Gosport binmen

One long summer working ‘on the bins’ carrying this big orange tub.
Filling it up with shit from your dustbin and flinging it into the dustcart, easy on the thinking, harder on the back.
They loved younger guys doing the job, we’d do it quick and not complain.
The older guys were hardened by the job, they’d worked through winters, the rain. Seen just about anything there is to see in a dustbin.
They had no time for us seasonals, come autumn we’d be gone and the hard work was theirs again.
One always comes to mind: he was short, with a greasy flat cap, had that curved back from years of carrying loads. His thing was knickers, if he found a pair of knickers he’d tie them to his orange tub, had a whole string that got dirtier, not that they’d been clean to begin. I can’t remember one word he ever spoke to me.
THE day, a couple of weeks in and we’d all found some kind of rhythm, hold those guys up and you knew it, we were a kind of team, a man team that hardly spoke but didn’t need many words anyway. You knew who and where you were in the pecking order. We stopped for the usual break, us younger guys would sit on the kerb, smoke and drag the usual shit talk
and
knicker man would pull sandwiches out of a box while reading a paper he’d found in a bin.
One of the older guys nudged me to look over at him doing this, his dirty hands reaching in to the plastic box and lifting up to mouth, nobody liked this, we all sat away from him, this was just too much.
He bit into his sandwich, began to gag, looked at it, pulled the bread apart and there it was: a dead bird, rotten, maggots spilling from the bite.
He puked. We retched, puked too.
He stared at each of us, fury, hate, violence to be had.
We looked away.
The foreman called us back to work, we finished the round in near silence. The shit would hit the fan back at the yard.
End of day, lined up like schoolkids in the site managers office. He was red in the face, horror in every word:
“what possessed you to do this?”
Silence.
“Who did this?”
Silence
More silence.
“If nobody says, I’ll dock each of you a days pay”
Silence….then:
“it was me” said the foreman, gangerman.
“just why would you do such a rotten, disgraceful thing”
Then,
then we all got docked a days pay anyway because the gangerman said: “cos it was going cheep”
We all laughed ourselves stupid,
again.

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