The Shopping Trolley of Lurve

We got a wheelie bin today. Quite a momentous occasion, really. Everyone else has a wheelie bin, so I wanted one too. We were never quite sure why this house didn't have one. Perhaps the might of the London Borough of Waltham Forest thought that 42 and 44 were one house, and neglected to leave a bin at 42. Or possibly the phantom wheelie bin rustlers visited us in the night and stole it before we'd ever noticed it was here. At any rate, Steven noticed that every other house in the road had a wheelie bin, all of a sudden, each with its number painted on the side. He also received instructions on how to use a wheelie bin, with dire warnings that any rubbish which wasn't placed in a wheelie bin would be studiously ignored by the binmen.

Who are a law unto themselves anyway, as it happens. They're supposed to come on a Thursday, but it seems to be a bit random. We've always put it down to bank holidays, signs of the zodiac and the National Lottery. We did once get a note of the dates from the council, but it bore no resemblance whatsoever to the dates they actually arrived, so eventually we took it down from the fridge and put it in the bin. Or, rather, in the tatty black plastic sack.

The actual time of day on a Thursday depends. If we've put the rubbish out the night before, we're lucky if they've picked it up when we get home from work. If we've forgotten, then we're invariably woken up by the clatter of bins. I'm not entirely sure how they manage to make wheelie bins clatter, incidentally, given as how they're made entirely from plastic. It's clearly one of the arcane rituals that bin men are taught as part of the initiation. Steven worked on the bins for a while as a student; but whenever I ask him about the arcane rituals he just smiles enigmatically.

From time to time I've wandered down the road idly, on my way to the tube on a Thursday morning, eyeing up other bins and wondering if any of them is actually ours. 25 has two bins, 25A and 25B. Perhaps there are two flats, or perhaps someone's decided they need another one. I peer closely at them, looking out for signs of someone taking the '42' off with white spirit. I don't see any. I wonder about the possibility of nicking someone else's bin. Clearly you wouldn't want one from the same street. The other end of Walthamstow would probably be safer, in fact. Probably best to go a good few streets, and take some other street's 42. Luckily they're on wheels. Makes it easier to get it home. Of course, you could get unstuck that way. Suppose someone had decided to off their lodger, and reckoned that a wheelie bin was the easiest way to dispose of the body. They're plenty big enough. And they're on wheels. This explains why you see so many wheelie bins floating in rivers. Except you don't; that's shopping trolleys. Or maybe you do. If you see a wheelie bin in a river, and it has 'London Borough of Waltham Forest' and '42' on the side, can you wheel it back?

In Chester, there was never really much of a need for a wheelie bin. For one thing, the neighbours didn't have them either, and there weren't the dire warnings. And we left the rubbish out in black plastic bin liners like everyone else, usually the night before the binmen came. And in the morning the sacks would still be intact.

Not in Walthamstow, though. It's no problem if we don't eat meat, but when we do our rubbish is taken in the middle of the night and thoroughly dissected, much in the manner of an anatomically accurate horror film. It's not as if we tend to leave many animal remains in the first place. We're primarily talking about polystyrene packets with a little loose blood on them, or bones that have already been thoroughly boiled up for stock. Is this really sufficient cause to spread every single piece of our household rubbish in a monomolecular layer around the entire garden and halfway down the street?

A fox in a smoking jacket leaning on a wheelie bin

I wasn't entirely sure at first what creature was attacking the rubbish. I suppose I had vague notions of traditional urban predators, like blue tits pecking on milk bottle tops. And then we started seeing foxes, here and there. A pair walking across Sainsbury's car park at twilight. One on Hampstead Heath. And we saw odd ones more and more often in the back garden. They're completely tame, and living off our rubbish. How many are there near here? I have no idea. Plenty, I should think.

The foxes can't get into the wheelie bins. So if they want to eviscerate people's rubbish, it has to be people who don't have wheelie bins. And there's not much point doing it in Chester, because there's entirely too much hunting in the neighbourhood. Not much chance round here. You can't really see the hunt chasing the fox along the North Circular, through Leytonstone tube station and up the M11.

So eventually we got round to ringing the council, and complaining. Now that Steven pays full council tax, it's only right that he should partake fully of council services, after all. They explained that they didn't actually have a spare wheelie bin at the moment, but when they did they'd drop it off. And today they did. I have no idea how many foxes we were supporting with our meagre bones. I hope they don't starve.

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