Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Freegans and Wombles... Viva Espana !?

Have been toying with writing this blog for a long time. An overwhelming sense of shame has been the main reason for my hesitation. However, to understand me better you really need to hear about my murky recent past in Spain.

Briefly, moved with hubby and 3 kids to inland Alicante in 2003 in search of a better family life.. sucked in by TV shows like Relocation, Relocation.  Honesty is a big part of my make-up. When we arrived in Spain I cancelled my Child Benefit and Tax Credit payments (unlike a lot of other Ex-Pats who continue claiming),

Anyway, long story short.. we split up and I spent my last two years in Spain as a mostly single, self-employed home finder.. which worked quite well to start with. I linked up with a few estate agents and showed country homes to mostly english buyers.  Life was good, I bought a little house, car with trailer, treats for the kids.  Lovely.

Then the housing market collapsed.  Suddenly, I was single mum of three with very basic income from their Dad that covered my small mortgage and left us with 200 euro a month to live on. Internet connection was vital for work.. 38 euro per month. Car insurance obviously vital or I could find the houses... 40 euro per month.  Water and electricity 110 euro per month... you getting the picture?  How the hell was I going to cope?  How to survive whilst keeping my dignity, not hurting anyone and staying legal...

Once when on holiday in the UK, I read an article about the Freegan movement, something clicked one night and I began researching it.  The basic principle is to collect free food  from shop bins etc and offer your services to benefit someone.. Freegans seem to be mostly rich people who are Freegans simply to balance their lives in some way.  I, however was desperate..

So it began.. every Saturday we had a local food market. I set off armed with a big bag in hope of some cheap or free fruit and veg that was maybe damaged and couldnt be sold at normal prices.  I came home loaded up with boxes of discarded produce, often in good condition but the sellers simply couldnt be bothered to load their vans up again with it.  Wow, cracked it.. every week I went to collect the food at closing time.. if anyone asked, it was for our chickens and pig. 

One week though, while I was waiting for the stall holders to pack up, a group of about 6 Polish immigrants arrived and began taking all of the discarded food and piling it into their car.  I was mortified. They even emptied all the bins.  So, the following week I went early and took bin-bags with me and changed the bins myself.. ha ha... scuppered them.  I felt terribly guilty though as I am sure they needed the food just as much as we did.

It had begun.. if I can empty bins to get food then why not look in bins for clothing too?  Every night I went out with my car and trailer snooping around the communal bins. In Spain, if something is good but you dont want it, the unwritten rule is to leave it next to the bin, not in it.. So, I cheerfully loaded up with all sorts of things and would clean them up and sell them on a car boot sale every Sunday.  You wouldnt belive the things that were thrown away, from brand new shoes to a stuffed fox. My buyers were mostly Equadorian men who bought household goods on behalf of their communities and sold them on for profit. Some would steal from me, which I found infuriating, I didnt steal so why should I be stolen from. 

Anyway.. we scraped by. I would also make sausage rolls, samosas and bajees to sell .. no mean feat when you have to make the pastry from scratch!  Slowly but surely, there was less to collect on my journeys, other people were doing the same as me and collecting from the bins.. I had to start looking inside the bins themselves. It was as revolting as it was humiliating but needs must.  I learnt how to poke a rubbish bag to assertain its contents before ripping it open.. if it squished, it didnt get openend!

One day, I had simply had enough.. I made my plans and came "home" to the UK.. to other problems yes but to a wonderful country that had improved dramatially in our absense.  To clean water, help with housing costs, child benefit and above all, hope.  I love Labour, thank you for helping me and mine to come home, there really is no place like it : )