Oh, how I miss skip diving

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SKIP DIVING: People clear their homes and leave unwanted items on the street Source: Shutterstock


BRITS in Spain are frequently asked what they miss most since leaving the UK. A common reply is ‘proper bacon’, as if Spanish bacon is somehow inferior to the British variety, which generally comes from Denmark anyway.

When I’m asked the question, I never mention food, having gone completely native in my eating habits. But the answer I invariably give is skip diving, a pastime I enthusiastically engaged in when I lived in London and Brighton. But in Benidorm – where I now live – one rarely sees skips except behind barriers on building sites, and these are invariably filled with worthless rubble.

That said, I have noticed that people, clearing their homes of unwanted items, simply deposit them alongside dumpsters very late at night, and anything worth salvaging is usually gone by morning.

However, one item I spotted recently sat for days before finally being removed. It broke my heart that I wasn’t able rescue this gorgeous brown leather art deco sofa, mainly because we already had two sofas, and it would have taken four burly men to lift the thing.

Seeing it reminded me of the day I spied a magnificent fire-engine red leather sofa, circa 1930, being hoisted onto a skip in west London. I hit the brakes of my wreck of a van and learned from the owners of the house that was being cleared that I was welcome to the sofa, as well as two matching armchairs which were still indoors.

I can barely put into words the elation I felt at acquiring this suite, and for several years it had pride of place in my home in Wembley. Then, one day, I showed a photograph of the suite to an American architect I met at an art deco fair. He’d bought a house in Greenwich, and wanted to furnish it, once renovations had been completed, in the style of the 1930s. As soon as he saw my photo, he whooped with delight, and said ‘how much?’

When I replied I had no intention of parting with it, he asked ‘will £3,000 cash change your mind?’ It sure did. I pocketed the dosh, and agreed to retain the suite for him, but for only for six months. After that period elapsed and I’d heard nothing from him, I discovered he’d sold his house and returned to the US.

That left me in a quandary. I was about to move into a smaller apartment that had insufficient space for the suite, so I put it up for sale in a friend’s art deco shop, where it was spotted by a team sourcing props for a 1980s movie by Canadian film producer, Bruce LaBruce. They asked whether I was prepared to loan it to them for £500 for a week-long shoot in London. I happily agreed, not knowing that the movie, ‘No Skin off my Ass’, was a soft-core porno production. Had I known, I would still have agreed. Money is money, after all.

Within days of the suite returning, I sold it again – this time for £3,250, proving – if proof were needed – that one person’s trash can often turn out to be another’s treasure.

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