Last Tuesday morning I drew back our bedroom curtains and watched bleary-eyed as the summer wind sent plastic bottles, newspapers and Dominos pizza cartons swirling into my neighbour’s gardens. Cursing the litter louts who had blighted the Avenue, I turned to my slumbering beloved and said,
“Sarah, what’s with all the rubbish outside? Should I ring the council?”
From under the duvet came the muffled reply, “What day is it?”
My Dearly Beloved suddenly sprang from the matrimonial divan and stood frozen on our 80% wool twist, deep in thought.
“Yesterday was a bank holiday…Tom, is Mrs Murphy on her front? ”
The look of horror on Sarah’s face said it all. Clasping our hands to our faces, we both screamed together –
Time was of the absolute essence.
“Tom, what are you doing ?”
“I’m er, looking for my other sock.”
“Never mind socks, just go down as you are! There isn’t time !”
“In my jim jams? Why can’t I get dressed?”
“Because… you are a man, you don’t care what people think. Now go! And don’t wake your little Nephew.”
Heartened that my sartorial insouciance gave me licence to roam the streets half-naked, I leapt quietly down the stairs, through the kitchen and out onto the patio where lay the dreaded recycling receptacles. Dropping the waste food bin (eugh) onto the cardboard bin, I stuck the one for plastic bottles under my arm and ran towards the front door.
I made it just in time to see the pink recycle lorry meandering away down The Avenue. Oh well, maybe we could just wait until next week? A bang from the window above told me that I’d better get a move on.
Along the road I limped, hitching the boxes up onto my shoulders as bottles and tins clattered down around me.
“Mr Hughes? You’ve dropped something!”
Mrs Murphy, aggressively sweeping her designated part of the pavement shook her head as I staggered on, cursing my burden of domestic detritus.
Up ahead a swarm of tattooed bin men swung plastic boxes in and out of the open-sided van. Eventually, I caught up with the happy band of council employees at the end of The Avenue. Triumphantly, I dropped my containers at one of the Recycle Operative’s feet. Ignoring me completely, he joined up with his pals as the lorry trundled out of my road. And there I remained, standing in my pyjamas, on the corner of The Avenue and Harrington Drive, smelling of stale milk.
Undeterred I pressed on, managing to barge my way past the lorry to dump my bins at the feet of a tattooed Hell’s Angel in a hi-viz vest.
“Can you empty my bins, please?”
Giant Haystack’s surly half-brother gave me a stare and then with his massive paw began lifting up my receptacles. Thank goodness for that, now I could end this nightmare, go home and tweezer the gravel out of my feet. Wrong!
The black bin crashed an inch away from my foot, un-emptied.
“What’s the matter?”
“There’s a tin can in your cardboard box bin.”
“Did you know that in China, a new coal-fired power station comes online every six months, so I don’t think one tin – ”
“Sorry sir, I can’t take your bin now, I’ve put a sticker on it.”
I looked down. On the side of the container was now stuck a bright yellow note – incorrectly packed bin. Giant Haystacks shrugged his shoulders as he and his lorry rolled down Harrington
The sky darkened, commuters stared. There was nothing left for it. The walk of shame awaited. I carried my still-full bins back home.
Mrs Murphy shook her head as Sarah opened the door, took one look at my burden, then turned on her heel and went back inside. We didn’t speak until lunch.
Billy, my little nephew, was sat at the kitchen table mashing his eggy soldiers as I shuffled mournfully towards the patio.
“Uncle Tom, when I grow up I want to be a bin man.”
“Why on earth would you want to be a bin man?”
“Well, you get to wear a cool hi-viz jacket, you get a good pension, and you only have to work one day a week….”