On the Fly

March 16, 2014

I was walking back from noticeboard tree having put up a POP poster, when I noticed a car had pulled over ahead of me, and something was flung out of the window, possibly bits of bread crusts. I was just taking that in when the possible crusts were followed by a definite discarded cup and a scrunched up plastic bag. At this point I had drawn level with the car so I spoke to the driver through the still-open window and explained to them the error of their ways whereupon they got out of the car and picked up their rubbish and then, weeping hot tears of repentance, proceeded to pick up every single piece of rubbish along the entire road.

OK, I didn’t really – you can take the girl out of London but you can’t take etc. I did give them a really hard stare though.

Fortunately, it is the parish litter pick next week so the rubbish won’t be there long. Every year whenever we take part, I find myself wondering just who these people are who think nothing of flinging rubbish along the road. This year, at least I’ll have the dubious pleasure of knowing what kind of car they drive.

(Oh and to make it worse, someone has apparently fly tipped rubbish at the waterfall. Despite the fact that they could have driven five miles further on and dropped it off at the council tip for free. What is wrong with people?)


Little Society

April 3, 2011

I realised this morning, rather guiltily, that it was the day of the annual parish litter pick & I had done nothing about it. Last year I’d rung up, arranged to pick up some bags, told the organisers which bit of road we’d do, and let them know where to pick up the resulting haul but this year I’d not got hold of the number and then I’d forgotten all about it and now it looked as though it was going to be too late. There was no central starting place or time so I couldn’t just show up and join in. It’s the time of year when litter is all too readily and nastily visible and it seemed a shame that our bit of road would not get cleared just because of my disorganisation.

At that point it struck me that there was no reason why I couldn’t just grab a bag and clear exactly the same stretch of road as last year. I had my own gloves, we had plenty of bin bags, and we’ve got plenty of room in our bin as we’d be hard pressed to fill a wheely bin in a month, let alone a week. Why not just do a litter pick all of my own?

Well, there was one reason. My childhood walks were often blighted by the humiliation of my mother’s insistence on bringing along a plastic bag and picking up all the litter that she saw along the way. Going on an organised litter pick was one thing – it’s a social sort of occasion, becoming part of the community. Just picking up litter is the exact opposite, an eccentricity that sets one apart, and besides, who knew where it would stop? If I start turning into my mother in this particular, pretty soon I’d be doing everything else: listening to radio 4 at all hours, lecturing shoe shops about the importance of properly fitting shoes, and feeding the birds on an industrial scale.

But, as I’ve said before, there are worse things to turn into. So I turned off Desert Island Discs, slipped into some sensible shoes. left the other half refilling the bird feeders from the 5kg bag of nyjer seed and went out to pick up litter along the road for an hour with my inner teenager cringing along behind me hoping no one saw.

Happy Mother’s day, Mum…


Riddle me This

June 8, 2010

By what logic, do you suppose, is the result of a beach clean, by volunteers, in order to make Bigtownshire’s coastline more beautiful and to preserve its varied sea life, classified as ‘trade waste’? To be disposed of, mark you, at a cost to the organisers of £1.50 per bag (with larger items charged at £3 each). Especially when said organisers themselves work for the same council which is charging for the uplift*.

Please explain, showing your working, and with diagrams if necessary, just how this makes sense and encourages the ‘Big Society’ of which our new leaders dream.

*And that’s uplift in the Scottish sense of picking something up, rather than in the ordinary sense of the feeling of renewed faith in human nature you get when someone gives up their time to volunteer and do something useful, like, say, clean up a beach…


More Signs of Spring

March 26, 2010

Summer’s vegetation has died down completely, the snow has passed, and the spring rains are washing away the winter debris beside the roads.

And suddenly the greys and browns and greens of the verges show other, brighter, splashes of colour:

Yes, the Litter Bugs have survived the winter, you’ll be pleased to hear.

Some have clearly overwintered, lurking under the shelter of leaves and grasses

Some have adopted a duller protective winter camouflage

But some are clearly freshly arrived, evidence that the ‘driving with your car window open’ season is already under way.

How fortunate that Sunday is the parish litter pick. We have two bags for our half-mile stretch of road. I’m wondering if they will be enough…


Battle Commences?

