The Dustmen don’t like me. There can’t be any other explanation for it, as they consistently ignore my pathetic attempts at recycling and being generally ‘green’. Every week, we stick our food recycling box outside the front gate and, most weeks, come home to find it still there, heaving with stinking leftovers, while all the boxes belonging to the neighbours loll emptily on their sides, rolling about in the breeze. Possibly they have overheard the family name for the item in question. I blush to repeat it, but it’s one of those ridiculous bits of family tradition/shorthand that just somehow seem to stick – a bit like an inappropriate nickname that your mum dreamt up when you were 2 but which she still uses to this day. We know the food recycling box as “The Uck-Uck”. It was a term that was invented by a long-dead relative when he was a small child and I think it actually has some onomatopoeic resonance, well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. The name stuck so well that even my French cousins refer to “Le Uck-Uck” (pronounced Le ook-ook, in typically Gallic fashion).
The failure of the recyclers to remove our Uck-Uck irritates the Shah enormously because when he does something, he really, really goes for it and that includes Going Green. Remember the comedy show Goodness Gracious Me which featured various Asian actors and comedians in sketches – brilliantly written by Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, Kulvinder Ghir and Nina Wadia amongst others? One of the best characters was “Mr Everything comes from India” who used to insist to his despairing son that every person or item he mentioned had its origins in the sub-continent. “Jesus? Indian! He worked for his father and fed 5000 people on very small amounts of food! Superman? Indian! Two jobs and a bad haircut!” Well, I am becoming convinced that Indians were the original recyclers and continue to be amongst the most ingenious. After all, the Goodness Gracious Me crowd recycled loads of old songs and sketches, turning them on their heads to great effect - Skipinder the Punjabi Kangaroo, The Six Million Rupee Man, The Delhi Tubbies, to name but a few. Unfortunately, the Shah occasionally confuses recycling with hoarding piles of crap - viz when I pointed out that some steps we have in the back garden really needed to be replaced as they were becoming worn, he suggested (without a shred of irony) that we lay some off cuts of Astroturf that he has in the garage along the tops of them. When I protested loudly, he just gave me the injured puppy look that he is so good at.
He is also a great collector of jars and pots because “They Might Come in Useful Sometime”. Amongst the other items he likes to hoard (on the basis that it would be wasteful to chuck them) are Computers – he reckons he can cannibalise them when a part fails on a working model which is why there are at least six in various stages of dismemberment lurking in the garage - lengths of wire, four-way adaptors, fuses – Oh God, I could go on forever. In fact, we recently had occasion to move some furniture around in the bedrooms and the Shah swapped bedside cabinets with TD. This, of course, also involved swapping the contents. “Easy,” I thought to myself. “Hers will take hours to empty – he’ll only have a couple of books and a hanky in his.” Oh Boy - was I ever wrong...
I should, at this point issue a disclaimer and say that I apologise in advance for what follows, but I have to share this with someone – and you drew the short straw...
These were the contents of the Shah’s bedside cabinet:-
1 bottle of Snore Relief (used, but not used enough)
1 flat head screwdriver
4 AA batteries
1 Emergency Phone Charger (unopened)
! Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Commemorative coin in a presentation case
2 Radiator keys
4 safety pins
1 hat pin with a pearl on the end (inexplicably)
1 curtain tie-back hook
4 Marks & Spencer receipts dating from 2007
1 Brass washer
1 door hook
1 USB key
5 boot laces (unmatching)
2 over-door hooks
1 bottle of Shake & Vac (why? I have never bought Shake & Vac in my life – where the hell did this come from and how the hell did it end up in his bedside cabinet? Am getting slightly worried...)
1 fake Rolex watch (not working)
1 shaver charger
2 hankies (one used, one clean)
2 Ikea pencils
1 ancient Geometry set, embossed with the name of his elder brother
1 earpiece cover
1 toothpick (wooden)
1 pocket torch
1 Airline toiletry bag full of travel adaptors
2 more adaptors
1 travel hairdryer
2 Airline toiletry bags (empty)
1 Airline toiletry bags containing original toiletries, unused.
2 toothbrushes (Airline)
1 bar of soap
1 gadget featuring a large red button which, when pressed, issued a loud voice crying “Bullshit Alert! Bullshit Alert!” There is so much I could say here, but I will resist....
1 cover for an electric razor
No electric razor
16 Golf Tees
1 piece off our bed
10 assorted books
1 blue sock
Even he looked a little embarrassed when I catalogued the whole horrible mess.
I can’t really explain this hoarding/recycling instinct, except to say that it could, of course, be simply genetic. After all, his father keeps an old bathroom washbasin and pedestal in the back garden, in which he likes to grow Tulips (I kid you not).