Real life

I dreamed that my broken mop was borne aloft unto the dustcart of Lambeth environmental services

Then I opened the door and realised the mop was still there, and no binman was ever going to touch it

17 January 2015

9:00 AM

17 January 2015

9:00 AM

Clearly, I am going to have to report my broken mop handle to the authorities. It has been sitting outside my house for seven weeks now and the binmen have made clear their intention never to touch it.

I understand there is such a thing as bulky waste. But truly, the mop handle minus its mop head with its business end broken so it cannot be reattached to another mop head refill is not at all bulky. It’s just a broken mop handle.

I put it out with my wheelie bin in the hope that common sense might prevail. Naively, idealistically, I thought the binmen, or whatever they prefer to be called nowadays — refuse disposal technicians, waste and recycling coordinators — might take pity on me.

Hell, I would go so far as to say I had a dream. A dream in which all this madness came to an end. Madness about placing wheelie bins at right angles to the curb, in a position so as not to impede passers-by, and not before 8 p.m. on the night before the appointed day of collection, nor later than 7 a.m. on said appointed day.

Madness about checking what is inside the bin to avoid strict censures precluding emptying if a passing hoodlum has tossed a Coke can in there.


Madness about little brown mini-bins by the side of the big black bins, into which law-abiding citizens have diligently poured the leftover food from their plates all week, so that it has rotted all week, and been strewn about on the street all week, by foxes.

Madness about huge see-through plastic bags, mountains of them, piled up in the streets, ready for collection. And in each huge plastic bag, more plastic bags, and other plastic items. Plastic in plastic. And thick rolls of yet more clear plastic bags on every doorstep. Ready to be filled with plastic.

And I dreamed that this madness would end, and the refuse coordinators would come, and see my mop, sad and bereft, without its head. And one of them would take it in his big, weather-beaten hands — hands with which he has lifted bins from front gardens to save old ladies from lifting them themselves on to the street, even though by doing this he stands a 1 in 50,000 chance of ever so slightly tweaking his back. And he would say to his fellow refuse coordinators, ‘Behold, ’tis a mop that has broken in some goodly woman’s home, and she has put it out for disposal, thinking that her £1,200 a year council tax payment might cover such a service.

‘Come, let us take this mop, and put it in our dust cart, as a gesture of goodwill, and in order to make this mopless soul have faith once more in the benevolent nature of the universe. And let us hope and pray that she does get herself a new mop, at a good price, in a nearby supermarket or hardware store, and that this new mop lasts a long time, and serves her well.’

And I dreamed that the other refuse technicians nodded, and that my broken mop was borne aloft unto the dustcart of Lambeth environmental services — or Veolia, because the job has been outsourced — and that it was taken away to a place of landfill or recycling, possibly in Battersea, though ultimately perhaps in China.

And I did feel very warm and happy because of this dream. And then I opened my door and realised that the mop was still there and no one was ever going to touch it because it did not fit into any of the categories listed on the outside of the recycling bags and would stay there for ever, or until I took it to the park and fly-tipped it in a public bin.

But I don’t want to take it to the park and fly-tip it in a public bin. And I don’t want to drive it all the way to the dump in Battersea myself either. The dump is a horrid place, full of men in white vans shouting.

I don’t see why a lady should have to go there. And, as I don’t have a builder boyfriend, or even an Albanian builder to go there for me any more, I don’t see why the council to whom I pay council tax shouldn’t do it. So I guess I will have to phone it in as a bulky waste item and book a specialist collection, costing £20.

There really ought to be safeguards in place to prevent this sort of democratic outrage. But I suppose when they were drawing up Magna Carta our forefathers did not realise there would come a time when free citizens would have to report a broken mop handle to the authorities.

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  • Ken Bishop

    Can someone explain to this unfailingly witty woman that the edge of the pavement is the kerb, not the curb, in British spelling? It’s one of her favourite words and she gets it wrong every time. A cereal offender.

    • jonathan_smith

      Oooh I was getting annoyed with you until the end. Well done.

      • Ken Bishop

        Why would you be annoyed? Do you not think that someone who writes for a living ought to know how to do it?

  • davidshort10

    Why didn’t she just chop up the handle into pieces and stick it in a rubbish bag?

    • mikewaller

      My thoughts exactly! Were I a feminist I would serious consider taking out a contract (for no more than a stern talking to! 🙂 ) on somebody who shows her gender in such a poor light. For no more that a couple of quid she could buy a junior hacksaw that would have the thing in half in no time.

      This does raise a wider point. I have known several married women who, on the death of their husbands, seemed to be hag-driven to get rid of his tools. God knows what underlies this, but it makes it much harder for visiting DIYers to render any kind of assistance.

  • John Lea

    I’m all for fly tipping my rubbish, but only outside council offices. (hashtag: uselesscouncilbastards.)

  • woodsy42

    Any normal person would simply break it in half and put it in the bin.

    • jonathan_smith

      Any normal bin man would take it away.

  • Paul Evans

    Fly tip it on council property.

  • The Red Bladder

    The vicissitudes that this poor young lady has had to endure certainly put the rest of the world’s problems and worries into perspective.

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