The Best of Times: My mates call me Picasso - no name for a dustman: Philip Rigden talks to Danny Danziger

I ENJOY it, but like any other job it gets a bit of a routine after a while. Still I wake up in the morning and say: 'OK, you know it's a good job this, really.' Then I get up on the hills and it looks gorgeous, especially in the summer.

The area around here is lovely. It's turning into a town now, but it used to be a tiny village, with a few of the old Yorkshire cotton mills - the sort of place you stopped on your way to somewhere else, a journey's resting place.

I try to be a good dustman; I'm conscientious, but it's not the most important thing to me. A job is a job. I need to pay the mortgage and pay my other bills. I wouldn't say I sweep roads therefore I must be this sort of person; I'd say I sweep roads to earn a living to make some money so I can pay my bills, full stop.

A lot of people have said: 'You don't look like a dustman'. So I usually reply: 'What does a dustman look like?' When I go out I dress in right with-it stuff, I suppose I've always had a smart appearance and I get a perverse sort of pleasure from saying I'm a dustman; I'm proud to be a dustman, any road.

It's all go, from as soon as you wake up. You get the wagon ready, pick up the lads, and there's not a minute to spare. Sometimes to keep our bonuses, you're running, you've got to empty so many bins in an allotted time. We're timed at 1 minute 45 seconds for each bin. To achieve top bonus regularly is very hard work. The average dustman walks 22 miles a day, and that's as well as humping bins. I'm not kidding. The time-and-motion man came round with our gang a couple of weeks back, and he clocked 22 miles on his chart.

People could help by keeping their dustbin neat instead of overflowing it, and by making access easier. I had a syringe in my leg today, it stuck right in] I picked a bag up and this hypodermic syringe was sticking through. And I don't know what they used it for, it could be anything, could be carrying Aids. I'll have to put it in the Accident Book. But I'd say most people are considerate, if there's broken glass in the rubbish, they'll wait for you and say: 'There's some glass in there but I wrapped it up in paper.' And you say: 'Fair enough.'

I'll get shot for saying this, but there is one big perk. It's called tatting: taking the stuff people throw out, televisions, crockery, that clock on my mantelpiece, the pewter mug, coal scuttle, books. I've got quite a lot of interesting books that way. You get to know when you pick up a bag, you can feel whether it's rubbish or if there might be something in it. But this does slow you down a little.

I'm on the perimeter round at the moment; we do all the farms way out, little hamlets: Hade Edge, Farnley Tyas, Tinker's Monument (that's not official but everyone knows it as Tinker's Monument), Victoria, Hepworth, there's loads of little places.

Today it was me and Barry and Frank. Frank's a mate of mine and Barry's a bit of a character, he's well known in this area - ask anybody and they'll know Barry Lee. We were behind on this round, and we didn't finish on time.

What else happened today . . . oh yes, a dog tried to bite me, that's a constant problem. The women will come out saying; 'It's all right, he won't bite you' - and meanwhile you'll be trying to shake the dog off your leg.

I try to enjoy myself while I'm at work, to make the most of it. So I look around at all the beautiful things that are going on. And my mates and me, we rabbit on, swap yarns about women and booze, you know.

They are fine lads. We're shouting and bawling at each other during the day because the pressure's on to get the work done, so we get a bit ratty sometimes. But when work's over we all have a pint together, so it's nothing serious.

I go to night school. I'm studying art, just passed my 0-levels; I'm working on A-levels now. I really like Leonardo da Vinci. I think he had a brilliant mind, a beautiful mind, he was so intelligent. Not just an artist, but an inventor as well. He had style, didn't he?

I do a lot of portraits of the boys, as well as lots of buildings. My line of work is excellent for having a look at what'll make a good picture. And on the weekends or in the evenings I go sketching. I look around the beautiful valley with the sun setting and that inspires me; or first thing in the morning, if it's a nice clear, crisp morning with the sun just coming out, can inspire me, too. We always see lots of squirrels, rabbits, foxes, hares and sheep.

The lads do tend to tease me. They'll say 'Hello, Picasso' or call me a piss artist. I get my leg pulled all the time: 'Do a drawing of this . . .' and it's an old dustbin or something. They may take the mickey but they are interested. They ask a lot of questions, and if I get them on my own, we'll have a serious conversation about art.

I'd rather be an artist full time. I could put in eight hours a day painting quite easily instead of eight hours a day emptying dustbins.

I've done a lot of pen and ink sketching. I've made so many of them - and sold so many - that it's boring me now. So I'm trying to improve my application of colour and I'm starting with coloured pencils, oil paints - whatever I can afford.

I know I could improve my art if I had more time to study, but because I work hard physically, when I get home I don't feel like doing it. An ordinary artist gets more practice in one day than I have in a couple of weeks.

But I can see myself being a fairly good artist after about another five years. Whether I'll make a living out of it . . . being realistic, I don't think I will. I think I'll remain a dustman. I'll try and work my way up in the dustbins, become a supervisor or something like that; but that takes a lot of effort, and then I wouldn't be able to concentrate on my art.

Maybe I am more optimistic than I'm letting on. It's funny, you don't want to reveal all your dreams to a stranger. You know, you dream about being famous - it just seems absolutely ridiculous, but it's not fame that I want to achieve, I want to give people a message.

I can't communicate it in words - as you can hear - but I can do it through art. Peace, love, beauty, truth, that's what it's all about.

(Photograph omitted)

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

    £65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

    Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

    £20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

    £8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

    £14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable