Saturday, April 26, 2008

Anzac Day

Anzac Day, my 58th birthday and the day that celebrates Australia's history at war.

It made for a thoughtful morning. Not only did I reflect on what I had and hadn't accomplished over the last twelve months, but it brought to mind thoughts of all the members of my family who'd served in the armed forces.

My cousin who went to Vietnam. My uncles who were in North Africa. Even my mother served in an anti-aircraft unit when Radar was a deep dark secret.

I took down from the shelf a battered little notebook that had been handed down to us from previous generations. It tells the story of my father's oldest brother, from the day he left home with his unit in 1915 till he sent it home from England a year later just before he left for France.

He never returned. In one of the many Australian graveyards in France, he lies to this day. We often think of him at this time of the year. My father's family mourned him for many years and among the bric-a-brac from the old family home are several framed memorials to the fighting men who were lost in a far country.

Rest in peace, 4385.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Garage Sale

Darkness. That's all I saw when I opened my eyes, but I couldn't go back to sleep. Today was Garage Sale Day in my street.

One of the women in the street had rounded up half a dozen households to participate in a joint Garage Sale (what they call a yard sale in some places). We split the cost of the advertising and benefited from being able to avoid the sunrise wolf-pack.

If you've ever had a garage sale, you'll know that there's usually someone banging on your door at 5 a.m. wanting to get a preview of what you're selling. This way, we just announced that there would be a garage sale in my street commencing at 8 o'clock. Right on that time, everyone who was participating opened their doors and put out balloons on their front fence.

That didn't stop a couple of cars driving up and down the street early looking for any signs of life. Dealers and bargain hunters hoping for a chance to get in early.

I felt like a vampire who'd been dragged out of the crypt by Dr Van Helsing, but as the sun came up I gradually got it together.

Originally I'd planned to spread everything out on the front lawn so that the passing trade could see everything, and I wouldn't have to depend on people wandering down my driveway.

Then at dawn there was a shower of rain and I thought to myself "Oh no, I'll have to change my plans and put everything under cover in the carport." So I did, and of course that was the only rain all day!

It made for a fairly long day. I took up my position at 8 o'clock and watched the clock slowly progress round to 1 p.m. People came and went. Families with kids. Old couples. Young adults. A few people who were obviously dealers.

One man was as transparent as could be. He glanced at a cardboard box of comics and said off-handedly "Those are a bit modern" in a dismissive tone.

"Depends on what you mean by modern," I said, well aware of what he was doing.

"Bit of silverfish damage on a couple of them," he added. I shrugged and said nothing.

"Will you take ten dollars for the lot?" he said finally and I nodded.

It was so obvious what he was doing. He had seen a few comics in there that he thought he could sell at a profit, so he began by denigrating their rarity and quality before making an offer to buy the lot cheaply.

I could see what he was up to, but that box of comics had been in my For Sale section for the last ten years so I took the ten dollars and let him do with them whatever he wanted.

That was the biggest sale I made. There were a lot of browsers but few buyers. Several people asked if I had any old records or old furniture. I could have sold the bird cage by the back door a couple of times.

By 12:45 the neighbours began wandering about making noises about packing up. The family on the other side were pleased that they'd finally been able to sell that three-piece suite that had been taking up room in their garage all year. "Now the kids can play table tennis again."

I checked the takings. $19, less $5 for the newspaper advertising. A total of fourteen dollars for five hours sitting there browsing through old magazines while strangers rummaged through your cast-offs.

Not a way I'd choose to make my living.