Posted by a Contributor in March's Magazine
I must confess that after reading an article in an earlier edition of The Leither by Mr & Mrs Gerry Farrell of Leithers Don’t Litter, I had to agree with their solemn and heavy- hearted conclusions. It turned out to be one sad and depressing tale, focusing as it did, upon the current shocking state of many of the streets of Leith.
As a long term resident of over 35 years, I too am constantly confronted (even assailed) by what can only be described as ‘a right load of old rubbish’ when casually walking the length and breadth of EH6. It never used to be this bad, I feel sure I remember rubbish being very well mannered; certainly nowhere near as bad as it is now. But then, as Dylan would have it. “The times they are a changing…”
There are unfortunately and in fact certain areas within central Leith that are gradually beginning to resemble Harold & Albert Steptoe’s congested backyard. Either that, or a grand out-door free for all furniture store, not seen since the glory days of Patrick Thomson Ltd. Beds, mattresses, wardrobes, tables, chairs, fridges, cookers, 3 piece suites, televisions, empty calor gas cylinders, even the odd toilet, find themselves indiscriminately dumped and forgotten. Left to lie indecorously all over the streets. Sometimes positioned alongside the black over flowing wheelie bins, sometimes not.
No doubt the perpetuators naively thinking that the bin men are going to casually & gleefully (complete with a wide grin on their faces) chuck them all into the back of their vans. Some hope. I doubt the dumpers give a damn.
Not forgetting (how could we?) the sight of stray black bin bags flung and tossed everywhere and anywhere. As they wait to be torn and ripped apart by avariciously screeching seagulls (who definitely don’t give a damn!).
Despite the council’s statements of heavy fines for fly tipping, this ultimately proves to present more of a challenge than a note of warning for the indifferent culprits.
On that very subject of wheelie bins, I also often find it baffling that when you have three lined up alongside each other, the first two will be full to the brim and bulging at the top. With dozens of packed rubbish bags pushed and crammed in, bursting at the sides and spilling their contents so that the bin lid is permanently jammed open while the black bags cascade down the side, an eruption from a metal volcano.
And there, pristine in it’s contentment, the third bin stands empty, hungry as an archway, but always empty. This happens too often to be coincidence, imponderable mystery, or the binman’s cruel joke?
I honestly don’t know what’s worse, attempting to negotiate your way through the middle of a furniture obstacle course or attempting, even more carefully, to navigate a zig zag trail through a potential dog muck minefield, much like John Mills did in Ice Cold In Alex. (Well not really Lawence – Ed).
One way or another, Life in Leith is anything but dull in these times.
So is this a modern phenomenon – or a grim and grubby reflection of our throwaway society? Who knows? In their article, Mr & Mrs Farrell, compare and contrast the often sorry conditions of our hometown streets with the likes of Germany. With, sad to report, our streets coming up woefully short in the comparison stakes.
My own reflections of many of the German cities I have visited, were always one of envious amazement and appreciation. Streets sparkling and gleaming, regularly cleaned and washed and pristine in presentation.
Pathways almost devoid of litter while the citizens displayed a deep streak of civic pride – seemingly making sure that they remained that way. So it is a constant source of regret that the Germanic model for city cleanliness can’t be wrestled into some sort of shape that we can both afford and apply. One day maybe, but I ain’t holding my breath.
I don’t doubt our council fathers would complain, what with budgets being constantly squeezed and reduced, that they are finding it increasingly difficult to keep on top of things. That may indeed be part of the problem but not all of it. You could say that a lot of it comes down to that well-worn (if slightly outdated) virtue of plain, old-fashioned common sense. Allied to a small degree of civic pride. Civic pride. Surely this alone is not beyond our ambition?
Then again, perhaps I have got this all completely wrong. Maybe the furniture-strewn streets of old Leith have been deliberately rearranged and are now supposed to resemble some form of living, breathing open air, modern art exhibition? Adding a distinctive contemporary stylistic shape to the streets for foreign tourists to gasp with awed wonder, especially during the Festival.
Forget Tracey Emin’s Unmade Bed, we now have a whole gallery of Unmade Dumped Beds. I look forward to seeing the review for the latter exhibition…
5 stars for true artistic expression, or a right bloody mess?
By the By: Lawrence P. Lettice has a an informative, funny and endearing book available on Amazon even as I type…You Can’t Do That Here! This Is The BBC!: Or one man’s odyssey around the fringes of radio broadcasting. Yours for a measly £7 odds on that Amazon (you heard it here first).
Info: Report flytipping on 0131 529 3030