Every Sunday morning at ten o’clock I’m there. Joining that queue with all the other broken people. Ready to cross that threshold and purge our souls, which are laden with the excesses of everyday life. I don’t consider it worshipping, it’s more like a pilgrimage. But here you don’t need a bible and a prayer mat, all you need is a people carrier and a permit.
Whatever your story, whoever you are, you’ll always be welcome at the local tip.
Words cannot express the sheer cathartic joy I get from slinging bits of wood into a skip. Hearing it crash into the sides, making that thumping noise which sounds like a giant kettle drum in a steel band. I feel clean, I feel centred. This is the mindfulness money can’t buy.
In this pandemic we’ve all craved something more spiritual. A connection with a higher power that gives us hope and guidance. Many people put their faith in religion. I always find it interesting when people say that it would be great if Jesus came back. Would it though? I think he’d just be frustrated, he’d be a celebrity wouldn’t he? The first week would just be him doing meet and greets!
He’d be saying, “Can I sort out this famine in Nepal?” and they’d say, “sorry Jesus you can’t mate, you’ve got a book signing session at Waterstones and then you’re on the One Show!”
He’d just be sat there bewildered on the sofa in his sandals, next to Christopher Biggins wondering what on earth he was doing there. He’d have to get used to the modern world too. I can imagine him sitting in front of the laptop replying to all the negative feedback for the Bible on Amazon.
“Seriously, who gives a miracle one star?!”
“Yes, it did really happen Dave_5673, I was there!”
He’d be a big player on the celebrity circuit too. Going on talk shows, occasionally throwing in the odd party piece like turning water into wine. Taking the Turin Shroud on The Antiques Roadshow.
He’d probably have an agent too, who would be constantly trying to raise his profile.
“Jesus you need more of an online presence”
“I’m omnipresent mate!”
“You need more followers!”
“Followers?! I’ve got millions!”
“They’re not the right type of followers Jesus!”
“You’ll have to go on Love Island Jesus”
“Fine,but tell them I can’t do Sundays!”
Anyway, back to the tip. That Sunday morning visit has become a regular feature in my life now. As a forty-year-old father of two, it’s the closest I get to a little holiday. Sometimes as a treat I take my children with me. The first time they saw that place they were almost moved to tears. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Sat in the back of the car, buried by grass clippings, their faces pressed in wonder against the glass, taking in the sights, the sounds and the smells of this Disneyland of debris.
A trip to the tip is an adventure for any kid. Up there with an afternoon in the laundrette, going through a car wash or going to Pets at Home, which is basically a free zoo.
The tip is a true assault on the senses. You see so much there. A man carrying a full wardrobe on his back like a giant wooden tortoise. Couples dragging rubble sacks across the tarmac, like they are competing in the final of ‘World’s Strongest Man’. And an elderly gentleman who has queued up for an hour just to get rid of one tiny hanging basket. He could’ve put it in his wheelie bin at home but he’s here for the atmosphere.
Then there is that moment when the skips are replaced. It’s a ceremony which could rival the changing of the guard. There are lorries, chains and huge diggers that compress the rubbish down like the foot of a giant transformer.
A recent addition saw a huge metal structure installed over the top of the cardboard skip. Constructed from galvanised steel, like the set of a Wrestlemania cage match, it had a small access slot, to force people into folding down their boxes. It’s a feat of engineering excellence that wouldn’t look out of place on an episode of Grand Designs.
It’s a fact that kids love a job. They like to have a sense of purpose and responsibility. The tip trip is a chance to put that theory in action. When I saw my five-year-old giggle with excitement after flattening a cardboard box, and post it into that skip, I could understand why child labour was a thing for so many years.
The place is truly wonderful, however there is one thing that can always upset the balance. One thing that prevents this unique world from being a true utopia. I’m talking about the much-feared tip marshals.
These people are like the Orcs in the Lord of The Rings Films. Terrifying foot soldiers, clad in high vis jackets and safety boots, they prowl menacingly amongst the skips, waiting for their moment to strike. And just like in the Lord Of The Rings films, if you’re in the wrong shire, you’re in trouble.
There is nothing quite like the joy you see when they are telling someone they can’t get rid of their rubbish because they don’t have a valid permit. The look on their faces is almost orgasmic.
Sure, the man lives in the area, he pays his taxes, but if he didn’t manage to navigate the simple 40 page form to validate that permit, he’s nothing more than a common criminal. So what if he’s spent six hours loading a car and strapping a sofa to the roof? Like bouncers at a nightclub, if your names not down, you’re not coming in. They watch him drive away, knowing he’s probably going to fly tip it in a layby around the corner, but they’ve won and that’s what matters.
The amount of ID required to dump your own rubbish these days is truly staggering. You need a recent utility bill, your name and address, a driver’s license, a passport and your own mother in the back seat to vouch for you. Honestly, it’s easier to fake your own death than get rid of some garden waste. Who do they think you are, Jason Bourne?! “I’m deep undercover but today I’ve been gardening?”
Many of the men that work at the tip have something about them. I don’t understand why they don’t feature more in sexual fantasies alongside fireman and soldiers. They have a brooding intensity, an assured sense of self-confidence and the brute strength to rip the flex out of a knackered sandwich toaster using their bare hands! Phwoooaaar!
The tip is a haunting place at times, especially on a foggy morning. There are often workers rummaging in skips. Searching and separating. Sometimes without warning they’ll just pop up through the rubbish, frightening the life out of you like the dancers in the Thriller video.
They will also claim a weird toy as a kind of macabre souvenir. You’ll always see a plastic baby with one eye missing nailed to the door of their little hut or tethered to the front of a lorry like a ghoulish mascot.
During the pandemic the tip marshals became drunk on power. They often sat at the entrance on an old deck chair with a clipboard like a military checkpoint. As soon as you opened your boot they would interrogate you. And let me tell you there is no fear like that moment when they ask you what’s in that bin bag, it’s like a suspicious wife asking to see the messages on your mobile phone.
They miss nothing:
“What’s that mate”
“Some floorboards, I’ll just put them in the wood skip”
“Wait a minute son………………….Tony!”
A man then comes out in a white coat with a clipboard and a microscope. He rubs his finger along the wood and then licks it.
“We can’t take that mate, it’s got asbestos in it”
“Health and safety pal, nowt we can do”
I try and speak their language, try and connect with them on their level, basically what I’m saying is I whistle and use the word “mate” a lot. It rarely works.
Although there is one way you can outwit them, one way you can pass through security undetected. It’s quite simple. Go at lunchtime. As soon as they disappear into that little hut with a brew and a sausage roll, you could get rid of a dead body. Although if you do, then take precautions, please put it in the right skip number seven, non-recycling.
Scott Bennett Comedian
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