This death obviously comes from outside the usual round of dead televisions that are derived, by and large, from the same old streets, day after day, week after week… I sometimes wonder if there will ever come a time when the neighbours have no more to discard – perhaps by then their houses will be completely empty – but that doesn’t appear to be the case. There is always something else waiting to be dumped.
Anyway, I digress. I came across this carcass while holidaying up the coast recently and was struck by its dramatic positioning on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. The incongruity of it is breath-taking; for half a second, I wondered if it might be an installation, an improvised sculpture by the sea or the residue of a happening. Simply by its positioning and the manner of its treatment, this death hints at more than the usual portentousness, prompts a slightly longer pause for reflection.
Two aspects immediately come to mind. One is the location. This stretch of coastline is not far from a major town with its own rubbish collection and recycling facilities. It would have been far easier for the dumper to simply leave the television at their curbside. So the fact that it is cliffside instead suggests a certain deliberation and effort. The television isn’t there because the owner was too lazy; on the contrary, whoever it was went to some trouble to get it there.
Secondly, the state of it. The set is seriously smashed. Did that occur in the act of dumping it, or was it mutilated first and then dumped? Was the intention to throw it into the ocean – an act which almost beggars belief – during the course of which it fell apart close to the edge? Perhaps the falling apart is indicative of an incomplete death, a failure to launch.
You see what I mean? The nature of this death prompts an almost forensic desire to reconstruct the chain of events, to imagine a plausible narrative.
Whilst I was looking at this dead television, a woman passed by who was obviously a local out for a walk. We looked the telly for a while, marvelled at how and why anybody would dump it here, at which point she said emphatically, “It must have been a tourist.”
Instantly I felt a twinge of culpability by association, being from outside the area myself, as if I was somehow representative of all those telly-tossing miscreants travelling up and down the coast looking for a suitable spot to besmirch. It was only later that I realised how improbable it was that someone from elsewhere would bring a dead television with them on holiday with the intention of leaving it behind, like a reverse souvenir. Possible… but not likely.
So perhaps what the woman was really expressing was a disbelief that anybody from her community would do such a thing, would deliberately soil their own backyard, so to speak. It’s an understandable response. Dumping is a furtive activity. Nobody wants to be associated with it. It’s like being caught out doing something dirty. In the city, we are largely inured to it; there’s so much rubbish about, it’s easy to turn a blind eye. But on a cliff-top, poised on the edge of a vast expanse, the transgression is almost too painful to behold.