BILL Dodd is bored. “To death,” he adds.
And well might he be. Because this month is the first since October 1968 that Bill isn’t emptying the town’s rubbish into vans. He retired at the end of December and now doesn’t know what to do.
“I’m not very happy about it,” he says. “I’d have carried on, but my health wasn’t up to it.”
Not for him the gladly received carriage clock and the promise of a sunlit retirement on the golf course. The work of a bin man may be grubby and exhausting - and it doesn’t exactly hold the highest social status - but Bill appears genuinely to have loved it, and to be missing it already.
It’s certainly filled his life with colour. He speaks of the old days with fondness - but not with any dewy-eyed nostalgia.
“You used to collect bins from around the back of houses in those days,” he says. “And you’d see women sunbathing in their back garden. And sometimes...they wouldn’t be wearing anything.”
Indeed, startled women feature prominently in Bill’s recollections, which sound like they’re out of some sadly unbroadcast sitcom.
Like this: “You used to have bins for ash. I remember one day, it was nice weather. Not a breath of wind. A lady came out in her fur coat. There was a little gust and the ash went all over the lady, and her hair and her coat. She was furious. I was hauled over the coals for that.”
And this: “Sometimes on your round, you need the toilet. So you find a hedge or a tree. Once, I saw a woman watching me. She complained, and I got into trouble for that, too.”
Then there are the angry men. “You get into some confrontations, and I’ve been able to talk my way out of them by being polite and tactful. The advice is always to turn your back and walk away. But if you do that, they think you’re taking the mickey, and then it all depends on who can run the fastest.”
It may be hard to imagine now, but it wasn’t necessarily going to be this way for Bill. He worked as a porter at Rugby station after leaving school, and later worked at BTH for ten years. He may well have stayed there, had redundancy not struck - but it didn’t take long for Bill to find a job he thought might suffice for a while.
It’s not as if Bill’s memories of his first day as a bin man are especially warm, mind. “It was bloody hard work,” he says. “I’d never walked so much in my life.
“You’d carry bins on your shoulder in those days. Once they were on your shoulder, it was OK, but it was a hell of a job getting them up there. And then you’d carry them, and someone would open a window right in your face. There’d be clotheslines, too. Clotheslines are lethal.”
The contents of the bins are another matter. Bill rarely succumbed to curiosity but there were occasions when, for whatever reason, he lifted the lid.
“You’d never delve too deeply into a bin. Sometimes you’d lift the lid to see what’s in there, but you don’t want to go too far down. You don’t know what’s down there.
“I’ve seen a few dead cats and dogs. You have to put them back and leave the bin there for hygiene reasons.”
Bill’s former employer, Rugby Borough Council, estimates he’s emptied 1.5 million bins, weighing around 10,000 tonnes.
Bill joined Rugby Urban District Council, as it was then, on October 7 1968, when councils did very little recycling. Reuse and repair meant that the amount of waste that households generated was much lower than today, though there was a considerable amount of ash and cinders from solid fuel fires.
Sean Lawson, head of environmental services at the borough council’s, said: “No-one knows exactly how far Bill will have walked during his time with the council, but based on today’s rounds we think he may have chalked up around 80,000 miles on official council duty - that’s more than three times round the globe.
“Having completed 44 years and three months for the council, more than two life sentences, Bill fully deserves some time off. I wish him a long and happy retirement, and on behalf of the council thank him for his loyalty and dedication.”
Bill, now 65 and living in Saunton Road, retired from council service on December 31, but was treated to a special reception with the mayor, Cllr Kathryn Lawrence, where he was presented with a commemorative certificate.
He said: “I’ve no idea what I’m going to do. I’m still working it out.”