curiosity about the ways of the world


Here’s to active citizenship. I was walking home, drenched to the skin, after a downpour that brought small floods to cobbled streets, when I met a hardy soul in wellies and raincoat trying to clear a blocked drain in one of the more expensive streets of Edinburgh’s New Town.


Holy smoke: just a small slick of the rubbish left behind by smokers in one of the posher parts of Edinburgh. A good neighbour has stopped flooding by scraping away the grot that chokes the drains.

I stop to chat and discover the man is doing a good deed on behalf of two neighbours who live in a basement flat which floods after heavy rain because drains clog up with rubbish. It’s the usual grot. Poly bags and plastic bottles act like plugs but the biggest problem is the cigarette butts – a great disgusting tidal wave of them – thrown away by the smokers employed at the bank across the road.

The good neighbour is soon joined by the women who live in the basement flat and rather touchingly pose for my mobile phone picture (I think they are just pleased someone, anyone, is taking notice). This isn’t the usual rant against the council who send out bin lorries and road sweepers paid by our council tax. It isn’t altogether the bank’s responsibility either (which is why I decided not to say which bank it is,sweeping but it is of course a big and profitable one) though apparently the residents’ association has written to the bank asking them to put up a bin for the smokers.

But doesn’t the blame rest with the smokers? In the absence of a bin, why on earth do they think it is ok to chuck their fag ends on the ground? They should be the ones out in the street with brooms and buckets.


  1. Administrator

    just read the article and see Mark Douglas-Hume found Jura beaches as I found Canna beaches earlier this year, littered with plastic washed up on the tide.

    He says: “Instead of discovering an otter, what I found there was a punctured Coke bottle, a bread tray half-submerged in the peat above the tide line, a large collection of other unidentifiable fragments of plastic and some frayed rope.” He left them there but later regretted not picking them up.

    He also mentions the growing army of voluntary groups who comb parks and beaches across the country picking up stuff that others drop or deliberately throw away. It’s very noble and when you’re with a group of friends not a bad way to spend the afternoon (I joined the Leith Links spring clean organised by Greener Leith in April: amazing what you can pick up with those tweaky sticks).

    The psychology is that louts are less likely to litter a clean environment isn’t it? Pity about those buggers at the bank, obviously slipped through the corporate social responsibility net.

  2. Robert

    Here’s an interesting article from Mark Douglas-Home about how we should all be litter monitors. Not “leave it as you found it” but “leave it as you would like to find it.|

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