I have taken up litter picking. It would be wrong to call it a hobby and was not on my bucket list of things to do in my retirement years but litter picking is now one of my pleasures.
As a young person I was somewhat oblivious of the effects of litter on the environment and as a smoker had no qualms at throwing fag ends into the wilderness, or the gutter, with a sense of self righteousness, believing, honestly, that they were bio-degradable. I was once stopped in the street by a man who told me I’d dropped something pointing to a match, and with a sudden sense of guilt, I apologised, picked it up and pocketed it.
Perhaps it was part of my awakening although it’s difficult to know what contributed to the process. David Attenborough in Zoo Quest was definitely part of my weekly childhood pleasures; all those lovely furry creatures; but I rather forsook him later in pursuit of the finer things in life like work and children and a little pub culture.
Litter picking, as I’ve discovered, need not be a lone event. About twenty years ago my partner joined a group of others on a Sunday morning to clear a piece of wasteland. The group, organised in the local pub, had a highly entertaining time and returned full of stories of their finds alongside a new camaraderie. Litter pickers united.
Anyway I joined a similar group on Woodhouse Moor, of which I have been a “Friend of” for a long time, a task which has involved attending meetings three or four times a year at a co-Friends’ house eating, sharing wine, and agreeing to some proposals. This litter picking event was organised however by young people full of “green credentials” never having discarded as much as a bottle top in their lives. I was provided with a large plastic hoop thing not unlike a giant bubble wand, a black bag to attach to it and a stick with a claw on the end to pick up litter with and set off to fill my bag, which I did, far too easily.
I’ve changed tactics now though and palled up with Cate another late litter picker and every other Sunday morning we circle our local area. We have our own equipment. Personal litter pickers and black bags. No bubble-blower shaped thingy though. Our general finds are mundane, pop-cans; masks; wrappers; plastic bits; and an odd sock. However, last Sunday was different.
My eyesight is not brilliant, I have bi-focals and developing cataracts but there under an overhanging hedge I spied the monarchs head. A tenner. £10 !
“This one’s mine” I said to Cate rather greedily, but as I clutched it between the claws of my picker- upper there was another one “and that one’s yours” I added as a magnanimous gesture . Twenty quid for an hour of conversation, fresh air and a saunter. Becoming a light shade of green has its rewards.
image sourced from Leeds University Union