Friday, October 15, 2010


I just started a fantastic book called The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson.  In the first chapter he talks about the scavengers who inhabited the city of London during the 19th century. 

There were the toshers - these were the guys wearing flowing velveteen robes who sloshed about in the mud at the side of the Thames looking for bits of metal, coins, or anything else that could hold some value.  The mud-larks were small children who followed the toshers around and gathering up their rejected items.  The sewer hunters did the same thing as the toshers, except in the bowels of the earth under London.  Once in a while a pocket of methane gas would ignite when the sewer hunter went too close with the lantern and would blow him to kingdom come.  There were the bone-pickers who spent up to 9 hours a day collecting any type of corpse, then separated any rags or metal for resale, and my personal favourite favourite the pure-finders.  They were the ones who collected dog poop.  Not necessarily what I would have thought with a name like pure-finder, but given the choice collecting dog shit sounds more appealing than the other jobs.

I guess if I'd been around then I would have been the dumpster diver, but I only take things like working microwaves or vacuum cleaners...maybe the odd bookshelf, or something else I think I can fix up.  I would never even consider picking up an old rag or a piece of metal wire or heaven forbid a piece of bone.  But think of the millions of tons of garbage we are producing every day in the world.  I bet those if those 19th century scavengers were here, they'd have a heyday.

Until next time,


  1. Certainly some food for thought there. Must be where the expression to "pick a bone" with someone came from?

    Pure-finder sounds so wonderful, then you hear what they do...

  2. Good food for thought...I guess we'd be dumpster divers together!!


  3. Well, business was certainly picking up back then.
    I wonder what they would make of our modern conveniences that have been discarded.
    Thanks for some interesting 'tips' Okay, a 'tip' is what they call a landfill site in Britain.
    Must go now...time for a visit to my neighbour's recycle bins and check out all the fresh food they dump outside the local supermarket. What a waste!
    Have a good weekend, Tracey.
    Kind wishes, Gary :-)

  4. Is it true that Tosher is Welsh for "people who don't dress appropriately for their job"?