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Thursday, March 18, 2010

18. Leftovers: 9 thoughts


Things once wanted or needed, even valued, that are now cast off, unwanted, thrown out, unloved.
Preloved clothes, hand-me-downs.
Wall flowers: girls at a dance who sit waiting, but who are never invited by a partner.
Spinsters and bachelors: (Archaic usage) leftovers from the mating rituals of our society; unclaimed persons.


My mother used to say to me,
when I left food upon my plate:
“Think of all the starving children in Asia.”
I didn’t, of course.
All I could think of was:
I don’t like peas; I won’t eat Brussels sprouts.


In 1996, as the Crown casino was readied for its grand opening, the staff rehearsed for the great event. The chefs prepared a thousand gourmet meals – a dry run, a trial, a practice… They dished up the food. Waiters carried the plates to the tables, which were lavishly laid out with silver service and laundered table cloths, and set them down before invisible guests. Later, the waiters returned, took up the plates, scraped the untouched food , now leftovers, into garbage bags, and dumped them in giant industrial waste bins. No one, it seems – not the chefs, nor the waiters, nor the cleaning staff, nor the owners – gave a thought to the hunger of the homeless men and women and young people who slept on park benches or under bridges or in squats or in refuges within a stone’s throw of Victoria’s glittering Crown. Or if they did, no one acted upon it.


Op Shops trade in leftovers. One person’s leftover is another’s treasure.


Like Beauty, the notion of ‘leftover’ is in the eye of the beholder.
A joke:
A bloke goes into a bar and sees an aboriginal wearing one thong.
“He Jacky? You lose a thong?” he asks.
“No, mate – found one!”


Every year, during Health week, out in Suburbia we place our leftovers on the front nature strip: the detritus of consumptionism, our sacrifices to god of new fashion, our victims of the demon called obsolescence. We drive past other people’s piles of junk, and sometimes stop and take something home.


In the suburbs, in the inner city, the spirit of the hunter gatherer lives on.


Back in the late 1970s, down at our beach shack. With my farmer mate from Kerang, a bloke called John Girdwood. We went to the local tip, him and me, a pit in the sandy dunes, well back from the beach, created by the local Council. I took a trailer load of junk: broken appliances, old furniture, and a pile of jumpers – full of holes, most of them, and fraying. JG took nothing, but took back with him my pile of old jumpers.
Before I could cast off my unwanted jumpers, John G. grabbed them.
“I’ll wear these on the tractor,” he told me, “when I’m ploughing at night.”
And he did, two or three of them at a time, in the black of night, in early Spring, when the temperature was down around zero, for many seasons.

That which remains.

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