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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Pure Collector

I'm descended on my dad's side from a long line of tanners from Bermondsey in London. The last tanner was my Grandad, who was born in 1906 and died in 1993, though he quit tanning quite a few decades before his death. He died, incidentally, of the dangerous family trait of Not Wanting to Trouble the Doctor.

He was in full possession of his marbles till nearly the very end, when, in his hospital bed, he started to make big sweeping movements with his arms. My cousins found out from him that this was his body remembering lifting the animal hides from the foul solutions they were soaked in. One of these solutions was called "bate" and was made from water and dog-shit, kept nice'n'warm. It was therefore a vilely smelly job and tanners tended to live together on what is politely called the fringes of society.

(Incidentally, this branch of the family always seemed to me stupidly obsessed with avoiding germs. They wouldn't let anyone take out library books because of the health risks. And my dad would never have a chinese takeaway in case the food deliveries had been left on the step and a dog had pissed on them)

My grandad told my cousins about a character who had a worse job than the skilled but bored and stinky tanners, and that was The Pure Collector. His job was to collect the dog shit from the streets of London and take it to the tannery for use in the bate. Anyone with an urban dog can maybe begin to appreciate the horror of this task, but this was before carrier bags, pooper-scoopers, or rubber gloves. It was crawling around, picking up dog shit bare-handed and putting it in your knapsack, and as an urban dog owner myself I can promise that not all dog turds keep their shape when lifted.

I'm not sure, but I'm guessing this was a freelance position with tanneries paying by the pound.

So I thought the pure collector would be a good lead for a romantic novel, because I bet not many girls wanted to go out with him. I feel sorry for him and want him to find love. His partner would also need some grave disadvantage, I thought maybe being 6 foot tall? Or having a shockingly bad temper? They could each have some sweet saving grace: he could sing in a heart-rending tenor and she could tell really good jokes.

Haven't worked out all the details, obviously, that is MY grave disadvantage, I leave ideas half-thought. But I think it is a germ of a brilliant idea, as it would give hope and inspiration to people today with unappealing jobs: estate agents and computer programmers. (Only kidding guys)

Don't tell my Nan there's a germ about though.



At 4:07 pm, Blogger Charlie said...

. . . the dangerous family trait of Not Wanting to Trouble the Doctor.

My family has the same trait. Well, not the whole family. Very little of the family, in fact. Actually, it's just me. It has something to do with tiny waiting rooms and claustrophobia, I think.

I came over from St. Jude's place and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. Your story idea is a great one.

At 4:20 pm, Blogger The Pure Collector said...

Hi Admiral P!

I went to see your blog. It looks so beautiful and yet....the stuff in it is good to read too.

Thanks, and so glad we share an interest in animal excrement!

At 4:43 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NSU - 4efer, 5210 - rulez

At 8:04 pm, Anonymous MsMimi said...

You should see August Wilson's play The Gem of the Ocean. He has a main character who collects "pure."

At 3:00 am, Anonymous joshuaskills@hotmail.com said...


At 3:02 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...





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