RECYCLED JOKES (WITHOUT THE JOKES)
I’m going to talk rubbish now. (I know some of you will be saying ‘what’s with the now already?’, but don’t be so cheeky. That’s my job).
When people ask me what I do, the traditional answer used to be ‘I’m a writer’. These days, though, I think I’m going to have to be honest about how I spend the bulk of my waking hours, which is sorting out the recycling.
For the past few years local councils in the UK have adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards anyone throwing anything away. Especially packaging. (Never understood how it’s OK to beat consumers around the head with an [unwrapped] herring for chucking out the cardboard and plastic and God knows what else batteries are sold with, but that it’s not occurred to central government to penalize the manufacturers for selling the goods like that in the first place. Is it possible to buy batteries loose? No it isn’t. But then, British citizens are regarded with total disdain by those who govern them, and you get the impression that the country would be so much better off if only we’d all pack up and go somewhere else. Which some of us do from time to time. According to rumour).
When I used to live with the Future Then Husband before I went to Nice, I had dealings with my local authority over their refuse policy. (Now look, feigning surprise doesn’t become you. Smacks of sarcasm, which is the lowest form of wit. And if anyone knows anything about the lowest form of wit, it’s me, I think you’ll agree). For one thing, one particular Christmas – a period in which households welcome more guests into their homes than at any other time of year, and cook more than they usually do – we had absolutely no refuse collection for a whole MONTH. Not even the food waste was taken away. And so dustbins overflowed, with surplus rubbish stashed in bags next to the wheelie bins – which the Council then threatened not to remove, because their policy was to (not) dispose only of the contents of the bin.
Their argument was that the tips charged more for dumping stuff at Christmas. Oh, OK then. Let’s take (lots of) money off the taxpayers for refuse collection, and not collect it. (Hang on a minute…perhaps ‘refuse collection’ means they refuse to collect it! Well, in that case…)
For another thing (yes, yes, it’s one thing after another with me), the Council had also abolished the traditional weekly collection, bringing in a fortnightly service for the whole year (excepting Christmas, when they instigated a no collection collection. Make a note of that on your calendar, why don’t you. Must remember – bin men not coming today. Or today. Or today…)
The Environmental Services Officer of my borough – and there’s a reason the word ‘mental’ appears in his job title – was a man called Paul Redmond. A concerned citizen (not me) wrote to him asking about a chicken carcass in the light of the new (non) collection rota. What was she to do with it? It was a country area already populated by many foxes and rats (whom the Council were obviously thinking of giving the vote, based on their innovative Provision of Food for Wildlife platform), and leaving a chicken carcass outside for two weeks before the bin men came again was surely asking for trouble?
Mr Redmond (or ****face, as he is known to me) replied to her that it obviously wasn’t a good idea to eat chicken, or fish, two weeks before the dustmen were scheduled to appear. And if she insisted on cooking real food for her family, she should store the leftovers in her freezer, transferring them to the bin shortly before bin day.
This considered reply was reported in that well-known publication of doom, The Daily Mail. I read the article. I wrote to Mr Redmond.
Dear ****face, I started (do you think this may have alerted him to the fact this wasn’t a fan letter???). I’m a journalist. I’d be most obliged if he could explain the Council’s refuse policy to me, especially in the light of central government running a campaign at the time to encourage people to cook real food and stay away from the junk, which causes obesity and many other ailments, the long-term treatment of which was draining vital funds from the NHS.
There was no response for a day or two – I got the feeling there were a few headless chickens running around Waverley Council (at least the carcasses weren’t taking up freezer space) – but then, dear Reader, I received a 27-page document full of nonsense council-speak. As if this explained anything. Other than what complete idiots these people are.
[If you think Mr Redmond was bad, my then MP – whom I once met at his surgery in Sainsbury’s supermarket (I kid you not) to discuss a local matter I wanted raised – is such a cretin, even I don’t have words to describe him. He is still the area’s MP – indeed, he is the current Culture Secretary – and never a truer word has been said than by James Naughtie on the Today Programme when he mispronounced his last name somehow or other…LA LA LA…]
Anyway, talking of rubbish (sorry Jeremy Hunt – doh! Given it away there!) the apartment block where I now live has it’s own mini-recycling centre. There are bins for paper, cardboard, mixed glass bottles, perishable waste, plastic bags, general waste, Alphabetti Spaghetti (A-L, M-P, Q -S, T-Z), old gerbils and foods beginning with ‘K’. Never mind lifting and separating (underwear has progressed a little since those days), many hours are now spent sorting and bagging (in biodegradable bags), and tagging and nagging (not shagging, sadly) and reading leaflets and helpful signs left by the bins (DON’T PUT THAT IN THERE, YOU LITTLE TWERP!) and having sleepness nights (NO! I’ve already told you there isn’t any shagging going on, why don’t you listen just for once?) worrying about whether they’ll trace my fingerprints from a bottle that wasn’t mixed and knock on my door for putting it in the mixed bottle bin. (Don’t laugh – why break the habit of a lifetime? – but some local authorities actually put microchips in household wheelie bins to weigh and analyze and castigate and fine. And you can’t take things to the local tip any more without paying – that is, if what you want to take to the tip is approved of by the Tip Police, who examine every last black binliner you try and offload full of rubbish politicians.)
By-the-way, in a wonderful example of schadenfreude, come the local elections following the abolition of weekly collections, nearly all the councillors who had endorsed the policy were voted out. And there we shall leave them, lying quietly on the scrapheap (only I don’t think they were worth much per ton as it happens).
Wouldn’t mind, but a couple of years ago it was discovered that many councils were demanding their taxpayers carry out all this finicky sorting of goods on a weekly basis, whilst subsequently secretly shipping the whole lot off in one big pile for landfill in China.
In Nice, you know, you can leave anything and everything out, and the bin men – who come six nights a week, in the middle of the night – take it all. No exceptions. I’ve seen whole broken up offices left by the side of the road, garden waste, entire Roma communities, and they’ve all been removed by sunrise. AND the taxes aren’t as high.
But then, where would we be without high taxes and lamentable services? You’d feel like you weren’t in Britain at all. And there’s got to be something other than the weather that makes you wonder why the hell you live here.