Mad Teddy's Shadows on the wall page

Mad Teddy's web-pages

Shadows on the wall

This page added on Wednesday, 30th September 2009

If you head north out of Launceston's city centre (I refuse to call it the "CBD"!) crossing the North Esk River, you will eventually come to an intersection with Forster Street. Turn left (west), and drive until you come to Nairana Street, which is a T-junction off to the right (north again). Find a place to park, and then look back (southward) across Forster Street.

On Friday, 17th July 2009, quite late in the afternoon on a fine winter's day, that's what I did. This is what I saw:

You could be forgiven for thinking that there might be about ten trees in front of that orange and grey building - but there aren't! There are in fact six - the group on the right. The ones on the left are merely shadows cast by the setting winter sun, coming from the right and a little behind, somewhat north of west. (It's startling how real they look, isn't it?)

Just to the left is another building, painted light grey. On that Friday afternoon, there were some shadows there too, cast by some ever-present symbols of 20th-century infrastructure:

When I saw these striking images, I was reminded of John Lennon's song "Watching the Wheels". (Click here to read the lyrics.)

Update, Saturday, 9th October 2010:   I'd just like to quietly acknowledge J.L.'s 70th birthday here.

By the way - note the "GIVE WAY" sign in both of those pictures. I'll be having more to say about that shortly.

I can just hear you asking: "Now what's old Teddy leading up to this time, with another of his oblique web-page introductions?" Patience - all will be revealed. Read on.

Come for a stroll with me down Nairana Street.

This is in a part of Launceston known as the Inveresk Industrial Area. Let's face north, start walking, and see what we can find.

There's my white Holden Camira station wagon, parked on the left. (Obviously, a plane has just flown over on its way to Melbourne.)

... Come on! ...

We're walking along the east side of the street. Across the road, there's a place called Eco-Salv, which sells second-hand building materials. Let's look a little to the right...

Clearly, the double gate is locked. In the yard around the building there are some long racks, with timber pieces and other longish things stacked up.

Walking a little further, we can look back along the street and get a different perspective on the place. (You can just see my car parked at the other end.)

Let's keep going north and see what's on the eastern side of the road, shortly before we get to the cul-de-sac at the end...

Here's another property called Eco-Salv! The gate is locked here, too. Clearly, there's no-one around. What's going on?

If you've had a look around other pages in this site, you may have seen references to "my favourite junk-shop". Well, this is it. Eco-Salv consisted of these two properties in Nairana Street, a few metres apart and on opposite sides of the road. The one closer to the intersection with Forster Street sold such things as timber, plumbing spares, and glass and perspex sheets; the other place sold mostly what might be termed "bric-a-brac" - anything from pre-loved chairs or old 78-RPM records to second-hand computer monitors, washing machines or microwave ovens.

You've probably noticed that I'm now speaking in the past tense. Why? Because, as of late September 2009, Eco-Salv is rapidly approaching a day when it will no longer exist as a going concern!

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I first became aware of Eco-Salv sometime in the early "noughties" (it may have been in 2002; I'm not sure). A former colleague I bumped into in an electronics shop suggested I should try this place to find something "off the beaten track" that I was looking for; so I came for a snoop around - and found that I liked the place, which thus became one of my "haunts". Sometimes, when life's been getting me down a bit, I've found some simple comfort and a bit of peace of mind in prowling around places like this, looking for "one man's trash" which may thus become "another man's treasure". It can be quite therapeutic - you should try it sometime!

"People say I'm crazy, doing what I'm doing..."

- but (to borrow a line from another John Lennon song ) I'm not the only one! Lots of other people down the years (about 20 years, I believe) have enjoyed browsing around here, looking for this'n'that which might come in useful, or may perhaps just be good for a chuckle.

So - where does (did) all this stuff come from?

People throw stuff away. Lots of it is just rubbish; but some of it is still perfectly good, and somebody's just become sick of it. So out it goes - to the tip, basically.

