Over at Tiny Choices, the tip for the day is: Vacation Locally. “What with the economy tanking, many folks are sticking closer to home for their vacations this year,” they write, “but it’s a green decision, too. Cut out the airline portion of a holiday and you’ve just eliminated the biggest polluter by far!”
So true! Just as you can scavenge entertainment by finding free concerts, lectures, slide shows and the like (consult the calendars for nearby colleges, art galleries, park districts and libraries, and borrow DVDs and CDs from libraries), you can scavenge a whole trip by taking public transit (or walking) somewhere that deserves a closer look, has free or cheap admission, and is near free or cheap lodging. Start by consulting maps of your area. Are beaches nearby? Mountains? Big cities? Be creative. Just because a place is nearby doesn’t automatically mean a place is boring or that you already know everything about it. Make it a themed trip, for example: Commit yourself to spending a whole day each in all the museums within a forty-mile radius of your home — or sampling, say, all the early-bird specials within a forty-mile radius. Sporty? Circumambulate a mountain, lake, or town. Retrace a historic route just as our ancestors did: on foot. Or just take a fun break enjoying all the legal freebies you can find. (Advance research will help.) Where to stay? CouchSurfing is exactly what it sounds like: Stay overnight with willing strangers anywhere in the world for free (with the understanding that your couch is available for future visits too). We’ve never tried it ourselves, but friends of ours love it.
Spring term is over at the local university, so we strolled around the neighborhoods on both sides of campus yesterday to see what was being thrown out. It’s like this every May: in the days and weeks after the term ends, there’s a vast exodus as thousands of students pull up stakes and pour out of town. Looking at their left-behinds — the Dumpsters outside their dorms, frat/sorority houses and other dwellings; the stuff they set out on curbs with “free” signs — is like anthropology. Or archeology. Who were these people, what did they have and what did they use and what do they deem not worthy of taking along when they leave?
The scavenger friend who runs Ghost Town Farm and who preceded us on a similar jaunt marveled at the comparatively low quality of this year’s leavings. IKEA furniture, she noted, seemed to dominate. And she was right. Not just IKEA furniture but mostly broken and/or dismembered IKEA furniture: desks, dressers, tables, shelves, shoved whole into Dumpsters and/or splintered and battered and bashed into bits. I never thought of IKEA this way before, having always rather admired its clean lines and clever color schemes, but from the looks of this year’s student “middens” an archeologist might surmise that IKEA furniture was made to be temporary, that it was purposely made to be disposable, that it’s the furniture version of those throwaway bamboo chopsticks that come free with Chinese takeout. Until not so long ago, students used to buy heavy, hard-to-break midcentury behemoths from thrift stores and yard sales, or they acquired such pieces free from former tenants. These days, rather than seek out old used furniture, students apparently buy their furniture brand-new … and then, as with those chopsticks, it gets chucked into the trash.
Strolling beside the Khroma River in the Siberian republic of Yakutia recently, Igor Lebedev noticed something sticking slightly out of the ground. Further inspection revealed it to be a baby mammoth that had been preserved in the permafrost before the river partly bared it, according to MosNews:
“Specialists of the Republican Mammoth Museum studied the find and alleged it to be a young mammoth corpse some 15,000-30,000 years old. The animal, who died at about two years of age, had its head, legs and some intestines well-preserved in the cold climate.”
The article goes on to say that in exchange for handing over his find, Lebedev “will now receive a reward of 1 million rubles,” which amounts to around US $30,000. Authorities are publicizing the reward, which was announced on Wednesday, in order “to avert mammoth corpses being sold on the black market rather than being given for research….
“In the past few years, mammoths have regularly been found in Russia. In 2004, the corpse of a one-year-old mammoth was found in Yakutia; in 2007, an extremely well-preserved six-month-old female was found in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area.” It is unknown how many have been scavenged and sold on the black market.
(The photo above, which accompanies the MosNews report, is from TopNews.ru.)
A man who scavenged a secondhand iPod by buying it cheaply at a London shop, the Computer Exchange, found naughty pictures of scantily clad women on it when he took it home.
According to ThisIsLocalLondon, “The iPod also showed a young man posing with what looks like an air pistol.” Said the buyer, 27-year-old Kristian Towell of Brighton: “The photos were under different categories, which included ‘chicks,’ ‘me,’ ‘wifey’ and ‘family.’ The ones under ‘me’ are of a guy. In some of them he has his shirt off, in another he is posing with a gun. The photos under ‘wifey’ are pretty decent, but the ones under ‘chicks’ are quite raunchy.”
