Certain people in London, or indeed, anywhere in the UK, are in on a little secret.
If you're one of life's natural cheapskates, or a fervent environmentalist who hates waste, then freecycle is for you.
An online newsgroup forum where people post messages describing unwanted items they want to get rid of, but just can't be bothered to slug down a charity shop. Or indeed, items that don't really get seen in charity shops but are still of value - old washing machines, boxes of left over tiles from renovating bathrooms, I even saw someone offering some unwanted Hob Cleaner the other day.
Anything and everything can be freecycled. It's a living example of the "one man's tat is another man's treasure' edict.
Anyway, back last November we got something slightly better than hob cleaner. We got a new car. Admittedly it would hardly be new by anyone else's standards but it was a year younger than my ailing Peugeot which was fast falling apart and needed a lot of TLC to get through it's impending MOT. The new(er) car, a Nissan, was being given away by its current owners as one of them had become a 'poor student' of the mature variety and had decided he no longer could afford the cost of keeping it on the road. We had told them about our love of old banger rallies and suggested that we would probably drive the Nissan until June (when it's MOT was up) and then take a couple of weeks off and drive it somewhere very far away. They liked the idea and all they asked was money for the tax disc and a photo of the car in some remote location when we eventually took it on its swan song trip.
So we took the Nissan off them, gratefully, and donated the Peugeot to two student rally friends who will weld and tinker it back to health and then drive it 9,000 miles to Novobirsk on the Russian/Mongolian border come August. As you do.
Since then we have had the job offer in Uganda come through, unexpectedly, so it seems our Nissan may yet be accompanying both my old Peugeot and R's old Peugeot to Novobirsk. So we may have ended up donating up to three of around 8-10 cars that will be going, which would be cool.
In the meantime, I'm packing up the flat and trying to shed a few excess belongings along the way. Old film cameras, random sketch pads, lots of worthy stuff I planned to better myself with and forgot about - you know the kind of thing.
One of the items I freecycled was a set of JVC Cordless Headphones. You plug the base station into the TV, or whatever it is you want to listen to, tune the headphones into the right frequency, and you're away. I got them myself from freecycle a few years ago when I had a lodger who liked to go to bed early, in a room, and I liked to watch TV late. Now there's no need to hang on to them so on to freecycle they go...
One of the first emails I got was from a woman who said she'd like them for her husband to use when he was watching sport so the rest of the family didn't have to tip toe around him. That sounded like a good enough cause to me, so I duly arranged a time for her to pick up.
I opened the door to her last night and the first thing she said was:
Hello Anne-Marie, how's the car?
I didn't recognise her for a second, but then the penny dropped. It was one half of the couple who gave us the car. How lovely was that?
(Though I can't help feeling we ended up with the better freecycle blag...)