is one of life's ironies that once you complain
about something the more thereafter you are condemned
to see it. Hovering permanently on the margin
of your vision, it looks at you even when you
are not looking at it, managing to catch your
attention in the way that someone staring at you
from off centre does. Like the annoying tune,
that never irritates until someone comments on
it, once planted in the mind every subsequent
sighting or sound becomes enhanced.
my case it was the abundance of litter that plagues
the streets where I live. So used to its status
as a feature of daily life, my ability to notice
it had long since malfunctioned until last week
when it was kick-started into life by a chance
encounter with the spotless streets of Rathcoole.
my daughter to the school bus this morning, it
seemed as if the route had been subject to a litter
attack during the night. Maybe it is that way
every morning and I just fail to notice. What
definitely wasn't there yesterday, however, was
the substantial amount of broken glass at the
street corner. Later removing it, I noticed, trapped
beneath the shards on the wet street lay a Bob
the Builder crisp packet. The people who left
the glass probably neither knew nor cared that
every day children, some of them toddlers, play
in the spot where they discarded their dangerous
rubbish, the sharp fragments of Budweiser bottles.
Had I not shifted it, some neighbour would have.
But the glass would have grown a beard before
the local council arrived to remove it.
child had decided to take a carton of juice with
her to drink on the way to the bus stop. She finished
it while walking through the local park. I reminded
her not to throw the empty at her feet but to
hold on to it until we found a bin. It seemed
a futile gesture, the place was already covered
with cartons, crisp packets, chocolate wrappers
and plastic bottles, most of it trapped in railings
running parallel to the path we walked on. One
more throwaway was hardly going to make a difference.
Still. A food sociologist might be intrigued to
know that the junk food eating habits of a working
class community can be gleaned courtesy of a mere
short walk along a park pathway.
on the Springfield Road we found a bin attached
to a bus stop and I placed the used carton in
it. It fell to the ground. My daughter laughed
and commented that there was no bottom in the
bin. Presumably it had been vandalised. Whatever
the reason for its uselessness it is now only
there for the optics. Exasperated I didn't even
bother to pick the carton back up from the ground,
adding slightly to the voluminous quantity of
litter already mounting up.
few yards on my daughter pointed out to me that there
was a tyre up a tree. I looked up, although by
this point I could hardly say in disbelief. Around
one of the branches from the many leafless trees
that adorn part of the Springfield Road was a
bicycle tyre, placed there perhaps by a child
who fancied their dexterity as a lasso artist.
A further two trees had been used as target practice
by the aspiring hula hoops performer. I wondered
what visitors think when on their quick tourist
taxi trips up the Springfield Road one of their
guides tries to pass off the anomaly as a courageous
example of West Belfast experimenting with its
own imaginative version of the rubber tree.
election poster featuring Gerry Adams lay not
too far away, just feet from the roadside where
there sat a stripped motorcycle, good only for
scrap. The Adams poster was ripped either by vandals
combating the tedium in their lives, or by people
unhappy with Sinn Fein for whatever reason and
deciding to register their protest by litter writing.
At the bus stop there were more election posters
strewn on the ground alongside Budweiser bottles.
Prior to reaching the bus stop, at the site of
the republican commemorative garden, the contrast
could not have been more marked. It exuded an
appearance of being carefully manicured and definitely
unpolluted by litter. It didn't happen by chance.
Those tasked with husbanding it have certainly
been meticulous in their craft. Pity, the street
cleaners are not as attentive. It is only possible
for street cleaners to miss a discarded motorcycle
as they go about dodging their business.
streets once looked like ours. But that was in
1973 when I was there during a strike by the city's
refuge collectors. Our own collectors may not
be on strike but how are we to tell? There has
been a considerable hue and cry about the need
for a police service in this area. Arguably it
would benefit more from a better bin service.
At least with bin men something would be cleaned