Litter And Racism

A longer ride and some greasy roads, but it was good to be out. As I set off I was reasonably confident I’d remember the route through Pinkney’s Green to get down to Marlow, as I’ve done it once or twice before. That confidence proved optimistic and I needed the reassurance of two helpful walkers somewhere near Bigfrith (I think) that I was on the right road. I was … although I had no recollection of it.

The hairpin bends on the descent were horrible – really slippery. That sort of thing makes you realise how brave you’d have to be to ride a bike professionally, where you’re expected to go down mountains, quickly. Everything else about pro cycling aside, I’m just not brave enough to feel for a nano-second that I missed my vocation.

The hill out of Marlow, heading back to Henley, was as bad as ever.

There’s an awful amount of litter about these days – it’s everywhere; quiet country lanes are no exception. I completely fail to understand why anyone would drop litter – the unthinkingly discarded sweet wrapper or similar. How people can do something like actively dump a take-away meal on a verge or in a hedge beggars belief. At least fly-tipping – builders’ rubble and tyres most typically – I can sort of understand as a money-making / money-saving act, however grotesque it is and however depressing it might be.

A friend who’s Polish and who’s lived here for years but still visits relatives at home fairly often, blames ‘bloody East Europeans’. He says they just don’t have the same view of these things as the Brits do.

I have no idea if that’s true. I have no idea if that’s racist. If a Pole says that of Poles then I suspect most people will say that’s not racist, in the same way as if a Brit says Brits are insular and yawn-inducingly obsessed with the weather no-one gets up in arms. But if someone says something – something broadly true – of a group they’re not a member of, or even if someone reports another’s comments, as I’ve done with a Pole’s comments about Poles … that’s a different territory altogether. I don’t know if that has any logic at all.

Talking about it with Charli, her experience of it being drummed into her at school to never drop litter was formative and powerful – and exactly the same lesson that I received. I wonder if they teach anything like that in schools now. It should be core; that kind of small-scale respect for what’s around you is an important building block. There have been plenty of studies to show that litter begats more litter which begats fly-tipping which begats vandalism which begats other crimes. A neighbourhood that looks uncared for rapidly becomes uncared for, and people live in neighbourhoods. No-one deservers to live in an uncared-for neighbourhood.