It has come to something when you warm to the new local rubbish tip

Plus: Well done Ed Balls for taking your speeding ticket like a man

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The Independent Online

A while back, with stuff to throw out that was unworthy of the local charity shop, I looked up the council’s provision for refuse disposal. The website referred me to a “facility” which – it also informed me – was closed. Last week, with a decrepit exercise bike to get rid of, I found that the “household waste recycling centre”, redesigned and refurbished, had reopened. It would be an exaggeration to say that I couldn’t wait to get down there, but I’ve been a bit of an aficionado of municipal dumps (as they were once called) ever since we discovered the local déchèterie when we had a house in France.

The déchèterie was a small marvel of French rationality. It hid behind high gates, beyond the Bricomarché and the McDonald’s, and it kept very French hours, with a generous break for lunch. It was a essentially a mound encircled at ground level by colour-coded skips.  You drove (but only when invited) up the steep slope to the top, backed up to the desired section, and threw the pruned branches, boxes or whatever overboard. Woe betide you if you moved your car out of turn or failed to reverse neatly into the designated spot.

If it wasn’t too busy, the attendants weren’t averse to helping a damsel out of her absurdly over-laden distress. They sometimes even asked whether you wanted to keep the big green plastic bags. They liked to be asked for advice.

Which is one reason why, overjoyed to have found Smugglers (no apostrophe) Way without getting lost in a jungle of DIY stores, I paused at the gate to ask which category the bike went into. The attendant smiled indulgently and said Number 12, scrap metal. I backed badly into a space and threw the pieces over the railings to join other gnarled bits of metal in the skip below. All very satisfactory. “We hope,” said a notice at the exit, “it went smoothly.” Thank you, it did. 

The council seems pretty pleased with its new recycling centre, too. Opened by the mayor, it’s described thus: “The new split-level design separates the public from operational activities, and a traffic management system keeps cars flowing through in a controlled manner.” “Visitors” – a nice touch, that – “can deposit their waste and recycling from a special walkway.” You can also “view the length of any queues” on the website before leaving home. The sense of pride is so Gallic, you could translate it almost word for word into French. 

Ed Balls took it like a man

Whatever the judgement on Chris Huhne’s services to literature when he writes his prison memoir, as he surely will, he’s already performed a huge service to road safety. Never will a senior politician be tempted to lie or dissemble about a speeding ticket. Well, perhaps not never, but not for a long time. How well this lesson has been learned was illustrated by Ed Balls’s model response to being zapped recently by a speed camera on the M62.

“Like many local people” – note the politician’s perpetual quest for affinity with his constituents – “I was caught out by the never-ending roadworks on the M62,” he wrote on his blog. “I was caught – and bang to rights – doing 56 in a  50-mile restriction zone.” He said he’d paid his fine and attended a speed awareness course. “I currently have no points on my licence and would like to keep it that way.”

You bet he would. Imagine what Yvette would say if he even hinted that she might take his points on her licence, what  with her being shadow Home Secretary and all.