He said the pictures looked as if they were taken with a mobile phone.
“One of the pictures of a fully clothed girl looking back over her shoulder has the word ‘tramp’ scrawled on it. Others show a young woman posing in her underwear. The rest are of a man posing in a hoodie. One shows a man’s torso.”
In addition, Towell said, the iPod “was full of terrible music.”
Scavenged goods are full of surprises.
Recycled car parts are components of a marvelous motorized vehicle that sucks human feces at 1,700 liters a minute from pit latrines in slums worldwide and transports them to treatment plants. That’s better than human beings having to bail out the pits by hand with buckets, which is commonplace among the billion-or-so poor who lack plumbing and who often empty those buckets into the nearest lake, river or sea. Pit latrines are holes in the ground a few feet deep over which the user stands or squats. In areas such as Mumbai’s Dharavi, where Slumdog Millionaire was partly set, thousands of users share a single pit.
Say a toiletty hello to the Vacutug. Powered by a small gasoline engine and rolling on salvaged secondhand car wheels and hubcaps, this adorably named four-foot-tall, 500-liter vacuum-tank-and-pump conveyance sucks fecal sludge or just plain urine lickity-split, then trundles it to a safe processing place. Paised on a program produced by the London-based Television for the Environment collective, the Vacutug is “a service affordable by the urban poor, with the capital cost affordable by entrepreneurs who can potentially develop a micro-enterprise, recovering the operational costs from the revenue generated.” First developed in 1995 for use in Kenya, “it is capable of accessing some of the most densely populated urban areas, with narrow and bumpy lanes, where conventional systems are unable to penetrate. It can be constructed, operated and maintained using local materials and skills…. The vacuum tank is fabricated from mild steel…. The tank is fitted with a check valve, a sight glass and two 75mm ports, for sludge inlet and vacuum pump connection. The assembly is mounted on a steel frame.” Also fitted with a motorcycle throttle and braking system, the Vacutug travels on its scavenged wheels at speeds of up to 5kph.
We who take flushing for granted have no idea how gross and potentially lethal it is to rely on pit latrines. (One is depicted at right.) When they’re shared by so many, and when their contents enter water sources, aquatic ecosystems suffer and diseases run rampant. Think cholera. Think typhus. (And yes, pit toilets are actually better than no toilets at all.)
We who take flushing for granted would be shocked to realize how many folks around the world can’t flush. Estimates range from 980 million (UNICEF) to a staggering 2.6 billion (Stockholm International Water Institute). Bangladesh’s capital city, Dhaka, has a sewage system — but only 35 percent of city residents are connected to it. Outside Dhaka, Bangladesh has no sewage systems.
According to All Africa, residents of Uganda’s capital city, Kampala, generate 800,000 litres of feces per day — that’s 800 cubic meters — but only a tiny fraction of this quantity is ever extracted. The vast majority of Ugandans rely on these pits. Only 8 percent of Ugandans are connected to the nation’s sewage system, also according to All Africa.
A partnership was formed in Kampala this week between the National Water and Sewerage Corporation, Uganda Investment Authority, Enterprise Uganda and the Private Emptiers Association. When the partnership document was signed, World Bank senior water and sanitation specialist Samuel Dawuna Mutono declared that he hopes more people will “invest in emptying pit latrines.” Those investments could entail the Vacutug or its newly updated vesion, Vacutug Mark II.
Scavenged goods help save the world yet again.
Twenty thousand items were immolated in a devastating fire at a Goodwill store in Aiken, Georgia last Friday which law-enforcement officials are now calling suspicious. According to the Augusta Chronicle, “Aiken Public Safety Lt. David Turno said Tuesday that the blaze began near a clothes rack that was nowhere near a heat source. More than 20,000 household and clothing items were lost in the fire at the Whiskey Road Goodwill Emporium. The sprinkler system contained the fire, Lt. Turno said.”
Rudy Rucker is a fan of scavenging, as I learned while interviewing the cyberpunk pioneer about his new novel Hylozoic, which comes out this week.
Everyone and everything is telepathic in Hylozoic, the latest of the multi-award-winning mathematician/computer scientist’s nearly three dozen books. Reading the consciousness of anyone or anything — a rock, a president, Portland, a Bible, an embryo, an alien pitchfork that talks with a hillbilly twang, a “flimsy summer shift of lilac gauze” which in one scene convinces a three-eyed shopper that it complements her green skin — is called teeping. As the book begins, honeymooners and 24/7 reality-media stars Thuy Nguyen and Jorge “Jayjay” Jimenez awaken, with “Jayjay teeping Thuy teeping him teeping her,” accessible to a whole universe of eager teepers. “If you were doing something really private,” we learn, “you could always turn off your teep. But fewer and fewer things seemed private enough to bother hiding.”
Same as now. But that world, the futureworld of this sequel to Rucker’s 2007 novel Postsingular, swarms with flying stingray creatures, man-sized alien birds, rune-programmed atoms, addictive gel, deities, sparkly materialization dots, and the 15th-century Dutch painter Jeroen Bosch, who prays and teleports.
So basically these characters can scavenge each other’s thoughts. (And in one scene, a gang of down-and-outers brew soup using scavenged bones and cabbage: Some of these men “lacked limbs, others had twisted spines or egregious harelips”; one suffered from a flesh-eating plague.) But they can also scavenge actual stuff more readily than we can, because they’re also capable of telekinesis, aka teeking. So, ideally, I could teep beaches everywhere and, whenever something cool washes up on one, I could teek to it and nab that shark jawbone or Ming dish or gold ring. Then again, teeking would make theft effortless. Strong ethics and/or strong law enforcement would have to rule that world.
“My idea,” Rucker tells me, “is that if everyone has a telepathic ability to see things at a distance, then the physical world becomes like the Internet. Instead of searching websites, you can search your neighbors’ garages and basements for things to borrow.” Or swap, short-term or long-term. “Like — why buy an electric hedge trimmer when you only trim once a year? In my world, people become willing to lend things out because they’re able to keep telepathic track of where the stuff goes and how it’s treated. Borrowers and lenders acquire ratings, just like the people who currently buy and sell things online” at eBay and such sites, he says. “In principle we could already implement this” here in the real world. “Imagine a resource-sharing website called something like Our Garage. But in reality things never work as well as they do in SF novels.”
No, darn it, they don’t.
Rucker’s ideas “trickle in unpredictably,” he explains. “Often I’ll push for an idea, focusing on a story situation and trying to imagine what comes next. When I’m brainstorming like this, it helps to be taking notes, either on a scrap of paper, or by actually typing into my laptop. Making little drawings helps, too. But I don’t always get the full insight that I need while I’m pushing. The search seems to continue in my subconscious, and maybe a few hours or even days later I’ll get an ‘aha’ moment about what I need to do. That’s what we call the muse.”
How did Jeroen (better known as Hieronymus) Bosch end up in this book?
“I’ve been a fan of Bosch ever since high school, when my big brother showed me a book of his paintings. Given my bent towards science fiction, surrealism, and fantastical worlds, Bosch is a natural for me. I’ve often wondered what kind of person Bosch was. Some passages in his pictures seem rather cruel; in other spots you pick up a feeling of ecstasy, and then again there’s often a feeling of mockery and satire. I enjoyed trying to combine these hints into a character in Hylozoic — where he comes across as a genius, a devoted artist, somewhat sarcastic, a mystic, and something of a prick.”
While researching Hylozoic, the author visited Bosch’s Dutch hometown, s’Hertogenbosch: “I used that visit a lot; it was rich.” For the portions of the novel that are set in San Francisco, “my wife and I lived for week in a flophouse on Valencia Street … and I picked up some local color there. I read this scholarly book by David Skrbina, Panpsychism in the West, about the history of the idea that objects might be able to think. And always I’m cruising the web, watching movies, reading … looking for clues everywhere.”
Like Bosch, Rucker is a painter himself, employing sherbet-bright oils and acrylics in such works as Stun City, The Attack of the Mandelbrot Set, Arf and the Saucer (in which a dog barks at starfishlike creatures emerging from a spacecraft to leap into what appears to be a hot tub) and Welcome to Mars. Sometimes his paintings help shape his fiction, as in the image below, which depicts Bosch and a stingraylike Hrull.
