Terribly urgent business involving a punt and a smoke machine dragged me (kicking and screaming, of course) away from Glasgow over the weekend. I returned on Monday afternoon after a tolerable train journey, largely spent considering the three fallacies in the phrase “Try our mouthwatering meal deals!” that adorned adverts for the train’s buffet. Down south the weather had been changeable but largely pleasant, and with a conservatory tacked onto the house I was staying in, breakfast felt more like petit déjuner in the south of France.
Scotland, however, remains a bit parky, and there was still on snow on the ground south of Glasgow. The chill in the air welcomed me back to Scotland, and the mountains of domestic waste that had been dumped on the pavements of Govanhill welcomed me back to Glasgow.
These scenes might not seem unusual to a born and bred Glaswegian. But they are to me. They’re nothing short of shameful, in fact. While I accept that my neighbourhood (Govanhill) might not be the most attractive or affluent parts of the city, in general Glasgow is a monstrously filthy city.
I mean, downright sickeningly dirty. I have lost count of the number of people I have seen (of all races, ages and appearance, before any Daily Mail readers get hold of this rant) who openly hack and spit onto the pavement. Littering seems to be a Scottish art as well: carefree hands offer elegant flourishes as empty bottles, cigarette packs, wrappers and even (I kid you not) entire newspapers are thrown from the windows of moving or stationary vehicles.
But what gets my relatively tolerant back up the most is the city’s casual tolerance of street dumping. It’s quite acceptable for residents to haul outsize waste to their own kerbside for free collection. Almost any bulk domestic refuse – including furniture and white goods – can be left on the pavement for collection once a week. Everything gets picked up by a team of city cleaners and thrown into a refuse truck that crushes it in preparation for landfill. A few weeks ago a largely undamaged three seater sofa was dumped on the pavement across the street from my apartment. It was unceremoniously lifted in a rubbish truck and crushed for burial outside the city.
As far as I’m aware, no other city in Britain tolerates or encourages residents to dump on their own pavements. And while it’s true that no self respecting Glasgow hipster does not own (for example) a perfect 1950s telephone table that they happened to find while out walking, most of the stuff that’s dumped is just waste, often with no regard for the conditions for collection (nothing over four feet in length, nothing dumped loose on the pavement).
And because the city willingly cleans this up, residents continue to haul junk out without consideration to the cost or implications of its disposal. While I can see the logic in defending a system that allows other citizens to save bits of furniture before they get collected, this act is technically illegal, since household waste left for kerbside collection is technically the property of the council once it hits the pavement.
But here’s the irony. It’s legal for residents to expect uplift of ‘bulky items of domestic waste’. But it’s illegal to ‘fly tip’ … i.e. dump domestic or commercial waste, normally from a vehicle, in a public place.
I’m confused. So it’s legal for someone to dump their own waste on the pavement outside their apartment, but illegal for someone else to come and dump it there?
After two days at the Oxford Conference last week I had a chance to enjoy a leisurely punt through Oxford. I stand by my decision not to take the helm of the punt, and as a result thoroughly enjoyed a relaxing afternoon slipping beneath the tranquil overhanging branches of the River Cherwell. That sort of physical activity is best left, after all, to the experts.