I began in January (2020). There was a one-to-one induction at the local Council, with health and safety and other information. I came away with a litter-picking kit, including a high-viz vest which, when I wear it, means I am technically a voluntary member of the Council staff; a pair of really good nitrile-coated gloves; a litter-picker; two rolls of bags, one for recyclables (blue), one for non-recyclables (red); and a bag hoop. When filled, the bags can be left alongside bins on the appropriate collection days, and will be taken away. Or if they fit, you can put them in your bin.
The Village has four roads, for litter-picking purposes. One heads West, one heads North, one heads East, and one heads South. I wonder if there are just two roads; or maybe even one, which branches. What was it Bilbo said about roads, and stepping out of your front door?
Two months in and there is still a fair amount to discover. What is the best way to deploy the hoop, for example; and is it most effective to do one coloured bag at a time, or pair them up on the hoop and do a whole stretch in one go? Should you work one side of the road at a time, or do them both as you go along - twenty yards here, walk back, and catch up the twenty yards on the other side? How do you remember where you started, and where you wound up? All tricky stuff.
Whatever you do, it's best to start at the top of the road and work your way back towards home. I only did it the other way once, and wound up at the parish boundary with two very heavy bags to hoik all the way back, juggling akward bags and the also awkward kit. Someone needs to invent a holster for the litter-picker, with a hook to hang the hoop. A neighbour suggested I drop the bags and come back for them with a car; which rather defeats the pleasure of self-mortification, and the environmental protection which is at litter-picking's core.
On beautiful days it's a genuine joy; and people stop to talk. A car will slow down as it comes up behind you, the driver's window down; the pleasure of their appreciation, and passing the time of day on how so much rubbish comes to be out there. I have thoughts on that. Horse-riders are grateful; and it's a pleasant courtesy to doff equipment and step back, possibly into the ditch, knowing that your average horse is weirded out by the strange combination of picker, bags, hi-viz, and distorted head-profile of baseball cap sprouting white unruly hair and massive indoor headphones. Occasionally a cyclist will stop, to take a breather on a twenty or thirty mile day out. People walking dogs. The guys driving by in tractors and farm equipment wave. There's plenty of time to listen to the lecture on Heidegger's "Being and Time", because the passers-by tend to be few; but there is time to savour being a fellow citizen as well.
The first sweep of each of the roads, both sides and both kinds of bags, takes upwards and overds of two hours each way, filling up two each of recyclables and the other, for four altogether. There is a past accumulation, much of it dug in and hiding. That sweep is the one where it pays to start at the top of the road and work back, doing both sides of the road as you go along. After that it's a quick two hour maintenance job, up one side and back home on the other. Once or twice a week, in cardinal rotation, barring rain. Heidegger aside, there is a lot of time and reason for philosophy. And hence, a purpose for this blog.