There’s a lay-by near my house that until recently sported both a mildewed sign welcoming visitors to our floral city and a large corporation litter bin. Of a morning the bin was almost inevitably surrounded by pizza boxes, beer cans, takeaway containers and the contents of car ashtrays deposited by proud drivers spring-cleaning their gleaming vehicles. Not much detritus seemed to find its way into the actual bin.
Being a good citizen and having the Big Society always to the forefront of my mind, I would often pause in my headlong dash for the bus to tuttingly put some of the litter where it should be, in said receptacle.
A few weeks ago the bin, having become embarrassingly rusty for a world heritage area, was removed by the authorities. They haven’t replaced that bin, complained a neighbour. You ought to write about that in you column. Bring back our bin!
I’m not so sure. Since the bin has been no more, I haven’t had to pick up a single bit of litter. Could it be that it was the bin itself that attracted the mess? Do some people have a half awareness of the Big Society in that they feel if they make a token gesture of putting their rubbish sort of near the bin they are being sort of community minded? Like a teenager who chucks his dirty socks in the vague vicinity of the laundry basket?
There used to be a lay-by near my mum’s country cottage that was tarted up many years back by something called the Roads Beautification Society. They had a national programme of planting inappropriate flowering shrubs in places that attracted fly-tipping. In the case of my mum’s lay-by it didn’t work. The tipping continued and one day a complete bathroom set appeared, bath, toilet, bidet and even a neat stack of matching tiles, all in a ghastly shade of mustard. I could see why they wanted to get rid of it.
But instead of just chucking it off the back of the lorry and scarpering they had arranged the items as if in a show home. And surrounded as it was by ornamental cherry trees, it looked the epitome of an alfresco dream bathroom. A rare case of littering actually improving a neighbourhood!