I have been having a drastic clearout. Maybe it’s a spring clean, maybe it’s one small element of a midlife crisis, or maybe it is simply the impending arrival of builders which is the reason for getting rid of lots of stuff.

I’m getting rid of lots of toys the children have definitely grown out of. I’m in a ruthless mood, essential for this task.

When I came across the city cleaning truck in the photo, it brought back a wave of fond memories. Looking back, it was one of SonOne’s earliest intense and all-consuming obsessions.

Every afternoon, around 4.30pm, he got in his pram, and we went into our town, rain or shine. We tracked down the cleaning vehicle, and we followed it for at least half an hour. When it was dark or raining, it was even better (for him, not me!) as you could experience the headlights. Maybe ‘stalking’ would be a better word for this activity.

The drivers (there were two of them) waved to us every day, gave us a thumbs up. Maybe they felt sorry for me, or maybe they liked SonOne’s obvious fascination.

One day, they stopped the truck and introduced themselves. One was Peter, one was Paul. I’m not making this up. One drove the truck, the other walked alongside picking up leftover litter with a grabber. They were softly-spoken and polite.

Another day, they stopped the truck and invited SonOne to sit inside it. He got in, I took photos of this memorable moment. He said nothing, I think he was barely breathing. Once we were back home, all he wanted to do was play with his toy, no doubt reliving the experience. I was deeply touched by Peter and Paul’s kindness.

Inevitably, this era ended eventually and we stopped going out to follow the cleaning truck.

Very recently I was in the hospital cafe, waiting to pick up my mother after an operation. A man waved at me from a distance away. I waved back but couldn’t place him, even as we had a superficial chat. Then it hit me. It was Peter (or was it Paul?). He said ‘Your lad must be a big boy by now?’  ‘He is 11, I replied’. We said our goodbyes and I felt very moved at that chance encounter, and even more moved that someone remembers us as much as we remember him.

Who would have thought that a city cleaning truck would carry such sentimental value?