Of Swimming Pools and Litter Bugs

It was a hot, summer’s day way back in the eighties. (Think: hazy Instagram tones, unflattering ra-ra skirts and bad hair. I shall not be supplying a photo.) My best friend Deirdre and I were bored. And what do nearly-teens do when they’re bored? Why experiment of course. This was the west of Ireland, however, and we were convent-educated. While other, more worldly youths, were no doubt toying with tobacco use or musing on the mellowing effects of marijuana, our dalliance with danger was somewhat less badass. We decided to see if it would be physically and psychologically possible for us to deliberately drop a piece of litter. (Gasp!)

We tried several different ‘litterbug’ moves. The slide it to the floor whilst doing a John Cleese style silly walk. The brazen toss, complemented by a defiant Farrah Fawcett flick of the hair. The fold it so tiny it almost wasn’t there anymore. The careful placement in long, shrouding grass.

They all ended in failure, with a hurried picking and pocketing of the offending items. Try as we might we could not overcome our upbringing and our consciences. It was as futile as trying not to scratch the itchiest itch.

Why am I telling you this? Apart from making you envious of my wild youth I thought this particular anecdote would give you an insight into just how deeply programmed I am to be anti-litter. Nothing has changed since the eighties (apart from, thank God, the hair and the clothes). I will never deliberately drop litter and I don’t understand how others can. As you can probably imagine, I have recently embarked on a one-to-one anti-litter programming campaign of my own. It seems to be working.

Last Sunday we were hanging out at a local outdoor pool in glorious sunshine. Jack was sitting on the edge, chubby little toddler feet dangling in the water as he angled to get talking to the three young siblings who had just arrived with their parents. (Poor deprived only child that he is.) While Jack gazed on the family intently, the dad instructed his 2 year old son to dispose of a crisp packet on the ground, over by the fence. At which point my nearly-4 year old intervened. ‘You can’t do that. You have to put your rubbish in the bin,’ he proclaimed matter-of-factly. The dad did a double-take. Apart from anything I don’t think he had realised that Jack could speak Spanish. ‘Si, si’ he stuttered before recovering himself and coming back with a feeble ‘but there isn’t a bin here.’ Mr Mini-Conscience had an answer for that, ‘Well then you have to put it in your pocket and take it home.’

Hopefully that’s one dad who may refrain in the future from teaching his children that it’s okay to drop litter. And the legacy of the Sisters of Mercy marches on.





I’m linking this post up to Country Kids at Coombe Mill – because the first rule of the countryside is: ‘Don’t Drop Litter!’ Click the badge below to discover lots of great posts about family adventures in the outdoors.
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  1. I’m sorry but the only way I will believe this is if it accompanied by photographic evidence… It’s funny how the anti-litter ethos sticks – I abide it (litter) and was always taught to dispose of it responsibly. Even now we collect litter when on the way back from a walk…and don’t get me going about tourists and litter….

    • Haha! You’ll have to take my word for it Ian – I am so not posting any photos from the 80s. God forbid! And I’m with you on tourists and litter. I just can’t understand why you would want to go somewhere beautiful on holiday and then deface it by leaving litter there….grrr…

  2. Ha! I love this. As another convent-educated girl, I know just what you mean about the legacy of the nuns.

  3. Hahahahaha… And that told him! Good boy!! :D x

  4. Yay! What a top chap! Well done, Jack. I might have to train my kids to do the same. Plenty of litterbugs, young and old, in Seville. Can you get him to ask them to stop shouting, too ;)

    • Haha! Now that would be good. Although, to be frank, I’m not sure Jack is best suited to that particular task. Glass houses and all that ;-)

  5. Well done Jack – sock it to ‘em. A smart little boy with a conscience. Can’t believe the father told his son to drop it on the ground! This line really made me laugh – ‘The brazen toss, complemented by a defiant Farrah Fawcett flick of the hair’. Ps. I am about to take a two week break from blog commenting – just thought I should let you know :o). X.

    • I know! I really couldn’t believe it either – I mean who teaches their kids that it’s okay to drop litter?!! He totally deserved his upbraiding from a toddler!
      I hope you’re going to be doing something lovely for the next two weeks. Thanks so much for your comments – I do so appreciate them x

  6. helloitsgemma says:

    Gosh you childhood was weird!
    Love that boy! go him! Can I put him to work… I have some public places in mind.

    • It’s amazing I turned out so lovely and normal, right? (That is what you meant to say, I’m guessing.) How much do you think I could hire him out for as Litter Police? It’s about time he started earning his keep….

  7. Well done Jack – nice to see he’s abiding by the Countryside code – he would be very welcome here at Coombe Mill. Thanks for sharing your childhood memories with Country Kids.

  8. It’s that catholic guilt thing, you can’t be dropping litter ha :) You were lucky the Sisters of Mercy allowed Farrah Fawcett hair, in my town, it was all Laura Ingles plaits!

    Littering is a bug bear of mine, we live up a country road and work vans think it’s fine to just open their windows and throw their empty lunch bags and old newspapers out into the hedges. I’m sick of the sight of empty McDonalds cups and burger boxes! Well done Jack for educating a dad, you must have been a chuffed mammy x

  9. Well done Jack!

  10. LOL brave boy. Good on him, some time adults can really let themselves down.

    • I know. The funny thing is, I don’t think he was really being brave. It was just so obvious to him that it was wrong, he was just stating the facts and helping the man, rather than starting an argument!

  11. We have a huge problem with litter here, A LOT of people drop packs after they’ve eaten their food, it has become especially widespread with the growth of fast food chains. I can’t help telling people ‘Hey, there’s a litter bin over there!’

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