Robust bin-men typify the healthy hearts that beat inside East Anglians

Paul Barnes says East Anglia's bin-men are a welcome sight at this time of year as they happily take

Paul Barnes says East Anglia's bin-men are a welcome sight at this time of year as they happily take away all the festive refuse - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We're made of tough stuff here in East Anglia which is something we should be proud of says Paul Barnes

We have to take our hats off to our bin-men. Even during the seasonal disruption with its changed collection dates, our streets still rumbled to the sound of bins rolling. Away they went to the big trucks, and there was that curiously plaintive mewing sound of the hydraulic lift as the bins were hoisted high before being decanted into the belly of the beast. What followed was the drumming of empty bins coming back home. The engine roars, the big beast moves on steadily to ingest more of the faded glory of our seasonal has-beens, or should that be has-bins? We doff our hats again as the platoon of men in orange overalls strides on.

East Anglia is justly famous for being healthy. People here live to great ages. There are more octogenarian marathon-runners per square mile than anywhere else in the country. Round virtually every corner there's a pole-dancing pensioner. As winter waters grow colder elderly men and women plunge into the North Sea, exhilarated as they laugh and shout, showing the world it's good to be alive.

It wouldn't surprise me if our bin-men are inheritors of the same spirit. They're young and hearty now, full of vim, kept fit by the exertion of bin-trundling and daily inhaling the rich Norfolk air. A day will surely come when they join the ranks of those merry pensioners who resemble the jolly old salt on the railway poster who bounds along the beach insisting: "Skegness is so bracing!"

OK, Skegness is a bit off our beat but the sea they've got there is the same as ours. The point I'm making is how fortunate our bin-men are to live and work where they do, and how lucky we are to have them serving us. Pity the poor sods with the overflowing bins and bursting black bags in Birmingham.

Unlike our sturdy East Anglian bin-men it appears that their Brummie counterparts are made of frailer stuff. This makes them easy prey for the malevolent microbes that lie in wait around Christmastime, and so they've been calling in sick in droves, hence the bin-filled streets of places like Balsall Heath. One disgruntled citizen reported seeing big rats making a meal of meat spilling from a split bin-bag, and he went on to observe how convenient it was that so many staff had gone down with a bug over Christmas.

Just hear the sarcasm. That man must have a heart of stone. Think how those bin-men must be suffering, hardly able to muster the energy to change TV channels, willing themselves to manage another morsel of turkey and stuffing. Think of their anguish at the unfulfilled desire to be up and doing their duty. For their sake, and the sake of their fellow citizens, we must urge a redoubling of efforts to find a remedy for this mysterious illness.

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Workers on Northern Rail should be comforted by any such efforts. "Unprecedented" levels of staff sickness have been preventing the company's wheels turning. It must surely be a strain of the same bug. Our new government must make it a priority to find a cure. As the boffins bend to their microscopes and Petri dishes they should never forget they are on an errand of mercy. When it comes to railways in East Anglia - Norfolk in particular - "we allus dew diffrunt". Here it's not the railway workers that call in sick, it's the trains themselves that are off poorly with software-itis.

I spotted this rail tale over the holidays. In 1937 Lionel Logue, the man who helped King George VI over his stammer, was summoned to Sandringham to coach his majesty in his Christmas broadcast. On Christmas morning Mr Logue caught the 9.40 from Liverpool Street, settled in a reserved first-class smoking compartment. There was fog about yet his train was only a few minutes late arriving at Wolferton where a royal chauffeur took him on to Sandringham. After lunch with the royal family he went with the King to prepare for the 3.00 pm broadcast which was stammer-free. Later, Logue had tea, leaving Sandringham at 6.30, together with a hamper for his journey. By 10.45 he was back home in London. Just imagine that: a train on Christmas Day, with compartments and smoking permitted, hauled by a Great Eastern steam locomotive, perhaps a Claud Hamilton 4-4-0, with a line still open through Wolferton. Decidedly diffrunt.