We had a leaflet through the door from the local council. Luckily it wasn’t telling us to keep the noise down or to stop offending local residents. This time it was about the rubbish collections over the Christmas period.
When I was a single Grump I used to have one bag of rubbish a week. One! Then Mrs Grump moved in and we can have anything between three to four. Because Dudley council will not take more than three bags, sometimes we have to squeeze an extra bag into another to make three bags. Why is this? How can one man produce a single bag of rubbish only to have the number of people living at the premises double, but the number of rubbish produced tripling in volume? I have no idea what rubbish there is to facilitate such quantities. Should Mrs Grump and I be fortunate enough to have a baby Grump in the future, I’m hoping the bambino has my rubbish generating gene otherwise we could end up with six bags of rubbish a week.
Anyway, collection is on a Tuesday but Christmas day was on a Tuesday so they moved the collection day to Christmas Eve. That’s ok I thought, we have three bags already and it was Saturday. But I was mindful that we had some chicken in the one rubbish bag and I hate to wake up and find the bags have been ripped open by the foxes and rubbish is spread out all over the street for all to see. So I told Mrs Grump that I would get up early Monday morning to put the bags out before the bin men arrive.
Sunday I send a text message to my neighbour to let her know that the bin men were coming Monday morning. This is not my neighbour who has dialogue with her cat (see previous post “Cat speaks strange lingo”). This is Audrey who lives on the other side to us. I am fortunate enough to be good friends with Audrey and her husband Lee.
I remember when Lee and I first had a chat. I wish I could say that we hit it off straight away. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t at the point where I would flick dog poo over into their garden. But we had previously been saying hello in passing until one day in the first summer at the house I had a knock on the door. It was Lee. I answered the door.
“Hello mate, we’re having a barbeque next door with some family round,” said Lee. ‘Arhh, what a neighbourly thing to do. How nice, to welcome me to the neighbourhood. To lay the foundations of a beautiful friendship between neighbours. Pushing aside the mere neighbour label and making way for the preferred term of “friend”. We shall become predominantly friends who just happen to be neighbours. After all, everybody needs good neighbours. With a little understanding, you can find the perfect blend. Neighbours, should be there for one another. That’s when good neighbours become good friends. That’s what the theme tune to the soap used to say anyway.
Up until this point I have always detested the people I have lived next to. The noise they make, the things they do to wind me up as I watch them from the bedroom window saying aloud to myself, “Unbelievable, look at the state of that mowing. There’s no lines, no form, clearly an insight into the uncouth lifestyle of this stranger who sleeps mere inches apart from me.”
But not now. This could all change. My neighbour is offering to break bread with me. To welcome me into their home, their kingdom and to share their food with me. What greater offering on a basic level of fundamental human needs is there for one man to offer another a warm place to stay and some of their food to eat. I feel my faith in humanity is restored’
I start to grin at Lee foreseeing the invite. I had nothing planned that evening apart from perhaps watching some crystal maze reruns on challenge tv. I’d rather have a hot dog any day!
“Oh yes!?” I say, waiting for the invite.
“Your washing is out on the line, you might want to get it in,” said Lee.
My face dropped. There was no invite. My hopes of a hot dog or a burger were destroyed in an instant. “Oh….. thanks,” I said.
As I got my washing in, I could smell that the barbeque had been fired up and it wasn’t long before the air would be filled with the scent of cooked meat and sounds of laughter and banter. In that moment, I swore to myself that I would forever criticise his mowing from the comfort of my spare bedroom.
But we did eventually become good friends hence the text message to remind them that the bin men were coming Monday morning.
In the early hours of Monday morning I was awoken by the terrorising sound of some sort of screeching. ‘What is that?’ I thought. My mind was taken back to my past as a young grump, hearing of the mythical Banshee that resides in Ireland, who’s terrifying screams can be heard for miles around.
But I knew this wasn’t a Banshee. This was Dudley, which already has its fair share of scary old women who screech in the dead of night. I’ve seen them myself, as they work the tills of the nearby 24 hour Tesco. The screech that goes right through me. “Traceeeeyyyyyy. I want a price check on a box of cowcow pops please bab!”
With the reflexes of a deaf, wheelchair bound, geriatric ninja, I jump out of bed and to the window. Mrs Grump is now awake.
“What’s that noise?” I ask. “I don’t know but it sounds horrific,” replied the good lady. I peered through the blinds to see two young foxes on the neighbours front lawn, one of which shrieking a long and arduous screech. Part of me wanted to open a window and throw a slipper at it. But the other half of me thought that it would be better to enjoy this rare opportunity to observe this cunning and shy urban creature. To experience nature first hand, live and without the narration of Bill Oddie. Besides, I also wasn’t fond of the idea of walking around with one slipper.
I could see that they had ripped open next doors rubbish bag. “Good job you didn’t put ours out with that chicken carcass in it,” said the good lady. “Yes,” I reply, a little smugly as I climb into bed.
I know I set my alarm for 7am. I definitely did. But I have no recollection of switching it off. I am awoken at 7.30 to the sound of the bin lorry arriving in our close. The amber flashing lights, just slightly infiltrating into the Grump master bedroom through the slats of the blind. I jump out of bed shouting profanity’s in the vain hope that I could rescue this situation. I throw on my dressing gown and jump into my easy access slippers and attempt to dash downstairs. But I don’t stand a chance. The reasons being:
Firstly, I have to negotiate the back door, the bin, three heavy bin bags and a stiff swollen back gate before getting out to the front of the house and to Dudley’s finest bin men.
Secondly, because I am totally incapable of running in my slippers. You see my slippers are designed for a walk at the most. Because they have no back, as the gate of your swift walk, jog or run increases and you kick your leg behind you, the slipper starts to come off. So you are in a difficult scenario where you’re performing a disjointed, speed shuffle around the house so you don’t lose the slippers. This is not only a trip hazard generally, it is a dice with death negotiating the stairs!
Finally, I had no chance of catching the bin men anyway. Why? Because thanks to me, Audrey and Lee were the only people in the entire close to put their bin bags out. It was literally a drive by bin bag collection.
I reached the Kitchen and knew that my efforts would be in vain. I huffed and puffed going up the stairs and climbing back into bed with Mrs Grump. But how quickly your status and kudos could change.
Four hours earlier, I was the wise one who saw it prudent to prevent our bags being ripped apart by foxes. But now I was reduced to the dickhead who forgot to put his bin bags out. The fact that I informed Audrey and Lee to do so, made me even more of a dickhead.
Not my proudest moment. Luckily, Mrs Grump didn’t give me a hard time about it.