December 14, 2009

Cycling back with the paper this afternoon I came across two of Bigtownshire’s finest standing staring at a piece of verge with a newly erected fence on it. Obviously, I slowed down and said ‘hello’ in a tone of voice intended to convey that I might be an important witness in whatever fascinating crime they were investigating, if only they were to stop me and ask, but they didn’t take the bait. Honestly, what’s the point of standing around in the country obviously being police officers if you don’t satisfy the curiosity of everybody passing about what you’re doing? They know we don’t get out much.

So in the absence of any hard information, and with the local paper not due out until Friday, I am forced to speculate wildly. Chicken rustling? Guerilla fencing? Photography? Or could it be that strimming the vegetation to erect the fence had revealed that the drive-by litter taliban had been at their heinous work again? In which case, expect the whole rural road network shortly to be taped off as a crime scene…


A Little Known Offshoot of the War Against Terror…

December 2, 2009

When we lived in London, the only time the sirens stopped was when England were playing in the World Cup. And even then, you weren’t sure if it was the absence of crime, or the absence of police officers willing to go and fight it that caused the lull. Up here, things are a little different. We had cause to check out the Bigtownshire police report for the year, and found that, while some prominence was given to what appears to be the county’s only murder, slightly more was given to:

The Battle Against Litter

I’d like to report that it’s one that they’re winning, but the litter mongers are like the Taliban only more tenacious and – to be fair – a little less deadly. They’re both rather too fond of roadside devices as well.

There is, however, no news on the war against garden implement theft. Priorities, guys, please.


Wombling Free

March 6, 2009

Another beach clean today, and as we gathered in the car park with our bags and our litter pickers, someone asked if anyone from the local community would be joining us.

‘Well, the community used to run regular beach cleans,’ the organiser said. ‘But then the council began to get a bit funny about who was going to uplift the resulting rubbish so they gave up.’

I’m pretty certain Great Uncle Bulgaria never had this problem.


My Kind of Dog

November 27, 2008

Spotted in Bigtown this afternoon: a smiley sort of labrador busily picking up all the discarded plastic bottles along the river bank.

Admittedly, she was doing it because she liked to play with them, not because she’d been trained to gather them up and put in the bin, but as her owner said, ‘Ach well, if it makes me look good, I’ll no argue wi’ that!’*

Still, it’s a thought. And with a different sort of dog (Rottie, staffordshire, growly alsation) trained to return litter to the litterer with menaces, we might actually be getting somewhere…

* As you can see, I’m making great strides with the language. Although the postie was telling me something complicated about his lost horse** yesterday that I couldn’t make head or tail of.

** Not how he delivers the post, in case you’re wondering. We’re not that rural


Flushed with Pride

September 21, 2008

We’ve been out this weekend taking part in beachwatch, the Marine Conservation Society‘s annual beach clean and litter survey. It’s been a bit of an eye-opener, even for fully paid up a litter-hater like myself. Today, in less than two hours, on just our small portion of the beach, the other half and I picked up more than 65 little plastic sticks that had originally been cotton wool buds. As people don’t generally take these to the beach with them, it means they’ve come out of the sewers. Mmmmm, lovely. Add in broken glass, bottle caps, dog poo, an (un)’sanitary item’, cigarette butts, chocolate bar wrappers and dozens of drinking straws and you can see why, when it comes to my next beach holiday, I think I’ll opt for a nice  walk in the hills.

Sadly, there’s another effect to doing a beach clean, other than simply adding to the warm glow of smugness that surrounds me and which is now in danger of being visible from space. Yesterday, we went for a short walk along our road, down to the post box and the cottage-that-sells-eggs. Suddenly tuned in to the stuff, I could see nothing but litter: discarded bottles, cans, wrappers, ciggies, bottle lids, you name it. I even caught myself thinking I should take a bag and pick up some of the worst of it as we went, just to make myself feel better. Girls, take it from me, you can’t fight it. Eventually you will turn into your own mother*.

And the other thing that struck me (other than the fact that it’s a really really bad idea to flush your cotton buds down the loo) is how willing the holidaying Brit is to sit and watch other people work. By the end of our two hours, we had a fascinated audience of middle-aged couples, sitting comfortably on the benches of the front, enjoying the show. Some of them had even brought sandwiches. Some of them – undoubtedly – dropped the wrappers on the beach afterwards. But if they did, they did at least wait until after we had gone. And for that,  if nothing else, we should be grateful.

*Which is not necessarily a bad thing, of course


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