BY the time you get to my age – 62 next month – you really should be a bit wiser and more dignified.

Well, I’ll let you judge whether that’s true about me after I tell you about my trip to the council tip at the weekend.

We’re in the middle of decorating the lounge, and I’d been despatched to the Darlington civic amenity site to get rid of several bags of old wallpaper. An easy enough task, you might think, but it didn’t prove to be as straightforward as I’d expected.

The mistake I made was to chuck the first bag into ‘household waste’ while holding my car keys in the same hand. As I let fly, my keys got snagged on the bag and they sailed into the middle of the cavernous skip along with the wallpaper.

My heart skipped several beats. Panic set in. “I’ve thrown my car keys into the skip!” I shouted, waving, frantically, at the nearest attendant in a high-vis jacket.

He was clearly younger and more supple than a sexagenarian with dodgy knees, so I fully expected him to climb over the barrier and leap, athletically, to the rescue. But he didn’t.

“What did you do that for?” he replied, in a very matter-of-fact tone, before carrying on sweeping.

Maybe he was expecting a tip – who knows? – but it quickly became clear that my predicament was being brushed aside, and I was on my own.

“Well, is it OK if I get in?” I asked.

“Up to you, mate – you’ll need to be careful,” came the reply.

The challenge that confronted me was like something out of Gladiators. I took a deep breath, imagined someone shouting Contender – ready! before climbing over the railing, and managing to cock my right leg over the edge of the skip.

I sat astride it – painfully – while I contemplated my next move. I swung my left leg over, counted to ten, then jumped the eight feet or so onto a single bed mattrass.

It’s at times like these that you learn a lot about human behaviour, and I discovered that people who go to the tip throw blind. They go onto automatic pilot, grab whatever it is they’re getting rid of, and chuck it in the general direction of the nearest skip without looking, before going back to the car for the next item.

Consequently, I found myself under serious bombardment. All kinds of household waste came raining down on me, starting with two mouldy rolls of old carpet. They were followed by four bulging bin bags, cork board, washing up bowl, and broken parasol.

“Oi – I’m in here!” I shouted up at the bloke doing the chucking.

“What you doing down there?” he asked, peering over the edge.

“There was nowt on telly,” I groaned.

To be fair to the blind bombardier, he spent the next 10 minutes on guard – stopping anyone else recklessly throwing stuff at me – while I searched for my keys.

It was a blessed relief to find them – they’d fallen through a gap between a wicker basket and a coffee table – but then came the even bigger challenge of how to get out of that metal hellhole.

With the edge of the skip well out of reach, my survival instinct kicked in. I created an ingenious, though slightly precarious, escape platform out of binbags and discarded settee cushions.

It was enough to enable me to climb up and re-straddle the rim, where I came face-to-face with the blind bombardier, who grabbed my hand and hauled me to safety, prompting a sarcastic round of applause from spectators.

I'll be honest – I’ve had better Sunday mornings.


“SOON, I’ll be so tall, my knees will be down to my ankles.” Fast-growing granddaughter, Chloe, aged 7.