cropped IMG 1293

22/3/2020

Tackled Section Two of the South Road for the first time. The day was marked by a neighbour's going by in their car, stopping, and then backing up. By that time I was well over two hours into the picking, and both the blue recycling and the red non-recycling bags were full, and heavy. "Would you like us to take one of those home with us?" I can't tell you what a nice and wonderful surprise that was. I tied it up, the dog made way, and we put the blue bag into their boot. Life became sweet.

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Section Two of the South Road is about 600 yards long, starts at the far end of Section One, and takes something under ten minutes to walk. I made my way to the far end of it, taking pictures of every piece of litter I saw on the way (see below), and then turned around and began the deep clean back. From the house to start took about half an hour. I was out of the house for three. The deep clean of those 600 yards took two and a half hours, minus a bit of walking-back time.

 

The beauty of litter picking is the fascination, and the way that stories tell themselves as you go along. It's fascinating to stop and step to one side to let a tractor go past, look down to a bit of ground you'd already agreed could be passed over, and see, as if it were shouting, the bottom of a beer can, and underneath it the remains of a crisp packet. It's fascinating to walk up one side of the road for twenty yards picking it meticulously clean, having left a marker so you know where you began; and in re-tracing your steps, with the different light, and the different angle of vision, catch a half a dozen plastic bottles, sandwich packages and cans that were there all the time. And the incidentals: a section of wooden fence buried in a hedge; a mammoth grated drain in the middle of nowhere. The way certain leaves catch the light, and until you walk right up to them, appear to be discarded plastic. The beer bottle you reach out for with your litter picker that turns out to be a stick. Magical transformations.

For stories: Why are there two plastic growing-on pots, complete with compost, semi-buried under the hedge, looking for all the world like pieces of a broken car? Here is a scree of cigarette butts, slewed over eight or ten yards on the right hand side of the road, mainly on the macadam at the edge of the road, but one or two caught up in the grass - you can virtually see the driver, veering to the right of what is for all intents and purposes a single lane road here, hanging their ashtray out of the window, low down the door to keep the ash from blowing back in, and giving it a shake before bringing it inside and rolling the window up. And over here behind the fence and beginning to disappear beneath the grass is a shredded metallic balloon, clearly once beautiful; how far away and from what celebration has it come?

The day is full of incidentals. There is a bog, and someone sometime has dumped carpet and a set of black bags, which almost look native. And the birds, playing in and out of the hedges. Time simply goes.

 

Enjoy the sequence below. These are all of the pieces of litter I saw, in order, as I walked up the road to start the clean. The photograph in the text above shows the two bags in situ, about two hours later, and shows how illusory the surface is: at this point there was still another hundred yards or so to go, and - belying the story told in the photographs below,  the bags were already full and were fuller and heavier by the time I reached the end. Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons, Number Nine Coal" comes to mind. And gratitude that my neighbour stopped, and backed up.

 

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