Ian McMillan: If it’s broke or not, we all want to fix it at the dump

Right, load the boot up, and let’s get that stuff we don’t want any more and take it to the dump; sorry, I mean the municipal waste disposal site. I always see the dump as the charity shop’s younger sibling, the one that hasn’t been quite as lucky in life, the one that ended up chewing crisps when their big ‘un was eating caviar. That’s charity shop caviar, good as new. The rule I try to follow is: The clothes and books you take to the charity shop might be useful to somebody, but the things you take to the dump are of no use to anybody except the recyclers.

I always try and put the bags for the dump into the boot as quickly as I can because if I linger even for a second I might begin to change my mind. That ancient, broken record player with the wires tangled and hanging out? I wonder if it might come in handy in case I ever join an amateur dramatics group that needs one for a play? Those old bits of mis-shaped wood, sprouting with nails? I might take up sculpture and create a wood-and-nail-based piece called My Life. So, rapidly and with no time for any tinge of regret, the bags go in and the boot is closed.

That’s only half the battle, of course. In fact, maybe it’s the easy part because you’re not really saying goodbye to the stuff until you actually hurl it into the skips. I’ve seen items rescued from the skip mid-chuck, like condemned men getting a last-minute reprieve. I’ve never done it myself though, oh no. Not me.

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At the dump, the Dump People gather; they generally fall into two socio-economic groups, as we say in Darfield: young people making their way through life’s big adventure, and middle-aged people trying to free enough room in the house to sit down.

The middle-aged are the most fascinating, perhaps because they’re just like me. They once thought that hat-stand made a statement about their lifestyle, and maybe it did, until it broke. In 2004. They now realise they will never brew their own beer, which is why they haven’t cleaned the equipment since Barnsley were in the Premier League. They kept that old computer for sentimental reasons so long ago they have no idea what they were. Into the skip and don’t look back or you might climb in with tears in your eyes to drag them back into the light.

Perched on an old table near the plastics skip is a pair of matching microwaves, like modernist versions of those pot dogs your grandma had on her mantelpiece. Everybody who walks by wonders if they’re any good. A man in overalls of the sort office-workers wear when they’re doing DIY picks one up and turns it over and over in his hands. Somebody, who’s already picked it up and discarded it, shouts ‘Not working, pal. Brokk.’ and then drives off.

He isn’t convinced. He puts the microwave down. He picks it up. Time seems to slow, almost stop, like it does when you’re waiting for a microwave to ding. This is an important moment. He takes the microwave to the car. It’s a small triumph. Does he want any bits of wood with nails in?