Although it seemed unlikely, I did not immediately dismiss the possibility of a hit and run skip lorry. The witness reports were clear: they came to empty my skip, couldn’t manage it, smashed the street to smithereens and drove off.
I came home from town that evening, drove up the track in the dark and there was the one and only street light illuminating the line of houses where I live — a nice traditional old thing like a gas lamp — knocked halfway to the floor. It listed dangerously, having stopped just short of crashing through my front window or the one next door.
At any moment, perhaps it would complete its trajectory and electrocute either the next-door neighbours as they sat watching Coronation Street, or the spaniels sitting on the sofa waiting faithfully for me to come home. A Skanska lorry was already on the scene, and an engineer was assessing the situation. I drove up the track with my mouth open, thinking: ‘I don’t know how but I am going to get the blame for this.’
I had left a house full of builders that morning. After initially deciding to ask the skip company to come that day and remove the full skip, Stefano changed his mind just as I left and said he was going to rearrange it for the next day, Saturday, when I would be home. That made much more sense as the skip man always needs me to help by knocking on doors to get people to move their cars.
I went into town not worrying and, aside from the low-lying anxiety that is my constant companion, I didn’t particularly worry all day. When I returned at 7 p.m., I wasn’t worrying about anything other than what kebab I would order at Ali’s.
Until I reached the track to my house and saw the flashing lights of the emergency crew, the listing street lamp and, as I drew up outside, the churned-up grass and smashed utility markers.
I wound down my window. ‘What happened here?’ I asked the man who was beginning to work on the lamppost, which was at least lighting his efforts.
‘Resident rang it in. They said a skip lorry came, smashed all this up and drove off without stopping.’
Oh, just shoot me now, I thought. I got on the phone to Stefano. ‘Did the skip lorry come today, after all?’ No, he said. Definitely not. He was coming the next morning. Please let that be true, I thought, and this whole mess be the work of some other skip lorry doing another invisible job for someone who isn’t me.
But the next morning, a villager gave me chapter and verse as he walked his dog past my house. ‘Oh, it was quite a spectacle. Your skip man came and was shouting and swearing in foreign as he tried to move your skip, but he couldn’t do it because a car was next to it. It was very amusing to watch.’
‘For you, maybe,’ I didn’t say. I guessed that whatever happened, Stefano’s crew had been in the back garden eating scones and drinking Red Bull, oblivious to the chaos out front.
Stefano huffed and puffed a lot when I told him it was our bad. I can hear a baby crying in the background when I ring him now. I’m pleased for him, but we never speak of it. I think he knows I like to maintain the fiction that he exists purely to rescue me. ‘Is… skip… company… who takes blame,’ he said, leaving big gaps between words, which he does when he’s cross that I’m being hysterical.
I told him to go back to whatever he was doing and rang the skip company myself. A girl with an accent like his confirmed they had come a day early.
As I admonished her for the hit and run, I couldn’t quite get my head around it. I’ve watched those skip lorries. It would have taken a 32-point turn to flee down the narrow track. Once he had smashed the lamp down, his only option for a swift escape would have been to abandon his vehicle and run, pursued by angry villagers, Benny Hill-style.
‘I ring driver and call you back,’ she said. ‘Boss not here today.’
‘Now listen here. I don’t care if boss not here today. You ring boss right now.’
Later, I felt pretty bad for being mean to her. It turned out the skip driver left his details and the firm began the process of contacting the authorities.
Maybe it was crossed wires. Or maybe there was an outbreak of schadenfreude when crazy lady’s builders hired a skip company that mowed down a lamppost. Whichever, I’m just glad everyone enjoyed it.