“It’s not pleasant or productive to sit at my computer trying to write all day,” he muses. “If I do that, I start feeling sorry for myself, like a shut-in. And, really, I tend get at most two hours of full-tilt writing per day. So it’s good to do something else. Painting is totally unlike using a computer. I smear things around, I drool over the pretty colors, and nothing is perfectly neat. My level of manual control is low enough that I tend to surprise myself with what I end up painting. Sometimes these surprises show me things that are a good fit for my current novel or story — you might say that I’m channeling information from another part of my brain. But it’s fine if I don’t use the images in my fiction. The main thing is that I’m feeding my soul and getting into the moment and, if I’m lucky, turning off my inner monologue.”
Seems to have worked thus far.
Can’t teek? “You can scavenge a free copy of Postsingular at www.rudyrucker.com/postsingular,” the author asserts.
And now for our Memorial Day scavenging news: After being inadvertently purchased at an Oklahoma garage sale, a Vietnam vet’s cremains have been given a proper funeral. According to the Tulsa World, war wounds left Army Pvt. Warren A. Nicholls paralyzed. He was awarded a Purple Heart.
After Nicholls died in 1987, his mother “apparently could not give her son a proper military burial, so she put his cremated remains in a trunk along with some of his belongings.” At the time of her death in 2002 in Forth Worth, Texas, she had no known relatives. So a friend brought the trunk containing the soldier’s cremains to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Eventually it ended up at a garage sale, where customer John Belding “didn’t know exactly what he had acquired when he obtained the trunk for $5.” An antique collector, he noticed at first only that it contained militaria. Upon finding the cremains and the Purple Heart, he offered to return these immediately to the seller, who did not want them.
Belding then went “to Don Clapsaddle, chief of staff for the Military Order of the Purple Heart for Oklahoma. Clapsaddle said it was clear to him that Nicholls deserved a proper military send-off…. While the particulars of Nicholls’ story are unique, the situation is not as rare as one might think. The Missing in America Project has been working nationwide for more than two years to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of otherwise forgotten American veterans through the joint efforts of private, state and federal organizations. According to the group’s Web site, 571 such cremains have been identified to date, with 387 interred so far.”
During a ceremony this Saturday, Nicholls’ cremains were placed in a granite memorial in the Field of Honor at Broken Arrow’s Floral Haven Memorial Garden.
Trees that have been cut down due to disease often end up in landfills. But tree services in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania bring them to John Metzler’s 10,000-square-foot studio, Urban Tree Forge, where he and his workers give them a new life of sorts, repurposing this would-be junk into furniture, sculptures, and more. Metzler also uses scrapwood salvaged from urban building sites.
“Before the earth beneath Western Pennsylvania fueled one of America’s great industrial cities, it forged our first natural resource: Pennsylvania hardwood,” Metzler writes. “The mills are gone but the forest lives on in a thriving urban setting…. Our urban wood has character that can only be created by the challenge of city life….
“Re-using city trees not only helps us keep history healthy, it helps us sustain a healthy environment. It reduces our carbon footprint, lessens our dependence on wood from national forests, and keeps natural resources local. Let the urban forest live on.”
Walmart is one of those love-it-or-hate-it things, and I’ve only ever been inside one, once, to buy a garden spade because we’d forgotten to bring one along on a metal-detecting jaunt. (The spade broke within one hour of gentle use; its handle snapped clear off.) But let’s applaud the megachain for having a Free Ice Cream Day! From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. next Saturday, May 30, participating Walmart stores are giving away free treats including Dibs Snack Bags, Blue Bunny Aspen Frozen Yogurt Granola Bars, and Ben & Jerry’s Flipped Out Cups.
One of the creators of this blog (and one of the coauthors of The Scavengers’ Manifesto) likes to drag home broken electronic items — not just to pry them apart and see what’s wrong, but to understand on a physical level why each piece of equipment was made this way in the first place. Here’s his account of one such incident:
A few years back, I found an old early 1960s-era hi-fi stereo receiver in a Dumpster; unable to resist, he lugged it ten blocks to my house. As expected, when he plugged it in and attached it to his speakers and turntable, it didn’t work. The lights came on but no sound came out. So he unplugged everything, took it apart, and looked at the dysfunctional innards. As he puts it:
Now, I am no electrician. I do not have an engineering degree. I’ve never worked at a stereo component store, and I have no formal training in electronics. (Or informal training, for that matter.) But I knew that this stereo must have originally worked, and now didn’t; something had changed, something was wrong, and I felt I ought to be able to figure out what.
