True Confessions: Me and my illitteracy: Women reborn as a Womble

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The Independent Online
The symptoms of the obsession came on slowly, as they usually do. First it was a few pieces of broken glass, wrapped up in crisp packets out of harm's way. Then it developed. I found myself picking up plastic bread bags and filling them with old fag packets and squashed cans.

Now it has reached the stage where I am incapable of walking the dogs on London's green spaces without first jamming my pockets full of plastic bags with which to collect London's litter.

Here I am now, a fully fledged Ms. Du Lally, a wandering Womble. I blame creeping age for this state of affairs, but I blame Hammersmith & Fulham too. The children who play on the green spaces seem least surprised at the sight of a freelance rubbish collector. 'Doing your bit for the environment, eh?' they say condescendingly.

But the adults on the wasteland next to the tower blocks shake their heads. They have been gathering up broken glass for years. I said once that I was going to write to the council, plead for them to clear up, put up litter bins. 'It'll be no use.' they said.

They were right. H&F's amus-ingly named environmental department wrote back saying they would reply later. That was in 1993. So I carry on with my little hobby.

It isn't just London. I was astonished to see that even in the Outer Hebrides, where they haven't yet got to leaving Basics, and Sunday is still sacred, Stornoway's park is strewn with junk.

The objects found can be quite interesting in a morbid kind of way. If they were all laid out by Damian Hirst in the Serpentine Gallery they would be art, I suppose; an installation of jagged cans and broken glass, rotting birds, leaking batteries, pornographic magazines, used nappies and soiled sanitary towels.

Last year I found an axe. A man told me that once, at the back of the earth mounds where the litter is years deep, he found a body. If I ever do I shall simply pop it in a plastic bag, and put in a bin. There is simply no point in ringing the council.

On the green expanse of Wormwood Scrubs cans and papers and bottles lie thick in the copses, and on the corpses too, for all I know. 'Isn't the litter here shocking?' said a passer-by the other week.

'I'm thinking about writing to Esther Ransome and nominating this place for the dirtiest park in London.'

He looked at me with disapproval. I had just found an entire black bag blowing in the wind and was neurotically stuffing it with detritus. 'I dunno what you're doing that for.' he said. 'It'll only encourage the council if people start doing that.' But discouraging the council doesn't seem to have worked either. The problems, as well as the urge, are incurable, I suppose. Doctor, can anything be done?