A tale of green bottles

Bloomsbury, generally, is a pretty peaceful place to live – especially when your flat is on a semi-pedestrianised street, a moderate distance from any of London’s main arteries.

LCS AutumnSee, beautifully tranquil…

Admittedly, there’s a wine bar over the road (a very, very classy wine bar – so classy, I’ve only been once), which has tables outside that are very loudly scraped across the pavement at the end of the evening, but its patrons are generally well behaved. The flat has its original single-glazed sash windows still in place, which mean there’s little insulation against street noise, but the bonus of this is that you can hear almost every word spoken at the wine bar’s outside tables, which has always got to be a good thing.

But – and this is a BIG but – there is one thing that shatters the otherwise tranquil peace of this little Bloomsbury street: the daily collection of empty wine bottles from the wine bar (and the restaurant opposite).

The van arrives promptly at 7.45am on weekdays, 8.45am on weekends. First, they empty each crate of empties into a wheelie bin. Imagine what that might sound like? 20 or so glass bottles falling into a container, then crate after crate falling in on top of them. Can’t quite picture it? Well, it’s LOUD. Sometimes, if there are a lot of empties, there are too many just for one bin, so the process gets repeated. You know what? It’s actually so loud that I can hear it while in the shower – which is five rooms back from the street-side windows.

When I first moved in, the church treasurer (who lives a few doors down the road) said I’d get used to it. In a way, I have. I don’t think I’ve yet slept through it, but it no longer shakes me awake with terror.

However, Saturday morning was a different matter. I’d been seriously under the weather last week and Friday had been the height of my unwell-ness – there had been tears in Waitrose of all places and I spent the evening under my duvet watching Alan Rickman strut his stuff. I’d taken a Tylenol PM (oh, precious stash of American pharmaceuticals) and managed the best night’s sleep I’d had in nearly a week. I awoke shortly before 8am on Saturday morning to the sound of smashing wine bottles, but it wasn’t the usual routine.

Someone was emptying crates of bottles into a bin, but then, for some unknown reason, was taking bottles one by one and smashing them on the side of the bin. The noise was echoing up and down the otherwise still and silent street. Unsurprisingly, it was doing my feverish state and headachy head no good whatsoever.

Logically, I decided to stand on my windowsill, open the window and yell – quite forgetting that a person who’s been coughing up their lungs for days is unlikely to have the vocal projection needed to shout across the street at someone engaged in a noisy task. But I did it anyway. As far as I can remember, I said something desperately sensible like: “Why are you smashing those one by one?!” I doubt he heard me though and, as my pathetic arms couldn’t close the window, I lay back down again. A couple of moments later I heard the recycling guy reply “well they shouldn’t have their windows open, innit” – in response to what I can only imagine was someone else having a go at him.

It seems my antics didn’t go unnoticed. On Saturday night, the lodger asked if I’d heard someone yelling at the recycling guy. She was rather impressed when I admitted it was me. I was quite impressed that she’d even heard me. We decided that if he reappeared, I’d run down the 6 flights of stairs and accost him at street level.

So, be warned Camden recycling guys – make unnecessary noise on a Saturday morning and you’ll have the wrath of a pyjama clad trainee vicar to contend with. And trust me, you don’t want to see my usual not particularly cheerful morning demeanour enhanced by an unwelcome alarm clock…


  1. I’m so sorry you’ve been ill but your story did make me laugh.

    (WHAT? Can we not buy Tylenol in the UK? I’d best stock up in Thailand, then.)

  2. Thanks!
    And no, apparently not! Tylenol PM (i.e. the tablets that have some kind of sleeping stuff in them as well as painkillers) is like gold-dust amongst my London friends after an American pal introduced us to us. Not in an addictive way, obviously, it’s just the absolute best when you’re going to bed feeling grotty & just want to sleep. (Can come in handy when flying too!) But it’s not available at all over here, so we buy lots when in the US. It does make me wonder why it’s not available here…

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