It was the “Wednesday whines” on the BBC Radio 6 breakfast show. People email the station with things that irritate them, petty annoyances that get under the skin. It is meant to be a humorous feature (well, I hope it is, surely people don’t count those things as really mattering?). First World problems doesn’t approach capturing how trivial are some of the things which people see as grounds for on air complaints.
This morning’s whine was from a man who complained that the bin collection in his area had not returned to normal after Christmas and that he had to go down the road in the dark to see what bin he should leave at the roadside.
The presenter said he had no such problems, the bin collection in his area was a Friday and “the oldies have their bins out on a . . . Thursday afternoon.” It seemed he had been about to make an absurd suggestion, but even the comment made begs the question as to how much understanding he has of the life of older people.
If they are able to put the bin out themselves, then the daylight hours of Thursday afternoon might be a great deal safer than the darkness of Friday morning. It is easy to fall on dark and wintry mornings, and if you fall, who is going to be there to pick you up?
But perhaps the oldies have reached the point where they depend on someone else, perhaps they need a kindly neighbour to come and put out the bin. Perhaps it is the carer who does it before leaving after what might be the only call the person receives in the day.
Many old people live lives almost entirely hidden from the community in which they live. Perhaps even the word community is no longer appropriate, how can there be talk of community when everyone is a stranger?
Visiting an acquaintance of advancing years during the Christmas holidays, I said I would be back in his town to go to the dentist during the February half-term and would call then. He took out his diary and wrote down the date. He says there are days when the only person he sees is the carer who comes at 7 am. I suspect his bin would be among those out the day before the collection. There must be many like him who would be delighted if neighbours called with the person who owns the bin.