Written by Sarah Hendrickx


A Pilferer’s Daughter

Sarah Hendrickx ain’t no thief, but if something’s going begging, she’s got the Tupperware to stash it in.

red handed
to steal things of little value.

Today I stole two things from a top-security establishment. They were a magazine from 2013 with an article that I wanted to read and a leftover bacon and tomato sandwich from someone else’s meeting lunch.

This is not a one-off: I am a low-grade kleptomaniac of things that other people have finished with or don’t really want.

My eyes literally light up when I encounter some potential swag and I feel the adrenaline rush of danger. It’s as exciting as teenage shoplifting (which I was never brave enough to do) but rather than a criminal record, you only have social disapproval to deal with, and that doesn’t have to go on your CV.

When staying in a hotel, I plan the attire in which I will go down for breakfast, ensuring multiple pockets and spaces in which to stash the odd bread roll. Once I became so overwhelmed with the pastry selection, I had to sneak past reception into the lift with so many buns stuffed down my top that it looked like I had eight boobs and an impending childbirth.

I have furnished entire homes out of skips and rubbish dumps, having an eagle eye for a functioning TV at 50 paces. When I lived in squats in London as a teenager, doing the rounds of all the local skips was considered a good day out. It’s fair to say that I can’t walk past a skip or a bin without poking my head inside. Sometimes I have to be dragged away by my partner because “we already have a fridge.”

Due to my work, I regularly spend time at the crème de la crème of pilfering hot spots: the training course. This is because I am a trainer, which for someone like me is like being an alcoholic who works in a pub – surrounded by temptation.

Of course, it’s normal for most people to snaffle a mini pack of biscuits or a banana for the train ride home, but I am not in their league: my record is 23 packets of biscuits. Yes, that was pride that you sensed there.

“I would climb into this three-metre high skip and when the security cameras were facing the other way, hurl out anything that could be salvaged.”

I also got 17 pork pies that day – after everyone else had finished their lunch; I’m not unreasonable. Then there was the day that I clanked out at the end of the training room with all the empty glass water bottles because I wanted to make elderflower cordial.

My rationale is that all this stuff has been paid for and it will only go to waste or in the recycling. My advice for the burgeoning pilferer: never leave home without Tupperware.

I blame my father. He was an old-school, working-class truck driver who frequently arrived home with items that had fallen off the back of someone else’s lorry and into the back of his. This was normal life in the 1970s. He’d grown up in children’s homes in Liverpool before the war and getting hold of what you needed without harming others was part of life. I worked with him as his driver’s mate, ostensibly to be of some useful assistance, but in reality just eating my own body weight in chocolate and crisps and rolling him fags. He taught me how when I was seven. This was considered positive active parenting in 1975.

One of our jobs was to collect forklift pallets from the warehouse of a large high street drugstore. The pallets were right next to an enormous skip where damaged products were dumped. Damaged products might be a six-pack of Ribena where one had leaked and the whole lot had been chucked away. Suffice to say that, for many years, our house had more Ribena, paracetamol and bubble bath than one could shake a stolen stick at.

I would climb into this three-metre high skip and when the security cameras were facing the other way, hurl out anything that could be salvaged. It seemed ridiculous to us that all this stuff was wasted and so we felt compelled to reduce the environmental impact… Yeah, right: in the mid 80s ‘environmental impact’ was way in the future; we were still on a comedown after the invention of Crispy Pancakes.

dog stealing biscuitsThe pair of us were like two kids at Christmas after a good hoard, properly excited. We would return home to my waiting mother (any comparison to Fagin is purely coincidental) and pile it all in the shed, pleased with our day’s work.

My Dad passed away in 1991 and it was only a few years ago that my brother called to say that he was just using the last piece on an industrial sized roll of clingfilm that my Dad had purloined around 25 years before. That was a sad day: his legacy ending on a plate of leftover lasagne.

It’s only right, therefore, that I carry on collecting salt and pepper sachets and paper clips in the name of my father. I know that’s what he would have wanted.


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Written by Sarah Hendrickx

Sarah Hendrickx is a writer, author, autism specialist and occasional standup comedian. She lives part-time in rural Portugal where she tries to make friends with geckos and grows broad beans. Her book about moving overseas, How to Leave the Country is available on Kindle/e-book. She blogs at www.bicyclesandbiscuits.com.