A dog day morning with Murphy and Co.
Streetsweeping is boring. If you want to experience 'Groundhog Day' for real, grab a bin and some litter pickers and come and do my job! Day in day out the tedious days seem to endlessly merge into one another, broken only by the brief sunny spell of each oh-too-brief weekend - the only bit of your life when you feel free of the labours of Sisyphus. But every once in a while there comes a dog of a day, a close encounter with those great law codifiers Murphy and his close friend Sod. Then you'd better watch out brother! You know them - they're the antidote to Grecian 2000. A few hours in their company will turn your hair white, assuming that is, you haven't torn it all out in tufts first! Where Murphy and Sod walk - woe follows.
Monday morning. The alarm roused me but I dozed off again. I mean - who wants to get up at five thirty on any morning? Damn! I'm going to be late. Bloody Monday! Nothing's where it should be and my work clothes are scattered all over the house. Half dressed and half asleep I fumble round the fridge while my coffee milk boils over and the smoke alarm threatens to wake the rest of the household. 6.30, hoping I've got everything I need, I finally get out to the car.
It's bouncing down with rain and the mizzles got into the ignition. Bonnet up, WD 40 and curses - how many times have I had to do this in the rain? In the end, the leaden lungs of my clay cold engine cough reluctantly into life, and still misfiring, I drive on a wing and a prayer towards Halifax.
At the depot I discover my wagon has been in use over the weekend. It's not difficult to tell, it's been left piled high with festering rubbish and my brush is missing. On the ceiling of the cab is a brown stain as if somebodies been throwing mugs of coffee around. On the floor are tab ends and damp Fiesta magazines- a 'used' look. I have to get a replacement brush. I mark it 'Jim's Brush - Hands off you light fingered beggars!' Not that it'll make any difference!
So its the usual Monday - late off the mark and short of bags and diesel I head off down the litter strewn streets. At Gibbet Street a nearby phonebox has been smashed and there's glass everywhere. Opposite a drum of used cooking oil has been left on the footway. It reeks of stale curry, as I lift it into the wagon it spills all down my neck. I try to wipe the stuff off but it still leaves me feeling like a Punjabi John Travolta.
By the time I've swept up the glass I am flustered and even further behind with my round, but nothing daunted, I drive the couple of miles down the valley to Elland. I park up and prepare to hit the streets - at which point I discover my brush and shovel are missing! I rack my brains until recollection dawns - then in my minds eye I can see them, still standing against the bench at the corner of Gibbet Street! Theres nothing I can do but drive back up to Halifax and hope I can retrieve them before somebody walks off with them .
But now it's eight thirty and all the way up the hill to Halifax it's one big rush hour traffic jam. The suns come out and by the time I get there I'm getting hot, flustered and impatient - but I'm lucky - the gear is still there. I grab the brush and shovel and turn back for Elland - with every light on red.
Now I'm running late. On Victoria Road I lift an exceptionally heavy steel binliner which nearly pulls my back out, only to discover that some considerate individual has filled it with old potatoes. In the neighbouring bin awaits a handful of dog dirt! On the precinct the florist has left out the usual bags of trade waste and the kids have scattered cellophane and flower cuttings everywhere. By the chinese takeaway a nasty shock awaits. As I put my hand into the bin I feel something move! It a ruddy hedgehog! Now I know hedgehogs are supposed to be clever, but I've never heard of one shinning up a lamppost! it strikes me some folk are just plain cruel. I remove it and hide it in the shrubbery.
This morning we received a memo from the management reminding us that council operatives are not allowed to engage in 'totting'. It's something of an 'in' joke among the workforce, as nobody professes to know what 'totting' means! 'Totting' is a colloquialism not familiar in Calderdale and one suspects that some 'off comed'un' is responsible for the memo. The word they use here is 'scranning', which, amazingly appears in Collins English Dictionary where it is described as 'begging for scraps'. 'Skran' is in fact old Norwegian for refuse, which is perhaps why binmen go to Scrandinavia for their holidays!!
Now the bottom line of all this is that, legally speaking, refuse collected from the public by binmen and sweepers becomes the property of the council until it is tipped, at which point it becomes the property of the Waste Management Authority. For binmen and the like, this means that 'creative recycling' of useful refuse is theft from the council and therefore a dismissable offence. This memo has been a revelation to many - did you know for example that, legally speaking, the council now own all those pornographic magazines you sheepishly put out for the binmen? Cash strapped councils are constantly looking for ways of raising money - why not council sex shops? They already own the stock! This legal position opens up all manner of fascinating possibilities. If for example someone forgets to flush a public convenience, does the poo remain the property of the council until its flushed round the bend? Having been flushed, does it then become the property of Yorkshire Water, or is it still running in the councils pipes? I mean, do they pay people to think of these things? If I accidently get a bluebottle in my cab at the tip, should I put it in an envelope and