It's illegal to go scrounging around looking for treasures on the tip; but at some point (and I don't know how this came about) it seems that the city council granted one company the right to grab whatever they thought might be saleable from people's offcasts before they wound up in landfill. Hence Eco-Salv was born.

Okay - so why is it being shut down, some 20 years later?

Click here to hear an interview with the long-term operator of Eco-Salv to get some idea of why he has decided to give it away. I don't know all the details; but from what I've heard I gather it has something to do with a new conveyor-belt system which doesn't allow sufficient time for a worthwhile amount of salvaging to occur - and disillusionment has led the operator to decide to call it quits.

The place hadn't yet shut down on 17th July - it had just reduced its operations to the point where it closed daily at about 4.00 p.m. rather than 5.00 p.m. or later, as previously.

When I was there on an earlier occasion (but still after the news had come that the end was in sight), there was still quite a lot of material in stock. This was on Sunday, 31st May. (The first intimation that all was not well had come in April, and I had begun to notice even then that the stock was slowly starting to thin out.)

Here are some pictures I took on 31st May - the first three of the building materials section, and the second three of the bric-a-brac section (you can click on these to see 640480 versions):

The next time I came here with my camera was 17th July, as already documented above. The third time was on Tuesday 4th August, by which time the place was starting to look a bit desolate as most of the remaining stock had gone by then.

Having become a "regular" over several years, I was on "G'day" terms with some of the staff, and in particular with one bloke who seemed to be on duty more often than not in the building materials store. I asked if he'd mind if I took a few shots in and around the building for posterity before it was finally wound up, and perhaps post some of them in this website - and he gave me the nod. He even offered to pose for one of the pics himself, provided I agreed not to mention his name here. So let's just call him "The Man". Here he is:

There were two parts of the inside of the building that I particularly liked, and I'd always start by going to these rooms first. One of the rooms contained a large central table, and some smaller tables, on which were such things as bits'n'pieces of plumbing fixtures: PVC pipes, pipe brackets, brass shower fittings and such - and shelves around the walls with boxes of more of the same (most of the shelves had been taken out by 4th August). The other room - long and narrow, stretching away from its central door in both directions - contained a bewildering array of glass sheets and mirrors, perspex, and defunct business name placards.

The first of these two rooms by now looked quite forlorn. The large table had disappeared. Clearly, most of the intriguing old stuff had been moved out and (presumably) taken back to the tip.

Here are four photos from the first room, and two from the second:

(One of the very first times I came here, way back when, I found a couple of sheets of perspex that suited my needs. I picked them up - not realizing that there was a thin pane of glass between them, which slipped out, fell to the floor, and shattered. "The Man" came wandering in to ask me if I was enjoying myself, or having fun, or something along those lines. I explained and of course immediately offered to pay for the broken piece - but I think he could see that I wasn't a yobbo, hell-bent on wrecking the place, and he waved it off with a wry smile.)

Here are some more of the pics I took that day, in and around the building:

"The Man" told me that by Friday 7th August he'd have cleaned everything out and locked it up for the last time - and would then move to the bric-a-brac building down the road, which he'd said might last perhaps another few weeks, and would then suffer the same fate.

As I post this page on 30th September 2009, the most recent news is that Eco-Salv has perhaps just a couple more weeks to run before it is finally wound up.

Having embarked upon a photographic documentation of these events, I came back five days later, on Sunday 9th, late in the afternoon, when both shops were locked, and took some more pictures. Here are a few of them:

I came back the following day. Sure enough, the building materials site was locked, clearly for the last time - but the bric-a-brac shop was still open for business, and "The Man" was in charge. He gave me permission to take some photos inside the building. Here's a selection of them, just to convey the flavour of the place:

Just one more: here's a closeup showing one of the many boxes of bits and pieces. Some of these contained various power tool accessories. What caught my eye here was the accompanying sign:

Excuse me?!!

Over the years, I've bought all sorts of odd things from both these places. I'm quite sure the staff must think I'm a real weirdo (and, of course, they may well be right). I'll have a bit to say about some of my more offbeat purchases shortly; but for the moment, I'd like to show you just one item I bought on Saturday, 22nd August 2009:

He looked a bit lonely and sad. I wondered how he'd come to wind up in Eco-Salv; maybe he'd been rude to his former owner who had thus decided to jettison him. I decided to take him home with me.