So I looked. I peered. I observed. I spent minutes, then hours, following wires from one side of the cabinet though labyrinthine connections to the other. I sniffed at fuses and welds to see if they smelled burned. I took out a magnifying glass and looked for tiny scorch marks that might indicate a bad connection. I tried to grok the entirety of how this machine was designed. If I push this button, then that closes the switch over here, which then sends a signal down this wire, which connects to this mysterious metal box; from there a yellow wire goes to this light and a blue wire connects to this other button….
I felt like I was having a conversation with the bespectacled hi-fi geek in the design department of a 1961 record-player company. Little by little I eliminated areas and systems and wires that couldn’t possibly be the problem. My ghostly mentor with thick lenses gazing over my shoulder, shaking his head in disapproval whenever I overlooked something, nodded in satisfaction whenever I grasped a subtle design point. So that’s why the fuse has to be between the capacitor and the power cord!
After four hours of this obsessive-compulsive hands-on reverse-engineering lesson, I had narrowed the problem down to a single green primitive integrated circuit board; the flaw was to be found there, I was sure of it. Not because I knew what the flaw was, but because it simply couldn’t be anywhere else. But the board looked perfectly intact; the connections seemed solid, nothing looked burned or melted. So I took out a flashlight and my strongest magnifying glass and inspected it inch by inch. And there, almost invisible, I saw it: a tiny metallic filament of what I later determined to be Christmas tree tinsel, which had apparently fluttered through the air vent on the stereo one long-ago winter day, landed across two pathways on the board, and created a short-circuit at a fatally crucial juncture. My suspicion was that the short-circuit was at first only intermittent or flickering, as the tinsel was still motile. But at some point — 1966? 1971? Who knows? — a combination of cigarette smoke and dust and moisture had essentially glued the tinsel in place, and the short circuit became permanent. The stereo stopped working, so it was put in a garage. And when Dad moved to the retirement condo, it went into the Dumpster.
In the end it was so simple: I took a pair of tweezers and carefully dislodged and lifted out the quarter-inch bit of sticky tinsel. I somehow knew, even before putting the whole thing back together and plugging it back in, that I had fixed it. And I was right. I pressed the On button and glorious stereophonic hi-fidelity music filled the room. And I could feel the presence of the previous owner and the manufacturer and the designer and everyone back to Michael Faraday and Alessandro Volta standing there with me, smiling.
That is the secret joy of scavenging.
We got a note yesterday from Albertus Gorman, who makes art from stuff he scavenges along the Ohio River near his Louisville, Kentucky home. To create whimsical sculptures, he mixes natural elements (sticks chewed by beavers are a favorite, he says) with human detritus such as household utensils, fishing gear, car parts, toys and (another favorite) plastic food. Anyone who lives near water knows that styrofoam is a virtual shoreline plague. Making the most of it, Gorman repurposes the white junk into dreamy figures resembling snowmen and ghosts. Scouring what he calls “the river’s scrap heap,” he has also assembled intriguing collections of found paintings, found fishing lures, found plastic food and found plastic toys.
“I have always been good at finding things and have thought that objects have an uncanny way of calling me,” Gorman writes. “I’ll just be walking along and for whatever reason I’ll look down at that moment and there will be something interesting to pick up. I always find stuff when I go to the river, which is a big part of the fun.”
1,041 rusty old hubcaps are being transformed into “canvases” by 1,041 different artists, thanks to Ken Marquis and his Landfill Art project. Some use oil paint or acrylic paint, but others weld or glue or screw stuff onto the caps, weave onto the caps and carve the caps to make sculptures. (A painted example by Sarah Aslakson is depicted at left.)
“I have found that the fine artists I have worked with on this project do not even flinch when looking at this white round disc of metal canvas,” writes Pennsylvania art-and-frame-shop owner Marquis, who bought a load of rusty caps last August. “And why should they. Artists from the beginning of time have used cave walls — Lascaux, France and Altamira, Spain — walls of pyramids (Egyptians) animal skins (American Indians), etc. as their canvas. In addition, as a gallery owner for over thirty years, I maintain that artists, generally speaking, are more ecologically in touch and environmentally aware. Perhaps that is the reason forty-one artists readily accepted the challenge and embraced the project.
