Monday, 18 October 2021


Brighton shock: Rubbish piles up in the streets and rats feast on scraps of  food in echo of dark days of the 1970s as resort's binmen go on strike -  NewsBreak

All over Brighton the bins are full and the streets are overflowing with rotting rubbish. It’s been like this for two weeks. The latest news about the strike is it could last until mid-November given talks between the GMB union and council have broken down. The GMB called action over changes of duties, drivers being removed from long-standing rounds and pay. Pessimists are predicting a six month stand-off.


The irony is the Council is led by the Green Party. A similar strike happened before -  nationwide in 1978-79 leading to Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power over the bones of the Labour administration in the “winter of discontent”.


Who was 'Iron Lady' Margaret Thatcher? | Live Science


I’ve been surprised just how relaxed everyone seems to be about this hygiene catastrophe, exhibiting mild grumbles rather than outrage. A group of valiant lads proposed commandeering a lorry and clearing their area but were told by the council it would be illegal to intervene and dispose of this illegal rubbish in the tip.


What a load of rubbish. 


We might start burning it – not very green but we wouldn’t have a plague of rats. My frustration is that no one is seeking a solution to this urgent problem. Politicians, Waste Management Experts, Journalists, Union Officials are talking about it but not creating a solution…unlike the Pied Piper of Hamelin’s musical solution.

Pied piper of hamelin Royalty Free Vector Image


Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government Chief Scientific Advisor, who has had something of a rubbish week himself given the findings of the Health and Social Care Committee’s report on the handling of the Covid pandemic, said he believed we needed more engineers and engineering systems. 


Engineering, unlike Patrick, had a great week. The front page of the Times carried a story about the need to rename engineers. Professor Elena Rodriguez-Flacon thinks engineers should be called 'ingeniators' – ingenious innovators. 


Well, I think that’s rubbish. We need to celebrate engineers not rebrand them. I like the dictionary definition of the verb “to engineer” – “to skilfully arrange for (something) to occur”. Engineers are not just TV repairmen or radiator installers. Think Brunel, think Stephenson, think Archimedes, think Tesla (the engineer not the car!), think Leonardo. All engineers.


Drawings of Water Lifting Devices, c.1481 - Leonardo da Vinci -


Given the current global fragility of critical systems a few smart engineers would seem to be exactly what we need. Engineers not MBAs, engineers not politicians. If politicians had engineered the Channel Tunnel it would have ended up in Antwerp and then flooded.


Three stories that have cheered me up in the midst of the garbage mountain outside our house.  


  1. I had an x-ray recently at the Hove Polyclinic. Spotlessly clean. Plenty of parking. Charming people – It’s a no-appointment place;  I was in and out in 15 minutes. The radiology manager was Sid. Remember the Gas Privatisation advertising in 1986. The NHS can be amazing  when there are “Sids” to make it happen. 
  2. A friend of mine is running an incubator seeking new ways to convert waste (yes, rubbish) into useful and valuable material by employing the inventive skills of Chemical Engineers. It’s flying.
  3. Restaurants are open. Wild Flor in Brighton is back, delivering a splendid experience. They ‘engineer’ a perfect conjunction of relaxation, taste and pleasure.


What I’ve realised this past week is that good intentions, optimism and unbridled hope are not enough. We can eliminate grumpiness but never the need to question and work out how to engineer solutions and systems that work, are robust and adaptable. 


What’s happening in our rubbish strike is an absence on all sides of common sense, compassion, compromise and community. Brighton’s not a nice place to live in right now.

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