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Life Chez Dee Episode #88: What a load of rubbish

What a beautiful place I live; I never tire of it. Every time I walk along the shore, the prom, the green I always have a moment’s pause to think, marvel, appreciate where I am, what I see; taking in that smell of the clean fresh air; the smell of the sea.

Walking along the shore is interesting, so many interesting bits and bobs, natural or unnatural, lying abandoned having been brought in with the tide. Early risers walking the beach get first pickings at any treasure … the dog walkers, runners, those with metal detectors, and of course the artists.

We have so many talented artists who live in this area, some who have built small businesses around their talents, others who are just talented at whatever they’ve chosen as their artistic hobby. There are those who make pictures and artwork from pebbles, beautifully rounded and smoothed in the stormy seas; there are those who take the driftwood and turn it into furniture or ornaments … smooth and elegantly shaped or quirky designs which utilise more industrial pieces which still have rusty nails embedded.

Only today, I’ve had the most gorgeous delivery of a Royal Albert plate, cup and saucer, which I bought from the very talented, and very lovely Elizabeth Emmens Wilson, who although doesn’t live here in Fylde, does indeed live here in Lancashire. This lady is an Eco Warrior … she rescues anything and everything that she possibly can transform and repurpose into something beautiful. It may not have been rescued directly from a beach, but that which she repurposes, avoids more being dumped, or thrown away and condemned to landfill. I’ve purchased many a beautifully made item from her; and she even uses recycled materials to make her own packaging … all of it quirky, and all very special. And if like me, you have no self-restraint and make multiple purchases … don’t judge me; they make wonderful presents! She has also been known to hand me a lovely cloth re-useable bag to carry my purchases home in. Yes, she even finds the time to knock up re-useable bags, made from scraps of material and old curtains and table cloths, which again would otherwise go into landfill. Morsbags they’re called, and groups of people (pods) have been set up all around the world making these bags. It’s the wonderful brainwave of Claire and Joe Morsman … hence the name. They’re made by good hearted (and of course, talented) individuals to be given away, free, as a gift, just to make you think about plastic bag use; make sure you use it; and make sure you tell others. They’re special, they’re handmade, they’re unique, and if you’re fortunate to be given one, there’s usually a story behind them, where the material came from and who made the bag; I consider myself extremely fortunate, being the proud owner of two beautifully made Morsbags.

Last week I posted Elizabeth some old plastic Christmas tree baubles which I was clearing out, and today in my parcel were two of these baubles which she returned to me, totally transformed into beautifully embroidered decorations; she’d covered them with fabric scraps and had embroidered onto them intricate designs and flowers … such a delight to find when I opened the parcel. My old junk now turned into something which I’ll treasure, which will become an heirloom (hopefully). She’s such a talent; and such a gem; go check out her page.

Our coastline is stunning, but the scene at the tide line isn’t always quite so idyllic. Little blue sticks, the very core of the innocent cotton bud are scattered in their millions like confetti on the tide line; numerous tampons, condoms, syringes lie there too, along with the carcasses of birds and other wildlife … and there is always, ALWAYS, dog poo to pick up either packaged up in a black plastic bag, or still lying there au natural.

Plastic buckets and spades, broken kites, odd shoes and flip flops, bottles, balloons … all once part of a story; a memory once made; evidence that it once existed, but now beginning a new story, found, recycled, repurposed, or just part of the story for the person who tidies and cleans them from the beach that day.

A lot of this litter is washed in with the tide, having travelled from maybe just a little further down the Coast, or maybe hundreds of miles across seas and oceans, but litter it is. It is such a pet hate of mine. Day trippers leaving behind rubbish that they could so easily pack into their bags and take home. Rubbish bins overflowing with litter, and yet still people leave bags of rubbish at the bin, for the coastal winds to blow away, or for seagulls, foxes or other animals to rip apart, leaving the contents strewn, unsightly, and likely to be blown further afield … not gone, just moved.

Barbeques are another menace. Putting aside the damage that they caused to our beautiful green not that long ago, they’re a nuisance in so many other ways. The disposable ones, left behind after everyone has gone home, buried on the beach by someone thinking they’re doing a favour by putting them out and covering with sand. Heat and flames gone … or have they? What about the family who then take a walk on the beach at the end of the day, children playing and skipping along, who then stand on your buried barbecue and either burn their feet, or cut their feet on the metal mesh still there. But even if we avoid this dreadful scenario, there they are, left as a gift for our volunteers to clear away when they turn up to clean the beach.

I’m going to stick my neck on the line here now and say that I don’t like barbecues at the best of times. What a faff they are! Having to plan and buy in copious amounts of meat so that you have an interesting smorgasbord of food; bread rolls galore, adding to the stodge consumed. I swear I eat so much more if we have a barbecue. Then there’s the lighting it, waiting for it … someone not being able to sit and eat the food as they’re busy watching the meat, that it doesn’t char too much, whilst also watching that its cooked thoroughly enough, so no one is going home poisoned. And then there’s the cleaning up the following day … out in the garden, scrubbing away at the grates, thick with cold grease.

