Friday 21 October 2011

Shattered dream

Guilt has been weighing heavily on my shoulders. Time to bite the bullet. I call Adam at the Willows Art Gallery.

‘Hi Adam,’ I start breezily, ‘I was just dropping Lily at school, and I bumped into the woman who’s buying the vase.’ I gear my voice down to one of funereal sobriety. ‘I’m afraid there’s rather bad news. She’s mortified, but she's got this new puppy and it ran amok and came running in from the garden and careered into the table and knocked the vase over. She says it fell on the flagstone floor … I’m afraid it’s shattered…’

There is a stony silence from the other end of the phone.

‘Adam? Are you still there?’

‘Yes,’ he says drily.

‘Of course, she says she’ll pay for it, but she was wondering if you could do it at cost…?’

He sort of humphs, and says wearily, ‘It’ll come under our insurance. Can you bring in the pieces, and I’ll put in a claim.’

My heart leaps and plummets in the space of a second. Insurance! Yay! Pieces. Argh! ‘Oh,’ I say. ‘You need the pieces, do you?’

‘Yes. If you can get them, then we can put in the claim. They won’t cough up without seeing the damaged item.’

‘Ah. Um. Gosh, OK, I’ll ask her to bring them in .... Oh gosh, I wonder when her rubbish gets collected. Um. Just thinking laterally here… our rubbish in Mistlebourne is collected on Wednesdays, I wonder what day hers is. Just out of interest, what day is your rubbish collection?’


Argh! Today!

‘Oh, gosh, I wonder if hers is the same?’

‘It would depend on where she lives, wouldn’t it?’ says Adam. I detect an air of impatience about him.

‘Yes, well that’s it, I think she lives very near the gallery. Yes - she said she was just passing by on her way home on Wednesday.’

‘What is this woman’s name?’ demands Adam. ‘Maybe she’s already on our mailing list.’

‘No, no,’ I say. ‘No, she said what a wonderful discovery it was, she had no idea you existed before.’

‘Well, you’d better get on to her, hadn’t you.’

‘Yes, I will straight away. And… um, just out of interest… has your rubbish been collected yet?’

‘Yes,’ he says curtly. ‘They come at seven.’

‘Oh, right, oh that’s good, isn’t it, that they come bright and early.’ Why does everyone have to be up with the lark in the country? Why can’t they come late like they do in London? Or not come at all, like in Athens?

OK, Thomson Local. Candlebury. ‘Rubbish.’ No, nothing. What do they call rubbish in council circles? Not garbage or trash, that’s American. Waste? What is that word? Oh, I know. Refuse. I’m madly flicking the pages back and forth. Refuse Disposal Contractors. No, that doesn’t sound right. I’ll look under the council. More frantic flicking. Hmmm. Candlebury Cleaners, Candlebury Counselling Services, Candlebury Couriers. Argh! Where’s the bloody council listed? Ah. Candlebury District Council. Quick, dial.

It’s a real person! A woman with a broad local accent. I explain everything.

‘Oh dear,’ she says. ‘I don’t know we’re going to have much luck, to be fair. When was your collection?’

‘This morning!’

‘Hold on, let me ask, but I don’t think you’re going to have much luck.’

I wait, breath bated, while she asks.

‘No,’ she says, ‘you’re out of luck, I’m afraid. It all goes to landfill. It all goes on a big heap in a big pit.’

Images from Toy Story 3 spring to mind. I'm entering the Big Heap in the Big Pit, Woody and I are scrabbling desperately for shards of broken vase as we slither, inexorably, towards the inferno.

‘Can I go along and sort through it?’ I ask.

‘Oh no, it’s not for the public. And to be fair, even if you were allowed in, which you’re not, you’d be unlikely to find anything. There’ll be trucks dumping their rubbish there all morning.’

If I were heroic like Woody, I’d go anyway, but I’m not. My life for a broken vase? No. So that’s that. Bite the bullet once more.

‘Hi, Adam…’

‘Ah, Eliza. Right, I’ve been on to the insurance people and they just need a photo of the broken vase. Can you sort that out?’

‘Um, well the thing is, she’d already put it in the rubbish, and it was collected this morning, and I’ve been on to the council, but they say I’m out of luck, to be fair, and they won’t let me into the Big Pit to sort through the Big Heap before it all slides into the incinerator... But I was thinking, couldn’t we say it’s been stolen?’

‘That, madam, would involve lying to my insurance company, which I don’t think is a very good policy, do you?’

‘No, you’re right.’

There’s a brief silence and then Adam says, ‘Right, look, I’ll sort this out somehow. We’ll draw a line under it. But as I’m sure you’ll understand, we’ll have to forget about the job.’

After all the trouble I’ve taken chasing his rubbish round the country! Well, someone else can sweep his flies.   

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