The Litter

One of my regular walks takes me through an alley which happens to have some truly top-drawer litter. You bet I’m going to tell you about it.

First, I should explain, it is not strictly an alley. Your classic Type-1 alley would have obscuring walls on each side. This alley has a mesh fence on one side and, on the other, a shoulder-height brick wall that stops everyone from falling into a railway cutting.

I’m not sure what exactly provides the illusion of alleyness but something does, as the amazing litter will testify. An alley’s ability to obscure you briefly from The Watchful Eyes promotes decadent ideas and, before you know it, things are falling off your person.

The scrubland beyond the mesh fence is the resting place, I’m not exaggerating, of hundreds of drained Buckfast bottles. The labels have been rinsed away by rain. It sparkles greenly.

When I told a friend about this Emerald City he said it was probably the work of people getting tanked up on their way to concerts at the nearby exhibition centre. I prefer to think it is the cumulative, daily effort of a single marauding bum. I can dream can’t I?

Still, my favourite litter feature must be the jeans. Two pairs of jeans — stonewashed denim, detail fans — have been captured in the corkscrew of barbed wire that runs along the top of the fence. Both pairs are turned partially inside-out, their wearers clearly having escaped and abandoned them after two aborted attempts to scale the fence, presumably followed by some desperate taxi-hailing.

It occurs to me only now that the erstwhile trouser-wearers (“Yeah, I used to wear trousers all the time but I’m trying something new.”) might not have been trying to get into Buckfast Beach in the dead of night as I first imagined but that they woke up there one morning, Crusoed and covered in dew, and had to make the bare-legged limp through the commuters and squinting in the daylight.

Today, dear diary, an impressive new batch of litter had arrived in the alley. At first I thought it was just more beer cans but I also spotted a number of baked-bean tins. I suppose it’s possible that someone out there likes to round off the night by guzzling a six-pack of Heinz, but I rather think it is someone’s recycling.

The fly-tipping of domestic refuse always catches the imagination. Who would carefully wash and sort their garbage with an eye to saving the environment only to lob the lot of it in an alley? Why, instead of using the bins provided at the back of one’s house, would anyone bother to transport and jettison a box of rinsed-and-alphabetized trash?

I see this sort of thing a lot. When I take my own recycling out, it’s not uncommon to see bags of glass bottles abandoned next to the plastics bin. So near, yet so far! It’s like the person has thought “I’ll play my part by saving all my glass but I’ll be fucked if I’m taking them to the right bin.” The best one I ever saw was a carrier of used teabags ditched next to a charity clothes bank. This particular environmentalist must have thought “I’ll just take these down to the teabag recycling bin then. Those exist. Oh no, this is for clothes! Better just leave these here then.”

The alley is strewn more generally with beer bottles, energy drink cans and miniature prosecco bottles. Few of them are ever broken and have often been placed tenderly on the ground, suggesting not angry alcoholics or off-the-leash teens but fairly regular people, perhaps on their way to a nice dinner party and seduced by the alley’s enchanting atmosphere, tanning their cargo on a deviant, out-of-character whim.

Something one might expect to see in the alley, but which I am yet to see, is a spent condom. That particular square of my Crap-Spotter’s Guide remains unstamped.

In fact, it’s been ages since I’ve seen a spent condom on the street. That’s probably a good thing really but it also suggests that al-fresco shagging is out of style, which I think is a quiet tragedy.

Reader’s voice: That’s not the only quiet tragedy around here.

Pfft. You’ll be back.

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