Barbecues may be social gatherings, but they really are quite antisocial. Why is it that people feel the need to take barbecues to the beach; I don’t want to sit on the beach, out in the fresh air, and then have someone sit nearby and subject me to the overwhelming smell of meat and onions cooking, or having to tolerate their smoke drifting, or blowing in my direction. I really to find it quite unpleasant. But it isn’t just at the beach … what about at home as you enjoy your garden, and then smoke wafts into your garden, gradually becoming more dense as clouds of it start to come your direction, from your neighbours who decide it will be lovely to cook outdoors … why does this always seem to happen when you’ve a line full of washing; freshly laundered clothes, now permeated with the smell of smoke, grease, onions and burgers! I will no doubt be badgered by the boys for barbecues over the summer months, and on occasion I’ll be worn down and succumb to their pleas, and will be guilty myself of being that annoying neighbour, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t lose any sleep if I never saw a barbecue again.

We are fortunate to have several beach clean groups in our area. Out they go, several times a week, from Lytham, Fairhaven and St Anne’s. Dedicated volunteers who turn out come rain, hail or shine, to walk with their grabbers to fill their bags on frames with the debris they find each and every time they patrol the beach. I applaud them, for their dedication to conservation, and their generosity of time, to making this such a beautiful spot for us all to enjoy. I’ve done beach cleans, and they’re tiring I can tell you; holding the bag (fixed in its frame) gives you arm ache, hand cramp, and back ache from the bending; it’s a thankless task, and one which is never ending … much like painting the Forth Bridge, or as in my house, much like tidying up after the kids, or keeping on top of the washing.

And the tidying doesn’t stop at the beach; there are numerous groups; numerous teams of people; volunteers keeping our parks and green spaces beautiful, tidy and full of colour.

Gardening groups keep our planters and baskets around town well stocked, healthy, fed and watered. The Living Green Man and the Windmill offering floral focal points and photo opportunities for residents and tourists alike to admire and enjoy. Greg at Leafy Lytham casts his eye, and works his magic with his green fingers. He’s a talented and very capable young chap, and a pleasure to work with. I know first-hand how talented he is as he’s helped enormously with the design and the planting of The Edward Dee Fund Garden near the fire station in Lytham. There’s still plenty to be done with this space, but already with the money, time, effort and love put into tending this garden, involving many within our community, I know it will only get better and better as it evolves, and as more of the people of Lytham St Annes help the charity to engage with others, raise awareness, and start to take ownership of their work as they put effort and love into it.

There are many groups in our area who keep our towns tidy, picking up litter from the street too … coffee cups, crisp packets … and cigarette butts! Now there’s a pet hate of mine … fag ends; cigarette dimps; whatever you want to call them … doesn’t matter what they’re called … they’re litter. Why the litter louts who throw these down don’t regard them as litter, I’ll never know. Blowing around the pavements, the gutters, the beaches … stinking too – yes they do … even after lying there for days on end, the pungent stench of them is still there.

And whilst I’m having a rant, I’ll go for it good and proper! Chewing gum … dreadful stuff. Get it on your clothes and a messy, tricky and disgusting operation ensues, having to remove it. It can be removed, with lots of effort, ice cubes and patience – but on some fabrics it’s not so easy, and so they’re ruined. There is a huge amount of gum which is dropped on the ground, and it is so incredibly annoying if you stand in it! It’s so difficult to get off your shoe – that minty, sticky, plastic piece which has previously been rolling round someone’s mouth, dropped on the floor, and now on the sole of your shoe. Or that which stays on the pavement, which washes in, which is no longer a threat to those who step on it, but which looks such an eyesore. All those blotches all over the pavements, mostly nobody paying any heed to them, but why? Why should we tolerate this dropping of litter?

I’ve had a song going round in my head whilst writing this, which no doubt I’ll have in my head for the next few days. For those who don’t know me, I love songs, tunes, lyrics; I’ve song for every occasion and every situation; all manner of things, always, and today is no exception. I’m writing this piece, and all the time this tune, and these words are playing in my head … “Milk bottle tops, and paper bags …” (Blakeley & Harper). We used to sing this in school assemblies, and on many other occasions at school. Many of these tunes, and words, pop into my head from years ago, and I can remember it all …and I’m going back over 40 years! The words of this song are so appropriate for me to finish with, that I think it deserves to be written out and read again. Let’s bring it back; let them sing this again; let it be the anthem for all those Eco Teams in our schools.

Milk bottle tops and paper bags;

Iron bedsteads, dirty old rags;

Litter on the pavement,

Paper in the street;

Is this what we … really want to see? No, No, No!

Old plastic bottles, silver foil;

Chocolate wrappings, engine oil

Rubbish in the gutter, junk upon the beach

Is this what we … really want to see? No, No, No!

Help us Lord to find each day,

Ways to help us keep away,

Litter off the pavement,

Rubbish off the beach,

This is what we … Really want to see … Yes, Yes, Yes!

by Elizabeth Dee

[This piece was originally written for and published by Lytham St Annes News; republished by Elizabeth Dee on Life Chez Dee on 19th January 2021]

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