He sort of reminded me of someone I'd seen on television, whose initials might have been E.C. - although his full name escapes me. (The only well-known personality I can think of with those initials is a certain famous guitarist - but surely it couldn't be him, because this guy's arms are much too short to even pick up a guitar, let alone play one.)

On the way home I told him that we'd been lucky to find each other, because Eco-Salv was soon to close down. I thought I could imagine him saying something like:

They killed Eco-Salv?  


... but then, I've always had an over-active imagination.

Okay - so what else have I bought from Eco-Salv down the years?

One of the most obviously practical things was an aluminium teapot. Since my university days, I'd had two such teapots - but they both eventually wore out (i.e. started leaking from the handle rivets), the second one only a year or two ago. I was dismayed to find that such things are no longer readily available in ordinary shops, at least not for anything like a sensible price. I've bought a few teapots of various kinds from various second-hand places, but none as good as my old aluminium ones which each held five cups (most teapots hold only four). So when I found this one in quite good condition in Eco-Salv several months ago, it was a happy day for me!

(I think they were a bit cheeky regarding this item, actually. When I bought it, there was a sticker saying $5.00 on it; when I got it home and removed the sticker, I found what was obviously the original price, as you see above! But I don't begrudge them, because it's quite OK and I'm glad to have it at the price asked.)

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If you've seen my web-page about polyhedra, you probably know that the next photo is of a regular icosahedron - i.e. a solid bounded by 20 equilateral triangles, meeting five at a time at the vertices (corners):

The triangles are all panes of glass, with edge length 24cm. I saw this attractive object in Eco-Salv one day some years ago when one of my kids was in college; ultimately, it formed part of a creation exhibited by said offspring at the conclusion of a college art unit. It now graces a high shelf in my kitchen/dining area. (I still can't figure out: Why would anyone throw such a delightful thing away? )

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If you've ever watched the cult-classic BBC-TV series "Monkey", or read the book "Journey to the West" by Wu Cheng'En, you may recall that the Monkey King at one point needed to borrow a plantain fan to put out a fire. Well, I found something which closely resembled that fan in Eco-Salv - and, of course, I just had to have it:

The fan (on a chair from Eco-Salv!)...                 ...and the Teddy King wielding it well...           

Then again, a few years back I bought a perfectly sensible and serviceable table which currently fulfils the function of being my computer desk (indeed, as I'm now typing this page, my elbows are resting comfortably upon it).

So I've bought all sorts of things - some obviously useful, some less obviously so - from Eco-Salv over quite a long time.

Among other people, my despairing wife has difficulty in seeing the utility of some of them. Indeed, I've even seen quizzical looks on the faces of Eco-Salv staff members on occasion, when I've bought some items.

For example, here we have two large clear glass discs (each 60cm in diameter), two smaller smoky glass discs (each 33cm in diameter), and an array of round metal door-knobs. Now, why would any normal person want to acquire such artifacts, I hear you ask?

If you've seen my Electrical stuff web-page (or my High-voltage projects page which is a link within that one), you may recall that an ambition I've had since boyhood is to build a Wimshurst machine - an electrostatic generator which utilizes a pair of glass (or perspex etc.) discs with metal foil segments, spinning in opposite directions, to separate positive and negative charges to the point where large sparks - representing many thousands of volts - occur across a spark gap between two metal balls. (Other metal balls may be needed here and there at other locations within the device also, depending on particular methods of construction.)

Imagine my delight when I first visited Eco-Salv and found the glassware room (in the building supplies site), in which would occasionally appear glass discs of various sizes, perhaps from the doors of old front-loading washing machines, or - in the case of the really big ones - from circular glass-topped tables. Just what was needed! - and also, in some cardboard boxes (in the bric-a-brac site), a selection of old brass doorknobs and similar, quite possibly ideal for the required metal balls in a Wimshurst machine. (The picture above shows just some of my collection.)

