In which five go dumping.

Printed 28/11/09

"GET UUUPP! It's DUMP DAY! Happy dump dayyyy!"

It bears witness to this year's rapid decline into premature middle age (and not even the fun kind of middle age, with Harley-Davidsons and Anne Summers parties), that this weekend's highlight was an eagerly-awaited trip to Haringey Refuse and Recycling Centre.

We woke up early, eyes shining with anticipation, rosy-cheeked like Victorian kids on a biscuit tin. Get dressed. Pack the car up. Start a rousing chorus of 101 Eco-friendly Green Recyclable Bottles on the wall.
It was early Christmas. Christmas, without the acid heartburn, or the Vicar of Dibley, and with the crucial difference being we were getting rid of a massive pile of tat instead of acquiring it.

It was exciting for many different reasons. Firstly, there was the challenge of seeing if, with no help from proper grown-ups whatsoever (other than the cautious lending of car and sat nav), we could successfully complete the mission without a figure of authority outing us as amateurs somewhere along the way — "You! You in the heels! With the picnic! You're not a proper grown-up, you're a student. Back to your own landfill."

Then there was the kharmic benefit. By cleansing our cupboards of all the mangy old cack the previous tenants left behind (pre-war kitchen utensils, a hiking boot, Lord Lucan), we cleansed our minds and souls, finding new levels of clarity, self-knowledge, and the sandwich toaster we thought was lost forever. We also created lots of space for all our own mangy old cack (a juicer, 12 sleeping bags, that laptop the Ministry of Defence mislaid the other year).

And then, most excitingly, there was the novelty. Before Saturday, I had never been to the dump before. It was a mystical place, an illusory land , the sole preserve of Dads on Bank Holidays. Until I was about 13, I thought "Dad's going to the tip" was grown-up shorthand for "going on a super-exciting holiday excursion without you, petty child", or possibly an affair.

The car load of tree branches and broken kettles was a mere foil for the magical, musical, joy-packed adventure that father would be having all day without us (in between his other thrilling bank holiday rituals: grouting the bathroom tiles; spending quality time upside down in a box in the garage; wounding himself bloodily in assorted picture-hanging ventures; talking to a neighbour over a hedge).

So inevitably, as we pulled up expecting an all-singing, all-dancing rainbow-lit theme park full of Dads whizzing round on waltzers made from old bike parts, there were elements of disappointment. Firstly, it was nine minutes from our house. We'd barely made it to 85 Eco-friendly Green Recyclable Bottles before we were there, which made it less an excursion and more the kind of place you can pop to. You shouldn't be able to pop to the dump. Dumps should be far, far away on the outskirts of cities, in suburban no-man's-land, past a spaghetti junction, in between a Furniture Village and an Ikea.

Next disappointment — no mountain of rubbish. I wanted circling seagulls, half-visible Ford Cortinas, and a sofa perched jauntily on the top where you might imagine the dustmen have after-hours tea parties. I thought maybe, just maybe, we might stumble across a working CD player or a Shakespeare folio and be allowed to take it home.

But no, sadly it seems the only area in which Haringey Council can excel at the moment is super-organised recycling. It's clean, it doesn't smell, and there are cheerful mosaics from schoolkids all round the walls saying things like "Recycling is rad!" as though they really, really mean it.

Within 10 minutes we'd disposed of all our assorted detritus in big, categorised containers and nobody had told us off for bringing stolen road signs. It was an efficient anti-climax. My only hope now is that maybe my dump is an anomaly, and that some day I'll get to experience the same exhilaration my Dad gets every bank holiday.

I've checked it out and discovered happily that Worthing's dump is far away enough from my house to possibly warrant the taking of sandwiches, and, if the photo is anything to go by, definitely has a massive pile of rubbish. If I find out anything about the waltzers, I'll let you know.