A life goes in the skip

They were emptying a flat up on one of the top floors. I was sat on the step on a hot morning watching the men bring out black bin-liners full of personal possessions. A bag full of magazines spilled out onto the ground and had to be scraped up into the skip by hand. A wood framed mirror went in. Some cushions. A mottled red rug. Someone’s life chucked into black bags and tossed into a skip in the middle of the estate. The guys doing the job make genial conversation as they go. The stillness of the forecourt is fractured by bursts of walkie-talkie chatter, “Can you get the lift guy over here, he fixed it but it’s not working again.” The skip is sat outside Bob’s front door. He was sat there with his son and someone else as he does everyday, he’s got something to watch today aside from the pigeons.
I tried to work out what was going on. An eviction? In which case it’s brutal – maybe the tenants did a runner leaving everything behind. Or a death? Lonely old person passed away and nobody to come round and sift their stuff and disperse keepsakes among the relatives.
A half-decent chair goes in the skip and some sacks the smash like crockery. I tried to remember who lived in the flat. Was it the Irish women who is always trying, and failing, to control her grandchildren? Her daughter stood out in the car park one night shouting, crying pleading to be allowed back in.
The guys smash up a chest of draws before adding to the pile in the skip.
I have a chat with Bob who tells me it’s the old fella on the top floor. Died just after Christmas and nobody found his body for 3 weeks. “Imagine the bluebottles,” Bob says. It’s taken six months for the place to be emptied. Have they been looking for relatives? Or is that how long it takes the bureaucracy to deal with things like this.


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