The Rag-and-Bone Man.

The Rag-and-Bone man is a character that I thought had long disappeared in these days of local government-sponsored recycling and internet swap shops.

As a child I would run into the street when I heard the distinctive call: “Rag and bone” had merged into “RAAAABOOOOONNNNNE!”, a long plaintive cry that made me think of a lonely, lost animal calling for the herd. Our local man had a long open-backed lorry which he would drive at a majestically slow pace down the road, like a carnival float that had been mugged and robbed of its finery. His mate would sit on the back amongst the broken down washing machines and lead piping, and haul on any junk that householders dragged out for him. If children gave him pieces of scrap metal he would give them a balloon in return.

We later moved house to an area where Rag-and-Bone men were Not The Kind Of People We Want Around Here, but I find I now live in a neighbourhood down-market enough to have its own regular Rag-and-Bone man. True, instead of the lorry he pushes a purloined supermarket trolley, so he could just be an upwardly mobile tramp. But when I heard him give out the call, obviously long-practised and expertly executed, a shiver of recollection went down my spine and I knew he was the genuine article.

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