What a right old mess


This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 26th October & the Gazette & Herald on 24th October 2018

My dad wasn’t known for causing too much of a stir through his writing, but in his column from 28th October 1978 he does say something which I think would have been quite controversial.

He says: “I am sure that country folk behave better in towns than townsfolk behave in the country.”

I’d like to know if people reading this agree?

I suppose, though, you have to decide first if you’re a townsperson or a country person. Obviously, it’s cut and dried for those who come from our larger towns and cities. But what are you if you hail from somewhere like Helmsley, Malton, Bedale or Thirsk?

It upsets me when thoughtless visitors to the countryside leave their litter behind or when a rural lay-by is desecrated by fly tipping. It is so selfish, and already stretched resources have to be used to clear it up and, ultimately, these costs will be passed on to us all. I’m also flummoxed by how many full dog poo bags are left lining popular walking routes. If you’re going to do something that is so socially unacceptable as leave your own dog’s mess behind, why do you put it in a bag at all? If it doesn’t end up on the sole of someone’s shoe, it will naturally decompose eventually. But taking the trouble to pick it up and put it into a plastic bag before tossing it on the ground is unspeakably dim.

I do remember, growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, there were a number of Public Information Films to highlight how antisocial dropping litter was, and it really did become unacceptable among the vast majority of us. Big names were recruited to get the message through to us young ones, and it had a significant impact. A-list celebrities of the day, such as Abba, David Cassidy, Marc Bolan, Frank Bruno and Morecambe and Wise backed the Keep Britain Tidy message.

Interestingly, in those days, it wasn’t uncommon for major celebrities to endorse causes without expectation of payment, which meant they chose things they actually believed in. Today, we can assume that most celebrity endorsements come about thanks to offers of substantial fees, publicity, and kickbacks, and therefore we question whether they genuinely believe in whatever it is they claim to support.

So I think this lack of credibility is one reason why it is difficult to get these messages across to our youngsters. Also, they are a generation who do not sit in front of the TV as they used to, and instead use smartphones to watch YouTube videos or programmes on paid-for streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. It means the traditional TV campaign will not work on them any more.

But it’s not just our youngsters who are guilty of littering. My friends and I regularly go to the races at York, and love to enjoy a picnic on the cheap side when the weather is good. We take along bags to collect up all our rubbish and recycling at the end of the day. Despite that, there is always a sea of waste left behind by inconsiderate racegoers. A team of litter pickers then clears up the mess, the cost of which will be reflected through rising ticket prices. But the people dropping the litter must be too stupid to realise that the more they drop, the more they will pay.

I don’t know what the answer is, but am hopeful that the impact of programmes such as Attenborough’s Blue Planet and more recently Liz Bonnin’s Drowning in Plastic will at least draw attention to the fact that we all have a duty to take responsibility for our own waste. If we all did our little bit, it would add up to a massive difference.

A quick thank you to Nigel Pattison who, having read my column in August about BBC Radio York’s Cake and a Cuppa event on Yorkshire Day, invited me along to his monthly Cake and a Cuppa at Pickering Methodist Church Hall. It was lovely to see all the people there, young and old, coming together to socialise over a cup of tea and a slice of cake. Nigel is well-known for his freshly baked Eccles cakes and I can honestly say they were delicious! Thank you Nigel!

Visit my blog at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug.


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