I love the smell of wheelie bins in the morning
Summer has been pretty mild in Melbourne this year. Days that would disappoint a kid are appreciated by me in my dotage – 24C to wear t-shirts and thongs but not be restricted by the heat or risk a wet back and knickers driving around in a car whose air conditioner has recently bit the dust.
This weekend is different – 35C today and 40C tomorrow and Love Chunks reckons that February might be the month of fried lawns and frazzled school children. On days like that the only acceptable thing to do for those of us without swimming pools is to stay inside with the blinds down and do nothing more energetic than twist an ice-cube tray and catch up on the unread weekend supplements.
Milly and I have been doing our walks early in the morning before the sun bursts out malevolently from behind the Mt Alexander Road mechanics' and starts burning our already-struggling grass.
At 7am, the streets are quiet save for the big-night-outers still struggling home in broken stilettos and ripped jeans or other committed power-walkers and fat fifty-something delivery drivers in white vans. There's no fresh scent of honeysuckle or ripe plums in the air. In Flemington it’s the yeasty smell of beer vomit, chicken bones and half-eaten Krazy Kebabs.
We’re used to stepping around those kinds of splats on the footpath: what assails us mostly as we walk is the malodorous stench of wheelie bins. In a tightly-packed suburb studded with blocks of flats, the hulking Brunswick green odour-emitters take up half the footpath with barely a gap in between.
These have been particularly unpleasant when summer socialising, seafood on special and lingering warm weather are combined. The offensive cocktail of week-old prawn heads, rancid ham hocks, cherry pips, sticky meat trays, use-by dips and cockroach crap seep up and out of their innocent flip top lids and seem hellishly devised to coincide with each intake of my breath.
Perhaps it is wrong to write 'us' because to Milly the pong is on a par with Chanel No. 5. In her tiny furry brain she is perhaps rueing the fact that, at 40cm high, she's physically unable to flip herself in and have a good roll around the peelings, oil drips and the unfortunate bodies of flung-out pet guinea pigs who did not cope so well with the Australia Day fireworks.
Inevitably she stops in her tracks, does a self-conscious squat that ends in three back-leg kicks at least two metres away from her ‘product’ in a half-hearted attempt to bury it. I'm prepared for this and hold my breath at the same time as swooping down with the black plastic 'doo doo' bag. Pulled inside out and tightly knotted, the nugget doesn't touch my skin but feels warm in my hand. I keep walking, looking for the next bin on the footpath.
Well coat a turd in coconut and force feed it to Andrew Bolt - what a stink! Lifting up a wheelie bin lid is like staring into the olfactory gates of hell complete with wriggling maggots on a mission. Staggering back, I bend down to ruffle Milly’s velvety orange ears. She chooses that moment to yawn and I'm again assailed by a slightly less repulsive smell: canine morning breath. How fresh meat and a bone can translate to a gaseous puff of Pal, puke and parmesan remains a mystery.
Half way through our walk, we stop to cut through Debney park oval. Milly's let off her leash and chases the seagulls gathered on the cricket pitch in her joy at being temporarily free in public. Bugger it - she backs out another nugget and the doo-doo dispenser is empty. A few fun minutes are spent finding a strip of bark big enough to scoop and carry off the evidence and hide it somewhere that feet are less likely to tread.
Whilst I'm busy living the dream of dog ownership, she has found something worth stopping for - a galah. Dead at least a fortnight, it smells like, even from my nasal perspective a hundred metres away. "No Milly - don't roll in---"
Too late. She's rubbing her backbone into those fetid feathery remains like Marilyn Monroe on a mink. "MILLY - COME HERE!" She eventually does, with a tongue-lolling, wide-faced grin of bliss. A cloud of sticky summer flies come along for the ride, mesmerised by the black streaks on her coat.
Whew. When we get home, I remove Milly's collar and fill up the watering can by the back of the water tank. The newly-nude dog immediately senses danger and scoots for cover by Love Chunks’ canoe at the side of the house.
After a weak tussle in the scorching sun she accepts defeat and allows me to wet her, shampoo all the stench away and give a thorough rinse before releasing her again. The worst damage she can do is roll on the ground and cover herself in dead grass clippings and endure my laughter as I call her a soggy lamington with a tongue.
All this effort hasn't eradicated the sweet smell of Exelpet but it's all she's got. She gives me a resentful look and settles down on her trampoline bed by the back door. She knows: tomorrow there'll be another walk and she'll find another dead bird; wheelie bins providing a hint as to the scent she’ll again anoint herself with……