Don't throw your junk in my backyard... Part 1
... how did that song go again? This post has been building for a while. I'm just not sure where to start - so I've decided to break it up into manageable chunks. We start the story in an inner-city suburb of Riga, Latvia - a suburb which historically was a place of wooden manor houses. Later, in the late 19th century, the area was built up with two-storey wooden apartment houses for the workers. Today many of these houses remain - buildings right up along the side of the road, with large green communal courtyards, or backyards, behind them. This is what our house had behind it when we bought it - a big yard shared by the inhabitants of three houses - nothing much else but dilapidated wood sheds, some grand old oak and maple trees, and some shabby lawn. Oh, and the wooden table and benches in the middle where the daily piss-up would happen - in the summer, anyway. You see, many of our neighbours - the people living in the other two houses - are ageing alcoholics down on their luck. May not be polite to say it, but its the truth. Our suburb is like what West End in Brisbane used to be before it was gentrified. Or Footscray in Melbourne. A bit, well... scummy. Huge potential. But scummy nevertheless.
Not to worry, we thought, and whacked a huge fence up through the middle of the courtyard when we finally settled on the house - this was about 4 years ago. Most of the ramshackle, built-by-uncle-Sergey-with-scrap-wood sheds were torn down, the piss-up table was removed, and we had our own backyard. All 400 square metres of lawn, apple and cherry tree, acorns and dirt. Of course, the neighbours were mildly annoyed - they were still left with some space, but a part of it was now inaccessible. And I felt a little uneasy about bringing the first whiff of gentrification to our courtyard. But we struggled on with the house, and after the building crews began to find all the rotten internal and external walls, our new back yard started turning into a timber yard. We had a supply of rotting beams that kept on growing. At one point we thought the pile of wood would be higher than the actual house.
Long story short (I'll leave some more detail for parts 2 and 3), but after the building work was completed and we moved in, the yard stayed as it was. Bits of firewood and piles of 100 year old brick and building supplies and old beams stacked in piles. The spring came and melted our beautiful blanket of snow, and there it all was in front of us.
Needless to say we have not yet gathered the stamina to order 10 huge mini skips to pile everything in. That's one of the many jobs I see round the corner.
What we did do today though was start pulling down the last remaining wood shed, which was full of treasures from when we took over ownership of the house all those years ago. The boys thought we were in junk-lovers heaven, and kept dodging rotten beams to dart in the shed and drag out finds. An interesting thing about our house is that it has a commercial space which has been a hairdressers, a shoemakers and an op shop at various times in history. In its last incarnation it was a second-hand store, and the cash registers, clothes racks (sans clothes, unfortunately) and scales (clothes were sold by weight!) were still left. Not to mention the big "used clothing" sign above the door. All of these treasures were in the shed today, besides a few more. Everything filthy, musty and very "lived on" by alley cats. Nothing a good scrub won't fix though... if the 'treasures'don't go to the tip, that is!