the things they leave behind.

Wednesday, August 29

I thought I'd post another one of my columns for the Strathclyde Telegraph. This is one of the last ones I wrote for the paper before the summer... but, for a number of reasons, the paper-version of this issue never actually ended up going to print (which was a pity, because I was quite pleased with it). So here it is: a kind of exclusive! (*wink*)

Something I've Noticed: discarded.
(from the Strathclyde Telegraph. Issue 7. April 2012.) 

It started with a handkerchief.

I was waiting at the bus stop when I spotted it by my feet: a crumpled, green, tartan handkerchief. 'What can it be doing there?' I wondered.

‘The erstwhile-owner of this handkerchief,’ I decided, after a bit of thought, ‘was most likely a tweed-clad gentleman with a slight curvature of the spine. He had probably been the victim of a violent sneeze, a sneeze which exploded from his nostrils with such force that this, his favourite handkerchief, was blown from his fingers straight into a puddle. Because his bus must have arrived at just that moment, the tweedy gentleman was, no doubt, forced to abandon the hankie in favour of alighting as, in all likelihood, he had an important appointment with his lady-friend to keep.’

Satisfied with this reasonable explanation, I put all thoughts of stray handkerchiefs out of my mind for the day. But ho! Little did I know this was only the beginning...

Throughout the following weeks I stumbled upon other stray items scattered about the streets: a purple glove perched on a fence, a woolly scarf draped over a wall, a body warmer lying among fallen leaves. I found a pair of chunky black boots just sitting in the middle of the pavement, and a mangled umbrella stuffed inside a bush; I found two full bags of groceries from Morrisons, forsaken, in a ditch.  

'How curious,' I thought. 'Perhaps the people in my village are just particularly forgetful.' Leaving your shoes behind is an easy mistake to make, I suppose. Just imagine that you were walking home one day and felt your toes wiggling against two stones. It would be quite understandable if, after unfastening your laces and shaking the stones out, you were to resume your walk without remembering to put the shoes back on. Perfectly understandable. I’ve even done it myself a few times.

After a few train journeys to and from Glasgow, however, it became increasingly apparent that this ‘discarding of random objects’ is not something specific to where I live. Quite the contrary. As my train hurtled past woods overrun with neglected buggies, kitchen sinks and perfectly intact-looking leather sofas, I began to suspect that something other than mere forgetfulness lurked behind these cast-offs. My suspicions were confirmed when, just last week, I looked out the window and there, smashed to pieces at the bottom of a gully, was (I kid you not) an enormous grand piano!
People of Strathclyde, I believe there is a gap in the collective knowledge of this country. Good citizens up and down the land are forced into lives of littering because they are helplessly unaware of the other options available. But fear not, dear friends! Be in the dark no longer! I have taken it upon myself to show you the light!

To those of you inclined towards abandoning groceries: I know that putting the shopping away can be a bit of a grind – all those tins! All that cheese you’ll have to rearrange in the fridge! But! I have a solution: if you’re not going to take your food home with you, why not give it to a friend? (Or why not save yourself some money and, y'know, don’t buy it at all?)
To shedders of random garments: isn’t the charity shop a more suitable place for unloading your old clothes? How about a car-boot sale? Have you ever heard of eBay?
And to those of you who are tired of grand pianos cluttering up your living rooms: hold off from those destructive we’ll-lug-it-up-a-hill-then-chuck-it-over-the-edge type plans that you are currently formulating. Hear me out! Would it not be better, would it not be kinder, to sell the piano (or even gift it) to an aspiring young musician? Think of the talent you might help to unlock. (Think of the pain you will spare your back!)

Don’t throw away your undesirables like used banana skins (which, by the way, should go in a bin). It might start today with discarding a handkerchief, but what will it be tomorrow...? Beware the slippery slope!

(Pictures taken over the past few years: a glove in Glasgow, the handkerchief itself, a baby's hat on a bench, a scarf on a wall, some socks at the bus-stop, a bear by a bin, an origami bird on a train, a seat on the street, a couch by the road. I haven't managed to get a picture of the piano yet, because the train is too fast. But it's still there, as far as I'm aware. I'll keep trying.) 


  1. you make me smile!
    Heather Hammond

  2. The teddy bear just sitting there is amazing.

  3. Ha ha, I know. Made me laugh a little, but it's also kind of sad (I genuinely used to think all my soft toys were real - like in ToyStory - until about the age of eleven)! Poor bear.


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