If you ask me, I’ve had an idea, to do with littering, and this idea is a cracker. First off, I should tell you I despise littering more than almost anything else I can think of. It does something to my insides. It makes me want to throw up, to weep. And just so you know, and because sometimes you have to spell things out, leaving an empty drink can on top of a wall doesn’t make it all right, just as folding a crisp packet and inserting it between railings doesn’t make it all right. One more, for luck? OK, picking up dog poo and hanging the bag from a tree doesn‘t make it all right either.
But what can you do, particularly if you’ve tried remonstrating with litter droppers and only ever been told to F-off? Well, why don’t we try to protect our public green spaces, at least, and make people earn the right to be there on sunny days.
Take Hampstead Heath, which is 800 acres of woodland and meadows and ponds in north London, and is a glorious place. I usually visit three or four times a week, with the dog, and I am there in the winter, in the rain and the snow and the mud and on days so overcast and grey you can’t see a thing from the top of Parliament Hill.
But, today? On this beautiful day? Won’t go, can’t go. Because I know, even though there are plenty of bins, that it’ll be strewn with rubbish left by picnickers – or the “Fairweather Tossers”, as I call them – and this will break my heart, and because the dog will scavenge, as dogs do, and I don’t want him choking on a wrapper.
So, you see what I’m saying? I’m saying that the people who love the Heath the most, and are engaged with the Heath the most, cannot go to the Heath on the days that they’d like to go the most. Not fair, right?
Now, my cracker of an idea. You know how coffee shops give you a loyalty card and stamp it every time you buy a coffee? And 10 stamps get you a free one? Well, why not a Heath loyalty card? And a stamp for every time you are there on a gloomy day, and when you have 10 stamps, you have earned the right to be there on a nice day, and to enjoy it without having to wade through discarded crisp packets and plastic carriers and beer bottles and rubbish bagged up but then abandoned. (Nope, that doesn’t make it all right either.) And the Fairweather Tossers? They can F-off, for once. Yes, they bloody well can.