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Sunday Morning Mutterings – Keep it Clean



Growing up in the UK in the 70s, there are a few things that I can vividly remember. These childhood memories include James Hunt and Barry Sheene, Tiswas, Star Wars, and Grifter bicycles.

The 70s was also the decade of the public information campaign. There were the frankly terrifying advertisements that warned children to stay away from railway lines and electricity sub stations (with graphic consequences that wouldn’t make it past a censor these days. I’m still haunted by the image of the school blazer hanging on the bannister, never be used again after Jimmy went to get his Frisbee and was electrocuted), as well as The Green Cross Code Man, aka the impressively muscled Dave Prowse. Keith, who famously played the role of Darth Vader (James Earl Jones provided the voice) came to my prep school as part of the traffic safety campaign. Strangely enough the children couldn’t get close to him as he was surrounded by all the mums.

There was also the Keep Britain Tidy campaign. As children we were urged to pick up litter and there was even an iconic logo of a figure dropping rubbish in a bin. So when I saw a wood figure by the side of the Istan road, dropping cans into a real bin, I did something of a nostalgic double take. The road up to my pueblo may be in an area of outstanding natural beauty, but that doesn’t stop there being a random collection of bottles, cans, fast food containers and other assorted rubbish being flung along the verge. There was never a “Keep Spain Tidy” campaign and it shows.

Living by the lake as I do, I often have to clean up the flotsam and jetsam left by thoughtless fishermen and ‘domingueros’. On one memorable occasion, I famously lost my temper gathering up the rubbish and, thinking that I was alone, began swearing loudly. Unbeknown to me, a couple of Guardia Civil were on patrol close by. During my next trip to the village, I was informed that I had acquired a new nickname, in the style of Kevin Costner’s ‘Dances with Wolves’. I was now ‘Shouts at Bin Bags’.

Although picking up rubbish may be something of an alien concept, there is one area of public sanitation that the Spanish really excel at. I refer, of course, to leaf blowing. If leaf blowing was an Olympic sport, Spain would have an unbroken run of gold medals. No early morning is complete without the sound of a worker with a leaf blower, complete with safely googles and ear defenders. I have often wondered if the ear defenders would be better employed if those in the vicinity were allowed to use then instead to block out the din. Or perhaps they aren’t ear defenders at all, and the operator is instead listening to a relaxing chill out playlist on his iPod as he works…

Despite the fine efforts by my friend – widely acknowledged to have the biggest smile in Marbella – when I drove past a few days later the figure was gone. And an empty McDonalds take out bag was being blown by the wind across the road…

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