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WARD'S WORLD: Recycling against the odds

The other Sunday I popped to a car boot sale in a local school as I was looking for some wheels of a certain size for a project based on the theory if it didn’t work out, it's not cost a fortune plus somebody has made some money from the deal as opposed to possibly throwing them in the tip but on that occasion I was unlucky.

While leaving the event, I was chatting to ‘Rosemary and Thyme’ on the gate who were taking the entrance money which it was explained went towards the school funds as in providing assorted resources or items to augment the school stock.

It reminded me of a not too dissimilar venture into helping out with school needs some time ago where I was invited into doing something of which I had been reminded of only recently.

John Ward (11293468)
John Ward (11293468)

Brian worked at a school that was desperate for funds to buy assorted bits and bobs that would benefit the place as a whole with one item that was required being a climbing frame or as it was labelled in an oh-so-so-expensive school equipment catalogue: ‘An outdoor activity and adventure apparatus’ with something not far short to an untrained eye thinking it was the company’s telephone or reference number but was in fact the asking price.

However, looking at the photo and then the price again, while sitting down I will add, I thought it was possible to build something not unlike it but at a sensible cost as my granddad once said that: "Anybody can spend money, but getting it in the first place was a different matter."

However, first there was a stumbling block or rather two to be precise as in two leading mouths - sorry, people - on the Parent Teacher Assoc/wotever who had to cast a beady eye over any ideas or suggestions to ensure anything and everything was as it should be.

Brian had named them ‘all gob - no go’ as they could yak away at anything trivial but when wanted to do anything remotely like work or something involving physical effort, they went all but invisible - not a novelty in itself or unheard of.

We were summoned to a meeting - I felt sorry for the rest of the committee there as they seemed to be held back by these two ‘social climbers’ with their motives clearly evident - as I was asked to provide drawings, plans, costings (?) etc of the project before it could be considered by the self styled ‘Acid Drops’ as the rest there seemed amazed that I or we collectively had even offered our (free) help.

I was asked by one of the cut price ‘Hyacinth Bucket’s (they would not have looked out of place in TV’s ‘Keeping Up Appearances’) as to my credentials (looking back now, I should have asked for hers) to which in my defence I replied I was basically one of the local riff-raff (please - I knew/know my place) but I washed, shaved on a regular basis plus had some understanding of the project as outlined by Brian.

As an example, I mentioned I had appeared a few times on the then BBC lunch time telly programme ‘Pebble Mill at One’ with my own children’s outdoor play items ranging from climbing frames to tree houses to see-saws, swings etc - quite a few bits all told but made to a very tight, at times non-existent, budget as we did real, meaningful recycling as it was mostly made from discarded items, hence my being there plus being featured in numerous magazines and newspapers and why I was invited to appear on the programme a few times plus other similar television programmes thereafter.

"Anybody can say that," said Acid Drop One to which I replied: "But do they also say they have video recordings plus the newspaper and magazine articles?", which brought her to a grinding silence but the committee sprouted beaming grins - nice.

True, my appearance on ‘Pebble Mill’ did not set the ‘alternative’ playground apparatus world alight as such - I said from the beginning to the programme researchers that if it involved physical effort from some parents or adults, forget it (its even worse nowadays as the almighty mobile device now rules their roost) as it was just me doing it as a sort of challenge plus turning otherwise cast off stuff into positive use.

The feedback from viewers in assorted letters/messages that were forwarded on for months afterwards requesting ‘plans’ or advice etc were from people wanting to build their own items with one interesting point being the ratio was more from mums than dads inquiring.

Anyway the ‘response’ from Acid Drops One and Two was akin to seeing a bulldog sucking a wasp but both Brian and myself were told we would "be informed later as to the outcome" (?!) but as we left the meeting, he said the bulk of them like the idea but the Acid Drops who rule everything were against it if their body language was anything to go by.

Sure enough he was proven right as we learnt later ‘they’ did not consider the offer appropriate (?!) but on what grounds was not mentioned but undeterred, as I could see Brian was keen on the idea to ‘do something’ as he found through a friend a playgroup (think the term nowadays is pre-school) that was lacking in outdoor apparatus but with a more down to earth committee minus any self important egomaniacs.

So that was how or why we built our ‘recycler’ that included a climbing frame, a slide, see-saw or basically anything that the recycled bits and pieces we were given could be included into the structure as we started out with a basic framework and added to it as it went along and relied upon ‘donations’ as in discarded stuff from businesses to local manufacturers to neighbours who heard of what was going on with some delivering the stuff after being assessed by ourselves - real, true community spirit - as otherwise it would end up in landfill etc but one businessman said it was cheaper to give it to us as opposed to renting skips to take it away.

The main frame was made from scaffolding poles welded or bolted together, which we added to as we ‘expanded’ depending on what was donated but it was, importantly, vandal proof as it remained outside in the open due its size.

Brian contacted me not so long ago to explain that it was now being dismantled due to various (regulations as usual) issues but was still as sound as when we made it, had about five or so different coats of bright paint during its lifetime but was now nearly 30 years old - my, how time flies.

Annoyingly, his 11-year-old car was about to be scrapped as it had failed its MOT as it was riddled with ‘Terminal Tin-worm’ (rust) and beyond ‘economic repair’ so he was slightly miffed that while our frame was still as sound as the day we put it together, his supposed ‘state of the art’ made car was a wreck - irony or what? - but I did half-heartedly suggest we could perhaps turn it into an adventure playground but his groan in reply I suspect meant possibly a no.


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