Could anything better sum up the grim reality of returning from paradise to my crap terraced street than the Bin War? For two-and-a-half years, I have put up with the bizarre anctics of my neighbours, who will go to great lengths not to knock on my door and say “Excuse me, why do you keep your bin in the alley?” or even, the extremely far-fetched “Would you like a hand bringing the bins in and out?”
I have received letters ‘from the council’ written on a typewriter and returned home drunk to find my bins pinned up against the front door. Half of the neighbours have long drives: acres of space for their bins, which they decorate with wildlife stickers. They love them so much that they pay someone to come and clean them. I have listened to people beneath my bedroom window at 7am TALKING IN REALLY LOUD VOICES ABOUT THAT GIRL WHO NEVER BRINGS HER BINS IN and Tom’s Auntie J has had a stick waved at her and been asked why I don’t bring my bins in. Still, no one has bothered to ask me. (It started when Tom was a baby and I had to either leave him in the house alone or drag him and the bins around. Now it’s because my yard is too small for a load of bins.)
(And I am stubborn.)
Recently, the neighbours stepped things up. They formed a residents’ society, for people who have got time to get upset by things like tall trees, building work, dog shit (actually, that does bother me) and their beloved bins. When I got back from my holiday, the latest residents’ newsletter was on the mat, with a biro rectangle and an asterix around the article ‘Wheelie Bins (again).’ Oh go away. I’ve just been sleeping on a beach in a place where the bins are old olive tins painted with hippy hyperbole.
Then the council finally got involved. They sent me a letter (not done on a typewriter) threatening me with a fine. It told me to move my bins on to my property but not too close to the house, in case they got set on fire. How you are supposed to keep three wheely bins away from your house when your yard measures 6 foot by 5 foot is beyond me. Faced with an actual real-life fine, I brought them in. There is now no room whatsoever for Tom to play outside. I can almost feel the warmth from my neighbours rubbing their hands together.
Why does anyone bother with reality? I thought today, washing up and staring at the neat row of bins beneath the kitchen window. In came my best boy, right on cue:
“You alright Mum? Is yer ear hurting? Do yer want a glass of water?”
And I snapped out of it. Spending the aftermath of my trip on codeine had probably softened the blow. It was a delayed post-holiday comedown. Last week, I gawped at a shooting star (I don’t think I have ever seen one in real life) and my friend who lives there laughed and told me they see that there all the time. Grim reality just means that the contrast is cranked up when you go away.
Top of my priority list now is finding Tom a home with a garden, instead of a walled rubbish tip. He loves those wildlife bin stickers.