Written by Kate Symondson
If there is a hole, vessel, a cavity, a slot, an open gaping non-living mouth in London it will be filled with crap. Often literal crap. The small black sacks with hastily knotted twisted tops filled with dog shit – dumped in lidless residential bins, recycling boxes, a crevice between tree roots, an abandoned cat litter box on the pavement, or just on the side of the road “it’s not on the pavement so it’s okay”. I don’t have a lid to the bin in my front of my flat. Someone at some point in the mid twentieth-century nicked a bin lid for no good reason. And thus they launched an interminable chain of bin lid nickers that spread wildfire-like from street to street, borough to borough. I had hoped that by leaving mine uncapped I would have broken the sequence. But no good deed goes unpunished… Lidless-ness, it turns out, is an invitation. People throw their crap bags in my bin daily (with its state of undress it’s probably “asking for it”). The bin men don’t take them away (don’t blame ‘em), so I am accruing a bin full of shit.
People can’t wait to get rid of the black baggies (ugh, ‘baggies’). I look after my parents’ dog sometimes. Norris. He’s only a little thing and produces little bags but walking down the canal through my neighbourhood with a handbag of dog defecation makes me self-conscious. (hello neighbours, hello freelancers, hello hipsters, hello young mums, the elderly, nursery school children, lollypop lady, car that let me cross the zebra crossing, I would politely wave but I have a dog’s lead in one hand and a bag of shit in the other). So I get the urge to discard the dump. But I promise you I don’t do it. In this utterly British internal war – good citizen vs. red-faced decorousness – the former triumphs.
By the by, in Islington I once saw an enraged man pick up a discarded doggy-do bag (god I hate that infantilisation of shit) from his side of the street and throw it to the other. “Not on my side of the pavement! Not in my back yard!”. With his lame lob the bag just missed the pavement, a car ran it over, the bag burst and chocolate brown shit smeared the shoddily repaired road. Seems like a good metaphor for today’s politics, but I won’t bother explaining why.
When I lived in Pimlico I tried to throw away a bin. It came with the house. A thirty litre swing-lid bin, red, green, blue, and yellow. I didn’t want it and didn’t need it. It was too large to fit into a bin bag, so I lazily loosely encased it in two – one top one bottom. The bin men removed both bin bags, binned them, and left the bin. The bin became a street bin. Endless tourists wheeling their wheelies would spot my bin – the colour of a children’s play area – and dutifully feed their cans wrappers banana skins through its jolly swinging mouth.
When the bin was overflowing the bin men acquiesced and took it away, seeing it, finally, for what it truly was. Rubbish. So now you know – how to throw away a bin in London.