Litter Vigilantes, Part 3


Today’s post is by Elon Dann, the author of CLOCKWISE TO TITAN. It’s part 3 of his blog series about litter adventures (Part 1 & Part 2): Continuing Professional Development for Litter Pickers: what you may expect to find.

CLOCKWORK TO TITAN is also part of the Summer of Sci-Fi, which means that the several of our sci-fi ebook titles are now half price! For more information you can watch this video.

You will go litter picking at the weekend.  You will find a wine box, a lager can, a vodka bottle, and a shoe (one).

The shoe will bother you. The shoes will always bother you. Only ever one, and only ever a man’s shoe. Not brand new, but hardly any wear and (from the smell) recently polished. Don’t bother beating around the bushes, the shoe’s down-at-heel soul mate will not be found. You mustn’t think about it, just drop it into your sack and move on. After all, could there really be someone standing in his hallway clutching a Tesco Bag for Life and wailing, ‘Blimey, no wonder my corns were giving me gip. Damn shoe must have just dropped clean off my foot and I didn’t even notice!’  No. Surely?

Litter One-shoeWe told you. No understanding is possible. Singly discarded shoes, along with magnetic monopoles and magazines called Scale Model Chaffinch Enthusiast, are things a plausible and temperate universe ought not to contain. Pick on, pick on. Crisp packet, cigarette end, chip carton, all is fine, all is normal. Wheel trim. We guarantee this will have spun free from a Vauxhall, it’s always from a Vauxhall. Probably transpires that the company generates no profit from the sale of cars, it’s all on the replacement wheel trims. After all, you read once that filling stations make their money from flowers and barbecue charcoal, that they could give the petrol away for free. Not that they ever do mind, and you’ve asked them enough times.

Litter CD-of-death

CD on the kerb, thrown from a vehicle. Increasingly rare, these days, to see the squiggly brown worm casts of a C90 cassette tape chewed up and spat out by a Binatone or Blaupunkt, it’s always shiny disks now.  You will flip the CD over and frown at the hand-written label, for it is one of those home recorded jobbies, but it will remain undecipherable.  You will contemplate taking it home and ‘trying it out’, entertained by flickering fantasies of having stumbled upon data files dropped by a junior minister from the shadowy, secretive Department of Shadowy Secrets. You stuff the CD into your Halfords overalls and furtively look around. Did anyone see you pick it up? That kid over there, watching from the other side of the road: is he real, or a plant? You put on your glasses. He is a plant, a tree in fact. Phew. As you carry on litter picking you wonder if Which? Magazine has ever reviewed the best embassy for whistleblowers to seek asylum in. And is there a real whistle you have to actually blow, for legal purposes?

WARNING: under no circumstance should you put the CD into your computer or DVD player.

Back home, with shaking hands you slide the CD into your computer or DVD player. The machine clicks and whirrs. And clicks some more. Then it stops. The tray no longer opens, not even when you jiggle a straightened-out paperclip in the little hole. You wonder how much a new one costs, then make a wee-wee in your pants when you find out. And you’re not even wearing any pants.

You will go litter picking the next weekend. Wine box, lager can, shopping trolley; you will ask yourself how those hulking and highly visible objects are never removed by the sort of unscrupulous scrap metal thieves who steal wheelchairs and war memorials and the rivets from blind people’s Levis. Rizla packet, Kentucky Fried McSubway wrapper, ah: problem.

Litter Mystery-boxes

Three huge cardboard boxes, just the other side of a wire fence running alongside the road. Contents unknown, but they are serving as halls of residence for fourteen million maggots, student bluebottles.  You will naturally puzzle over the boxes’ contents.  Domestic refuse? Restaurant waste?


This is too big for you. You note the location and, at the end of your round, you contact your local council’s Fly Tipping Rapid Response Unit. Much confusion ensues, mainly because the Fly Tipping Rapid Response Unit has recently been organizationally re-factored and is now called the Rapid Response Unit (Fly Tipping), but anyway, he’s on holiday. An operative logs your details, issues you with a case number and vows to call back, lacking even the common decency to add tonal inverted commas as he says it. Not calling back is the privilege of councils and garages. Even kidnappers call, eventually.

Weeks pass. The boxes are still there, laughing at you, stinking worse than ever. You grind your teeth (you bought a machine off eBay). Boxes, boxes, those bloody boxes. Who, why, what?

Daily, you phone the council. The excuses multiply like rabbits with abacuses. Fly tipping has been outsourced to Biffa. Fly tipping has been subcontracted to Serco. What’s fly tipping? That’s for the county council, not city council.  Finally, a result; a biological lady calls you and apologizes. Your case had become stalled during departmental restructuring, but is now being processed by a new section called the Fly Tipping Rapid Response Unit. Regrettably, the boxes lie on private land so the council cannot remove them. She passes you the number of a local volunteer who may be able to assist. You phone the number several times, but it is always engaged. Useless beggar. Eventually you realise it is your own number.

During sleepless nights, you will hatch plans. Your best involves scaling the fence and daubing the dumped boxes with offensive graffiti, certain in the knowledge that the council will swoop like God’s Own Nuclear Strike Force to remove them as soon as they are reported.

You will go litter picking the next weekend, dressing hurriedly, sloppily so as to confront your decaying nemeses as early as possible. The boxes will still be there. You will ineffectually rearrange foliage to shield them from view. You feel rotten, guilty, and full of hatred for humankind. When you walk home, you do so with one foot on the kerb and one in the gutter, hobbling lopsidedly. On reaching home, you realise the pavement is flush with the road. Somehow, you have lost a shoe.

You will go litter picking the next weekend. You will not find your shoe.

You can follow Elon on Twitter @ElonDann.