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A leisurely walk in Maltese hills facing the Mediterranean, a faint whiff of garbage and a glimpse of a blue and cream-coloured rubbish truck would not normally send you into deep reverie.

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Malta facts

• Malta’s population is 452,000 – 0.7 per cent of the UK’s

• The island has never produced a summer or winter Olympic medallist

• London is almost 1,300 miles away from the Maltese capital Valetta

• Malta gained independence from the UK in September 1964

• Eurovision Song Contest entrants for Malta have twice finished runner-up.

But while holidaying in one of the oldest towns in the southern European island group, a chance encounter with a garbage van transported David Boorman, 66, 30 years back to South Woodford.

The truck’s colours first aroused his suspicions and then a look at the insignia embossed on the truck confirmed it – a London Borough of Redbridge truck was doing the rubbish round in the hilltop town of Gharghurar.

Mr Boorman, who was visiting his daughter Trudy, 39, with his wife of 44 years, Diane, said: “An ex-Redbridge refuse vehicle still working, still in the same colours, 1,400 miles away.

“How’s that for recycling?”

Having lived in South Woodford for 36 years until 1982, he’d had plenty of time for the shape and colour of the truck to embed itself in his memory.

His curiosity piqued, he decided to interrupt his early-morning walk with his daughter’s dog and go and speak to the Maltese driver and his North African mate.

Mr Boorman remembered: “The Maltese are lovely people, they’re very warm. He gave me a dirty great handshake. “He said ‘you must come and see my truck’. He was delighted to show it off.”

The bizarre bonding exercise ended with Mr Boorman, who lived in Walpole Road and Stanley Road, before moving to Essex, sharing a brief ride in the truck’s front seat, despite it stinking to “high heaven”.

From then on, he got a toot on the horn from his new friend whenever he passed.

Mr Boorman believed the Maltese van would have been around 15 years old, a later version of the trucks he saw while living in Redbridge.

He saw just the one Redbridge vehicle but did see rubbish trucks from other English local authorities.

Rubbish trucks and other council vehicles can often be sold in auctions, though Redbridge Council is not yet able to solve the mystery of this particular journey.

• Have you spotted any links to Redbridge while on holiday or living abroad? email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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