It transpires that I may have overegged the pudding regarding the smelly job. It was, in fact, pretty much odour-free. I also learned a lot about compost and the things that do and don't break down easily. Avocado stones take a long time to break down but eventually turn into a rather beautifully-coloured beige mush. The stickers on grapefruits remain as bright as the day they were printed, however long they stay in a compost bin. Grass cuttings, if not mixed with other stuff, will break down into a layer of thick green sludge.
I have completely renovated the shady bed in my garden.
Pictures as soon as I reach my digital camera and laptop. Above is the before picture: the ugly brick wall is my neighbour's extension (built long before I moved in) and you can see the true horror of dalek-like plastic compost bin. Once the bin was gone I simply removed everything from the bed, putting any plants I wanted to keep in a water-filled trug. After weeding and adding compost I'd reached what I call the "let the dog see the rabbit" stage, pictured right, where I figure out how much space I have, which plants I'd like to put back in and what I need to make a trip to the garden centre for.
I ended up buying five ivies, three hellebores - one white (picture to the left), one deep burgundy and one a lighter, spotted burgundy, plus a fern from the garden centre, and replanting two other ferns, some grasses and daffodils to complete the bed. I finally planted the orange-berried pyracantha I bought months ago to start to fill up the bare wall, and the ivies and passion flower (to the right of the first picture) should, over time, do the rest. I finished off with a thick covering of bark mulch to preserve moisture, suppress weeds and add organic material.
I was pleased with the overall result: although it doesn't look that much different in the "after pic" to the right, the plants now there should solve the bare wall problem over time and will be much happier in the shady position. And the absence of the compost dalek has to be an improvement. The grass looks rather battered but will soon bounce back. I even have a (perhaps vain) hope that, with some ivy camouflage, a blue tit might be convinced to raise a family in the bird box.