old iron


The familiar clarion of “the Bawlly” (the scrap-metal collector) has followed me this past couple of days. This is the sound of a wrecked and strangulated trumpet piercing the air over otherwise quiet neighbourhoods…. followed by a damaged voice imparting what I can only assume to be “Old Iron!”.

The Bawlly has always plied his trade in these parts. As a kid there’d be a sinister edgyness to his arrival. From a back garden you could never quite tell from which street he was calling and it was better to hide or run inside to avoid what felt like a dark presence. Part gypsy-traveller, part kiddy-catcher; grubby-faced, Dickensian ne’er-do-wells sitting atop an old wagon, drawn by a shaggy pit-hoss. In reality these strangers from another time and place were Black Country scrap metal-merchants, aboard a flat-bed truck, but they might as well have been from another country. Their 8mph street-wanderings clearly paid off. I have a vivid memory of dad running out of the house in his bare feet and ‘jamas to apprehend the Bawlly. Then watching, incredulous, as the back-half of a Mark One Mini was man-handled onto the truck, joining fridges, rusty garden swings and dug-up fragments of air-raid shelter.

This week, the sound of the Bawlly signifies the start of austere times. Summer is truly dead. Kids are back to school, the skies have turned grey and there’s a faint rustling of tumbleweed as a lean-looking Autumn stretches before me. A breather is welcome after a busy few months, but it’s now time to cast the net, seek new work opportunities and develop ideas for new projects.


4 Responses to “old iron”

  1. 1 Jake

    Pretty sure them nicked our babbys’ buggy a few months back Grae. Tek n e fing them buggers.

    • Like I says, Jakester – part kiddy-catcher. They’d av yer lead flashing off in a jiffy too, I shouldn’t wonder.

  2. 3 Pete Moore

    Round our way he was called the Rag and Bone man. He’d ring a bell and call “Raaaaaaag’n’bone”. You could hear him coming from two streets away, even over the sound of Roobarb and Custard on the telly. Is he the same, or are they cousins?

    • Distant cousins I reckon, Pete. They only seem to be interested in bits of bashed metal around here. According to Wiki, there’s a bloke still scouring the streets of Croydon with nowt but a horse and a handbell

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