and pieces still sitting in his garage, and half suspect to find them back on the kerbside this January. But I know how hard it is to throw out a go-cart too broken to use.

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