I haven't built one of these machines yet - but, if and when I get around to it, I now have quite a large supply of the required parts! And, you never know - those two really big discs might even form the basis for a Thesta Distatica (or Testatika) machine. (To read more about this truly strange phenomenon, please visit my Some ZPE "contenders"... page, and follow the relevant links.)

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I've also bought from Eco-Salv some defunct computer monitors, or parts therof, containing such things as flyback transformers and voltage triplers, some of which may well ultimately find their way into power supplies for Tesla coils and similar. On one occasion, when I found what were quite obviously some HV bits from monitors which had been placed into Eco-Salv's own rubbish bin and asked if they would sell them to me, they did so - but reluctantly, expressing concern that they might "blow up", or something similar. (They needn't have worried! )

A year or so ago, I bought a pair of skateboard wheels, much to the obvious bemusement of the staff-member who sold them to me. What would an old codger like me want with just one pair of second-hand skateboard wheels?

Toward the end of last year, these found their way into my first monopole motor (a precursor to what I hope will ultimately be a genuinely over-unity device which relies entirely upon zero-point energy for its operation):

(Notice that the coil is held firmly in place by a white plastic pipe-clamp. Guess where that came from? )

Just one more: a few years back I bought a swag of empty CD boxes. If you've seen my second monopole motor page, you'll know how one of these boxes eventually found employment as part of the rotor for this device:

...I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round...

Remember the "GIVE WAY" sign, at the corner of Forster and Nairana Streets, that I mentioned at the top of this page? Well, when I was there on Sunday 9th August, that sign looked very different:

After years of drought, we've had quite a rainy year down here in Tasmania - and, in particular, an unusually wet winter. I suspect that the sign simply fell over because the ground in which it was embedded was so sodden. Here it is again, in context:

You can see the leaden sky. No sun - and thus, no shadows on the wall that day!

As I also mentioned at the top of this page, it's quite astonishing how shadows can look so real. On a bright, sunny day, they're often hard to tell from actual, physical objects. But on an overcast, gloomy day, it's not hard to see that the shadows which occur on a sunny day are no more than slight variations in brightness, and that their apparent reality is simply an illusion.

I've had quite a bit to say before about illusion within this website, in my All that glisters... and Strange days indeed... pages. In each case, I've made mention of George Harrison's beautiful song "Beware of Darkness" (which is by far my favourite of all his wonderful songs). You can read the lyrics here.

The word "Maya" which occurs in the song is a Sanskrit word meaning "illusion". Here are just some of the lyrics which seem appropriate in the context of this page's main subject matter:

...Beware of Maya.

Watch out now, take care -
Beware of greedy leaders;
They take you where you should not go...

The way I see it, any perceived benefits stemming from "efficiency" or "economy" which involve throwing a dozen or so good people out of work and robbing a city of a source of cheap, reasonable-quality second-hand goods which will otherwise simply go into landfill, can be no more than illusion.

To the staff of Eco-Salv

I salute you. For two decades, you have made an important contribution to the city of Launceston, making it possible for some real recycling to occur - and for people in our community who either can't afford to prop up "the economy" by paying far too much for expensive new products all the time, or who choose not to do so as a matter of principle, to pick up the occasional bargain.

Just having those two off-beat shops full of "this'n'that" has brought smiles to many a face, mine included. Eco-Salv - and similar operations which place people's need above corporate greed - are islands of sanity in a world gone nuts. Thank you; you will be sorely missed.

I wish you all the very best for the future.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

On Saturday, 22nd August 2009, having rescued my new little friend E.C. from a fate worse than death, as I was putting him into the car I thought I saw the merest hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth. Again, it could be my over-active imagination; but I thought I heard him muttering under his breath:

you guys -  

 I'm going home...

Go on - click on it...

> > >    UPDATE, Tuesday, 3rd November 2009    < < <

We've just had a long weekend in Northern Tasmania. Over those three days, the annual Tasmanian Craft Fair was held (as always, since its inception in 1981) in the picturesque town of Deloraine, about 50 kilometres west of Launceston.

