方禮倫:The Bin Man 垃圾工人與英港社區

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圖片來源:路透社

Every week I roll out the bins. It’s become a ritual that I find unexpectedly satisfying.

Unlike in Hong Kong, where our rubbish is spirited away each evening by little seen collectors, in England each household is expected to fill large collections bins which are emptied very fortnight.

There are three types of bins: black bins for domestic waste, blue bins for recyclable and green bins for garden waste. These bins must be left on the street on collection day, where bin collectors can easily unload them into waiting rubbish collection vehicles.

Every week the bin men come early in the morning, in their high visibility uniforms, to empty the bins. There is always a team of four. At each village three will shuttle between the waiting bins left outside each home awaiting collection. These are brought to the back of their vehicle where an automated lifter tips the contents of each into a compactor. The fourth person, the driver, drives the vehicle along slowly as the rest of the team work.

Most weeks I run in to the bin men on the way to driving my wife to work. We leave a few hours before the commuter rush, as she has an early start. When a car approaches one of the bin men always rushes forward to direct the traffic. On narrow village roads it can be difficult to see past any large vehicle.

Before moving to the country we lived for a few years in London. In the city the bin men were never so considerate nor, frankly, polite. Occasionally they would miss collections, overlooking our bins in the rush to get the job done.

There is more that can go wrong in a city, and the relative anonymity encourages poor practice. They also seem to be under greater time pressure. And yet even if the odd neighbour complains (as neighbours do) the bin men are not overlooked. The service they provide is acknowledged and generally respected by the community.

It was very different when we lived in Hong Kong. Rubbish was simply left outside the back entrance to our flat, and usually by helpers. It was not uncommon for our neighbours to have no interaction with those who collected their rubbish, it was simply taken for granted that it would be gone every morning.

Much of the rubbish collection was done by elderly women, who were evident untrained. Rarely were they equipped with anything more than gloves and, sometimes, a face covering. I used to watch them, and on occasion tried to engage with them when I saw them at sat around the service stairs, behind the lobby and out of sight from residents.

As I pass by the bin men here I signal my thanks. They usually signal back. What they do is seen and appreciated, and I recognise them as part of my own community. They live among us, eat among us and their children may well attend the same school as our own.

One of the celebrities I admire most is the gardener and author Monty Don. A gentile, educated and thoughtful man, born into a good family and with a Cambridge education, he nevertheless spent some years working as a bin man.

There are friends I know from Hong Kong who would look down on this, and consider it a “waste” of an education. But what we do now does not define who we were nor who we may be. Knowing this is, I feel, a sign of not only of respect but of maturity.

陶傑點評

英國的生活與香港不同,許多香港人移居海外,往往會將住在外國的生活價格和香港比較:樓價、薪金、超級市場食物價格,告訴朋友:英國甚麼物品比香港貴,甚麼事物比香港便宜。

作者比較英港兩地生活的一件事,是最為香港人忽略的倒垃圾。

在英國,許多所謂的厭惡性行業都有工會,而且因為多年來都很少外來年輕人願意加入,這些行業收入不低,而且有排他性。也就是說,想去英國謀一份倒垃圾或豬牛屠宰的工作,並不如想像般容易。

作者留意到:英國不但有垃圾分類,倒垃圾的作業亦有一套程序系統,有專業訓練,由三四個人互相分工,垃圾工人與社區有良好的交流和互動。因為英國人在其他地方有階級觀念,而階級觀念的意思,並非歧視做基層工作的人,包括垃圾工人。

本文的下半部,憶述香港生活的倒垃圾經驗:香港人通常將垃圾放在後門,所謂的「垃圾婆」,通常指倒垃圾的多數是年老的婦女,而且並無專業訓練。

我們幾乎一生都沒有見過是誰來後門收拾垃圾,這個行業也沒有人注意。當你決定移民,有沒有想起在後樓梯和走廊盡頭、那個幾十年來只能乘後門電梯到你家後門取走垃圾的老婦人?她或許也有家庭、有子女,也曾負擔子女讀大學,而你過去多年都沒有見過她。

本文洋溢著人文精神,在英國生活,會帶來人道主義的啟示。

陶傑英文遊花園

香港和台灣,面臨世紀的變局。海外華人居住西方國家,也數目龐大。如何提升英文程度,克服文化隔閡,加強英文能力,在亂世中至關重要。

許多華人都有合理的職業或專業的英文程度,但如何在原有的中學文法訓練基礎之上,探討高層次的英語文化和表達方式,以備融入英語世界主流社會?

本欄介紹評析欣賞英文的寫作細節,分享經驗,歡迎提出不同的評析角度和心得。

※ 此欄文章為作者觀點,不代表本網立場。 ※
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方禮倫(Evan Fowler ) ,本地出生成長、中英交界的香港人,在劍橋和倫敦大學政經學院畢業。現居英國。 英文怎樣能表達得更好?香港的英文教育,著重文法正確、詞彙廣泛。但除了這兩樣,說好的英文、寫好的英文,還要有某種英語的理性與感性思維。 好的英文必清晰、婉約而有教養,與中文寫作文化略有不同。有時借用英文的文化特色,用於中文,可以別具一格。但若有一日移居英語國家,與以英語為母語的當地人溝通,融入主流社會,摸通英文表達藝術的深層結構,會很有用。 方禮倫的英文筆觸細膩,每週五他會以英文與我們見一次面,講述香港和海外華人關心的事情。除了獨特的觀點,其文筆可供英文寫作學習參考。