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Tim Dowling: My wife’s idea of a hot date is a trip to the dump | Life and style

On Sunday morning I wake to the sound of the dog and the cat fighting at the foot of the bed. Looking over the edge, I see a miniature re-enactment of a wildlife programme: a small leopard trying to take down a tusk-less warthog, only the warthog thinks it’s a game.

You can imagine how frustrating this is for the would-be predator. It leaps out from behind a chair and pounces, sinking its teeth into the dog’s flank; the dog, wagging its tail, reaches round and presses the cat’s head to the floor. Then they pause, resume their former positions and start again.

“It’s not natural,” I say.

“They’re playing,” says my wife, who already seems to be up and dressed.

“It will end badly,” I say.

“I’ve got us an appointment at the dump for 11,” she says. “So you might want to think about getting up.” With this, she leaves the room. The animals stop fighting and follow her.

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My wife does her best to make the trip to the dump sound like both a date and a hot ticket, as though she’d had to pull a few strings to make it happen. I will later find out that dump appointments are not at all hard to come by. Not even on a Sunday.

Our dump appointment comes the day after I spent an hour searching for a particular kitchen implement and failed to find it, which puts me in a suspicious frame of mind at loading-up time.

“Of course, I’ll need to check all these bags,” I say to my wife.

“Don’t start,” she says.

“You threw away my bench scraper, so I know what you’re capable of,” I say. The dog and the cat roll past between us, end over end.

“I don’t even know what a bench scraper is,” my wife says.

“Exactly,” I say. “So you just put it in the bin.”

“We’re going to miss our slot,” she says.

The most exciting thing about our date is that we’re going to a new dump. They closed the old dump, which was overseen by an angry man who sat in a folding garden chair and shouted at people for mixing plastics. The new dump is a mystery.

My wife drives. The dog sits on my knees, watching the road.

“Will they let us dump paint?” I say.

“Who knows?” my wife says.

The new dump is miles away, down a long straight road that ends in a sentry hut with a man in it.

“We’re ridiculously early,” my wife tells him.

“What’s your booking reference?” he says.

“No idea,” she says. She picks up her phone and scrolls through her emails. “I can’t find it. What do you do with people who can’t find their booking reference?”

“Go on up,” he says. This is when I realise the dump is not quite as exclusive as I had been led to believe.

The new dump is staffed by a man who does not sit in a garden chair; instead he approaches you and answers questions politely, like a waiter. There are the usual containers for metal and cardboard, but there is also a giant concrete pit where you can dump everything else.

“Can I put this in there?” my wife says, holding up a flattened old suitcase.

“Of course, madam,” says the man.

“What about this?” I say, opening a bin liner full of glass and cardboard.

“Put it all in cardboard,” he says.

“What, all together?” I say.

“Yes, it’s all recycling,” he says, smiling.

I grab another bag full of heavy broken things, too tightly knotted at the top to check its contents, and with a pang of guilt I sling it into the big pit. But when I peer over the edge my sack of mystery waste seems uncontroversial: there are whole living rooms of stuff down there, whole kitchens, tumbled up in piles, waiting to be crushed. The guilt ends up in the pit with everything else.

“Well, I would definitely go there again,” I say as we glide down the exit ramp.

“I wish I’d brought more stuff now,” my wife says.

“Yes, you could have thrown away all my shoes and books,” I say.

“Next time,” she says. Sitting on my knees, the dog is shaking uncontrollably.

“What’s wrong with you?” I say.

“She’s frightened of the dump,” my wife says.

“Frightened of that dump?” I say. The dog goes still for a second, and then resumes its shaking.

“Come on,” I say. “Let’s get you back to the cat.”

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