It's a good family day out (we used to go there sometimes when our kids were school-age). The fact that it has survived for nearly three decades and is still well-attended speaks volumes about the need for communities to get together in creative ways. This year, all sorts of things were exhibited, from fine engraved glassware to artistic creations such as commercial-quality paper flowers and handbags made from recycled materials. (I don't know how long this link to a page on "The Examiner"'s website will stay current; but as long as it lasts, it gives you a good idea of what went on at Deloraine over the weekend. Looks like fun!)

All of which makes one wonder why an excellent source of recycled materials - Launceston's own Eco-Salv - is being forced to close down. Where's the logic?

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I've been keeping an eye on what's left of Eco-Salv over the last few months. I try to get out there at least once a week to say hello to "The Man", and see what's happening.

The building materials site has long since closed its gates, and has now been sold. However, the bric-a-brac store remains open for business, and "The Man" is still running it.

I last went there four days ago (Friday, 30th October). Word was that the store might finally be about to close, so I took my camera with me, just in case. When I arrived there, I was surprised to see that "The Man" was accompanied by another member of the former regular staff, who agreed to take a picture of "The Man" and myself together:

She (we'll call her "The Chick" ) also agreed to be in a picture with "The Man", and to allow me to feature it here:

Shortly thereafter, I took a few more pics inside the building, just for posterity and to see how things had changed over the almost three months since I did something similar in early August, as described above. Here are some of them (click to see bigger versions):

Back in August, there was still a certain jauntiness about the place; but now it's hard to escape the rather sombre mood. Most of the shelves have gone, along with the goodies that used to brighten them up.

However, there's now something else that seems to offer a bit of colour and light. You may have noticed, in several of those photos, some quite impressive artwork hanging on some of the walls. "The Man" told me that, somehow, a number of good-quality paintings had found their way to Eco-Salv - some by recognized artists - and that they were selling fairly well. So, even now, the place continues to quietly tick over.

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It's a strange, mixed-up old world. Just over the last few days, on the news has come the story that some professor has recommended the culling of buffalo in Australia's Northern Territory, because of the allegedly large amount of methane (a greenhouse gas) emitted by them. Meanwhile, an oil rig which has been leaking large quantities of oil into the Timor Sea for the past ten weeks has now caught fire and is burning fiercely, producing vast quantities of carbon dioxide (also a greenhouse gas). Not to mention, of course, an emerging world power which (we are told) has been building new coal-fired power stations at an alarming rate for some years - and all this against the background of massive-scale clearing of CO2-absorbing rainforests in various countries around the world.

Against this very disturbing backdrop, our elected representatives continue to play around with half-baked notions like "carbon taxes", "carbon trading", and even "clean coal" - all leading up to the Copenhagen summit next month which, supposedly, is intended to address the condition of our poor, sick little planet. (I'll be having a lot more to say about this, in a new page, quite soon - stay tuned). While all this nonsense is going on, here in Launceston we are witnessing the wanton destruction of a simple, down-to-earth small business which has for many years made a genuine success of real recycling. Again, I ask: where's the logic?

Down here in Tasmania, the fight to prevent the construction of a large chlorine-bleaching pulp mill continues. We can't let our guard down for a moment (you may like to read more about this here; scroll about a quarter of the way down the page to the first update). Just like all the other madness I've referred to above, it's all down to rampant consumerism, ignorance and greed - in short, the global tyranny of the mighty dollar, which (it seems) continues regardless, despite the economic scare of the last year or two.

But I'll tell you what I think:

As long as there continue to be things like Deloraine's Tasmanian Craft Fair, and quality artwork alongside the bric-a-brac in places like Eco-Salv, with good-hearted "rough diamonds" like "The Chick" and "The Man" to keep things ticking over, the world hasn't yet completely lost its soul. As long as there are people with a bit of imagination and drive - who recognize shadows (illusion, or Maya) when they see them, and can distinguish them from what's real - we still have a chance to turn things around.

That's what I think!

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