Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

As if by magic, a letter arrived with answers to all my composting questions. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had received warning from the council that I might be in a food waste recycling area. Nothing was definite about it. It hadn't seemed to occur to the form-shoveller pursuivants that they might be the only people who knew the answer. Despite having invented the rules, they seemed determined to persist with the notion that they could not be held responsible for knowing whether they were applying them to my street or not.

I tried ringing the council's recycling line but it was permanently busy. Apparently they are suffering an unusually high level of calls since putting leaflets through thousands of people's doors warning them they could soon be fined up to £1,000 for not doing something they may or may not have to do.

So I wrote about how confused I was. A few days later a letter arrived informing me that I am indeed in a food waste recycling area. Coincidence? I don't think so.

On the front cover of the leaflet there is a picture of an old lady with long white hair smiling as she does something with a banana.

It's hard to work out what exactly she is doing, it's very ambiguous. She appears to be looking lovingly at the banana as she places it into a see-through bag which also has potato peelings in it. She is holding the bag over the sink, presumably to demonstrate one of the ways one might avoid causing a mess in these situations. A bottle of Mr Muscle is the only other object in the frame.

Maybe it's not a whole banana. Maybe it's an empty banana skin. It certainly makes more sense that way. But in any case, she is smiling more than is feasible for an old lady to be smiling while recycling her food waste.

Wouldn't an old lady be tearing her hair out as she grappled with the blasted starch bags and food caddy? Wouldn't a more realistic picture be of an old lady with a phone clamped to her ear holding perpetually for a recycling adviser while dropping the banana skin on the floor? Then another picture on the next page of the leaflet could show her flat on her back with a broken hip after she's slipped over on it.

In the end, I had to ring the service centre and hold for an age, because the leaflet informed me that I should already have rolls of starch bags, which I did not. …

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