“Although the project is in its infancy (I hope to have it completed by 2012), it will evolve from a simple idea of taking forty-one old rusted hub caps and creating forty-one pieces of great art. The second phase has already started with the acquisition of one thousand additional (1,000) rusted hub caps which will be turned into cleaned and primed ‘metal canvases,'” Marquis explains.
“The third phase will involve publishing a book on the project showcasing all one thousand forty one (1,041) completed ‘metal canvases.’ The fourth and final phase will involve choosing 200 metal canvases that adequately represent the project and create a traveling show. The book and traveling show will publically portray the global art community’s effort to positively impact the environment through repurposing previous metal waste into great landfill art.”
Scrap metal gets a second life (and a chance to become art, robots and vehicles) at The Crucible, a nonprofit housed in a sprawling 56,000-square-foot Oakland, California warehouse where salvaged materials are used for a constant stream of classes for kids and adults in neon, jewelrymaking, glasswork, kinetics, blacksmithing, enameling and more. Local industries donate scrap of all kinds along with still-usable machinery and computers. Discarded bottles and windowglass are used in The Crucible’s glasswork classes. Discarded electronics are used in kinetics and robotics classes. An entire garage is stocked with salvaged bikes and bike parts. The warehouse is studded with scrap-metal sculptures, spiral staircases and fixtures whose components would otherwise have ended up at landfills.
Because intensely energy-intensive activities are The Crucible’s raison d’etre, its environmentally minded staff strive to go green in whatever ways possible. Biodegradable cornstarch flatware is used at all events, and employees and students are encouraged to commute via bicycle and public transit. Since 2006, the facility has been solar-powered.
We visited The Crucible last Friday (see pic above) to attend the 2009 Oakland Indie Awards, celebrating energy-conscious local artists and businesses. One big winner — nabbing the Greenie Award — was the Awaken Café, a downtown espresso bar/art gallery constructed in the scavenging spirit. Its counter-front and all trim were built from salvaged redwood planks. Its permanent menu was made from a door. Its tile backsplash was made from recycled glass. (Currently on exhibit at the café are hauntingly realistic paintings of men’s socks and underwear on recycled kraft paper by Oakland artist Terry Furry. Developed in Germany in 1879, the kraft process enables the recovery and reuse of inorganic pulping chemicals to transform wood into wood pulp.)
So much to salvage, so little time….
While gardening in her backyard, Jan Long has dug up hundreds of valuable antiques including a gold watch, a diamond ring, a Victorian corkscrew and ancient Roman coins. According to the Daily Mail, Long — who lives in Herefordshire, near the border between Great Britain and Wales — “unearths an antique … nearly every time she weeds her borders or tends her vegetable patch….
“The mother of three has also found more than a hundred coins — some of them Roman, and an Austrian Crown from 1780 — as well as brooches and medals in her 150ft long garden. Among the more bizarre are a plough, a gate and a wheelbarrow.
“Her unusual ‘crop’ began when she took up gardening six years ago after she and husband Dr Richard Long, 70, a retired university lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies, moved to the rural property near Ledbury….
“Jan, 57, said: ‘I decided I wanted to move one of the magnolia bushes to the other side of the garden. But when I was digging up the roots I suddenly started hitting something hard…. There were hundreds of bottles beneath the soil … lemonade bottles, blue vials, enamel bottles and all sorts, some of them are over 150 years old. That was just the start of it really, nearly everytime I’m out in the garden I make a new find.’ …
“As well as thousands of 19th century bottles, she has found hundreds of other tiny trinkets alongside a huge working plough. Her most recent discovery has been a treasure trove of coins, including Victorian pennies, an Austrian Crown dated 1780, a King Crown dated 1935 and an 1837 Canadian Bank Token…. Biddell and Webb auctioneers in Birmingham have valued some of the collection and say the main items such as the diamond ring and the watch could earn Jan several hundred pounds….
“Jan believes that he fact the house was built in the 15th century could go some way to explaining why there was so many unusual items: ‘My favourite item is a tiny wooden locket carved out of wood into a rose, which unusually opens from left to right and is so intricate and beautiful. I really have no idea to the total value but the monetary value is not that important to me. It is more the tales which can be woven around each item that I find fascinating. I’ve really loved discovering them all and am looking forward to what’s going to turn up next.'”